Thursday, 11 December 2014

Technical Thursday: Religieuse

This week's Technical Challenge required the bakers to make 8 Religieuse - French pastries that consist of two choux buns filled with pastry cream, topped with chocolate ganache and decorated with a whipped cream "collar".

Given the fact that I've never made choux pastry before I was pretty excited to try these out, and they actually worked quite well!

Unfortunately these were victims of The Great SD Card Disaster of December 9th 2014 so I have no pictures of the baking process. Luckily there were 4 left when the nightmare began so they are photographed below as evidence that I did actually do the challenge - and make all 8 - so I'm not just pretending!

The original recipe can be found on the BBC Food website here, but it's also below with my notes.


For the choux pastry:
60g butter, cut into cubes
75g plain flour
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten

For the crème pâtissière filling:
500ml full-fat milk
1 vanilla pod, seeds only
6 medium free-range egg yolks
75g caster sugar
20g cornflour
25g plain flour

For the chocolate ganache icing:
150ml double cream
200g plain chocolate (around 36% cocoa solids) broken into pieces

For the collar:
150ml double cream


Preheat the oven to 220C / 425F / Gas 7. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and draw onto it eight circles 5cm/2in wide and another eight circles 2.5cm/1in wide.

Put the butter in a heavy-based saucepan with 150ml of water and heat over a medium heat until the butter melts. Bring the mixture to the boil and then immediately remove from the heat.

Quickly tip in the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a soft ball. Return to the heat and cook over a low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Gradually add the eggs, beating well between each addition to form a smooth, shiny paste. They are very sloppy at this stage so be careful not to do what I did and mix so quickly that large chunks go flying out all over the kitchen… Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain nozzle. Pipe round discs onto the baking tray in the marked circles and, using a damp finger, smooth over the top of each disc.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 190C / 375F / Gas 5 and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. Remove the choux buns from the oven and pierce each bun with a skewer to allow the steam to escape. Return to the oven for 4-5 minutes to dry out. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the crème pâtissière filling, pour the milk and vanilla seeds into a heavy-based pan and bring gradually to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to cool for 30 seconds. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar until pale, then whisk in the cornflour and plain flour. Pour the vanilla-infused milk onto the eggs, whisking continuously, then pour back into the pan. Bring back to the boil, whisking continuously over a medium heat and cook for one minute. Pour the crème pâtissière into a bowl, cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool. Transfer to the fridge to chill.

For the chocolate ganache icing, bring the cream to the boil in a small pan. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until melted and shiny. I'm made chocolate ganache a zillion times, but for some reason this time in a split second it went from shiny and smooth to a grainy paste. I didn't have enough ingredients to redo the ganache so had to just make do with what I had made. Transfer it to a bowl and leave to cool. If it's worked properly, transfer to the fridge to chill until the ganache has thickened to a spreadable consistency.

To assemble the religieuse, spoon the cold crème pâtissière into a piping bag fitted with a long thin nozzle (or alternatively you can use a jam syringe). I had neither of those things, so instead had a moment of Blue Peter inspiration and fitted a straw into a small piping nozzle, and cut the top of it so it couldn't fall out of the piping nozzle as I piped (so it looked a bit like the end of a treasury tag inside). This actually worked perfectly!

Fill the choux buns with the crème pâtissière. I didn't fill the little ones as they ended up being too small, and my straw couldn't pierce them without breaking the whole thing apart. Dip the filled buns into the chocolate ganache to coat half-way up the sides. Again, my ganache was more of a paste, so I ended up spreading it on with a palette knife instead. It didn't look as good, or as glossy, but at least the buns were covered. Place the small buns on top of the larger buns.

For the collars, whip the cream in a mixing bowl until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl. Spoon the cream into a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle and pipe lines of cream around the join where the small bun sits on top of the large bun to form a collar.

And that's it: finished Religieuses!

I only had 4 left to photograph, but I swear I made all 8! By the time I had to retake the pictures they'd collapsed slightly as the pastry had gone a little soggy, but on the day they were made the choux was crisp as it's supposed to be. I'm annoyed about the ganache as it looks so untidy and definitely not at all how it's supposed to which is such a shame. At least the buns are covered in chocolate to some extent, it's just not to the standard I would have liked.

I wish I could have managed to somehow get the crème pâtissière filling into the top buns but never mind. They look good, and they'd certainly be a bit of a showstopper at a dinner party!

If anything, I'm ecstatic that I can cross choux off as a pastry I can make successfully!

What do you think of these Religieuse? Have you made them before? Do let me know in the comments below!

** This is also the last Technical Challenge I'll be doing this year. I have a couple left from GBBO series 4 so I'll be finishing them off in the new year, but for the time being I'll be focusing on Christmas-themed baking. Normal service on a Thursday will resume in January, so keep an eye out for more details!**

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