There’s a certain sense in which creating an excellent original pastry is much easier than faithfully producing a classic. If I walked into a shop tomorrow and discovered a patisserie whose two main ingredients were Brazil nuts and mangosteen, I’d have zero context, and as long as it had great texture and flavors that played well together, I’d think it was phenomenal. That’s not the case with something like the Religieuse. Any pastry that’s 155-years-old comes with certain expectations and decade after decade of fodder for comparison. While I wasn’t born in 1855, along with the Religieuse, you know I’ve enjoyed my share of “nuns” (as it translates). I knew Monsieur Marletti excelled with his original pieces, but would he rise to the challenge with this traditional pastry or ape a by-the-book execution of it? If you read the blog regularly, which I know a few hundred of you do, then you know the answer. Of course he succeeded. Carl Marletti is le maître pâtissier.
The choux croustillante is a thing of beauty – crackly surface, popping at the seams, light and tender, yet sturdy enough to hold the crèmes. The piping and glaze – smooth, flavorful and with the right level of sugary-sweetness. Ah . . . and the crème, the Piedmontese pistachio crème. Perfect flavor. Perfect texture. The experience of eating this religieuse was one of those few times with Parisian pastry where the world just seemed to drop away. That’s not hyperbole. Literally, for a gluttonous minute, it was just me and our unctuous little friend here floating through space. I believe my exact quote at that time was, “Oh, Sweet Baby Jesus. [nomnomnomnom] Sweet flaxen-haired adult Jesus. [nomnomnomnom] This is… [nomnomnomnom] This is just [nomnomnomnomnomnomnomnom]… Uh… Sweet God!”
I mentioned this a couple Marletti posts ago, but it really is the case that when I experience something like this, it makes it exceedingly difficult to take other shops seriously. There are only a handful that play around Marletti’s level to begin with, and then when I have an experience like with yesterday’s Hermé tarte, I just want to bash it in the review, knowing what could have been possible in more capable hands. No offense intended to Pierre Hermé, as he does some exceptional work, but I don’t understand the general chasm in quality.
So run over to Marletti’s shop and have one or ten of these. Personally, I might have to take a Marletti hiatus just so that I can allow the other patisseries to have a fighting chance in their reviews. Ha . . . kidding. I’m not grading on a curve; they’ll just need to sink or swim.