The History of Religieuse – Dessert of the Nuns

The French are known for their pastry making skills. Most of the pastries and desserts around the world can be traced back to French origins, making them sound more amazing and in some cases even taste better than manna from heaven. While there are too many desserts in France that one person can try, there are some that deserve to be at the top of a traveller or desert critic’s list.

One of these fantastic creations include the ‘religieuse temptation,’ and for a good reason, this dessert is considered to be one of the most famous in France. This small pastry is traditional to France and translates to the word “nun.” The pastry itself consists of two choux buns and is known to bear some resemblance to an extremely obese nun with a small habit around her shoulders and neck. Created in the mid-19th century, this dessert is similar to an éclair, with two pâte à choux buns.

The Structure of The Dessert

The base structure of the dessert is a large pastry case that represents the lower portion of the nun’s body, whereas the smaller and more circular pastry case resembles and depicts the head of the nun. Most of the cases, the top and bottom are filled to the brim with confectioner’s cream and custard which is sure to leave an after taste of sweet caramel, chocolate or vanilla depending on the type of custard that you choose for your filling. There are many variations to choose from when eating a religieuse. For the topping, the cases are covered in the same flavors as the custard except in ganache and are then piped and stuck together using a buttercream ruffle, representing the habit of the nun.

In recent times, many dessert restaurants and pastry chefs are furiously working to improve and create newer and more addictive variations of the dessert. These variations are sent to different stores all over France. However, most are sent to Paris where they are more popular amongst the locals and visitors. There are different types of religieuses around France. Some of them are the:

  • Chestnut Cream religieuse
  • Coffee-flavored religieuse
  • Caramel and Salted butter religieuse
  • Rose flavored Religieuse
  • LaDurée’s Violet flavored religieuse

The History of The Dessert

The religieuse is a type of eclair and was first created in the mid 19th century as stated earlier. The first batter that was designed to make this dessert was first invented in 1540 by Catherine de’ Medici, a chef for a Florentine queen. After many variations and improvements, the batter and the design finally came into the kitchens of the famous Marie-Antoine Carême. Although in recent times, the recipe for this dessert has changed drastically, the taste remains the same, offering a sense of nostalgia to those who previously lived in France. Some of the more modern variations of the pastry include using biscuits in the batter to add a crunchy taste and also using chocolate rings and pieces of jelly to add a sense of bitter yet sweet taste to the dessert.