Let’s jump in the time machine, shall we? We’re journeying back to 1855, to the workshop of the famous pastry chef and ice cream god, Frascati. I should point out the obvious . . . that being known by one name = he’s incredibly cool. Now, and I may or may not be totally fabricating this, Frascati said, “These French pastries are such b*******. I need to make something bigger, something better. My legend must endure for eternity.” So he began to work feverishly, sipping a fine Barolo while he whipped up batch after batch of choux and crème. The process went on for days, until sleep-deprived and completely bombed on wine, he blacked out. When he awoke the next day, the kitchen was full of hundreds of fondant-crowned crème-filled choux puffs and baby crème-filled puffs atop them, with a series of finely piped crème squirts running up the sides of each of the minis. Little did he know that he’d created none of them, but had merely mumbled out to his sous-chefs, “I’m a baby crème-filled choux puff. Look at my squiggles! Hold meeeeee!” before lapsing into unconsciousness. Fearing his wrath, the sous-chefs took his blathering as cryptic direction on how to create a pastry. And that’s how “Untitled #1” was born, because it would be 74 years until it actually got the name, religieuse.
So what is a “religieuse” exactly? It’s a nun – or nun’s habit, as the pastry is said to resemble just that. I don’t see it at all, and maybe that’s why it took until 1929 for people to begrudgingly let the name stick. My guess is that it’s actually a dig at some order of obese legless nuns – that…or nuns don’t actually have bones and organs like normal people, but are instead filled with different and delectable flavored crèmes. The most likely explanation is that the French wanted to use a word that was really difficult for American tourists to pronounce, so much so that they’d be embarrassed to even try. Mission accomplished. So, with that, let me present the Religieuse Rose.
The sassy French description of the constituents is pâte à choux, crème pâtissière à la rose, fondant rose, and framboises fraîches. One could also say it’s delicate choux cradling a heavenly mound of transcendently exquisite rose crème that explodes in your mouth like a dainty Vesuvius of yum! The sugary fondant insinuates itself to make the floral essence even more profound, while the raspberries hidden deep inside offer an abrupt shot of acidic, fruity intensity that makes what was already magic even more dazzling. I would sell my firstborn for the joy of one of these every day, had I not already done so for an equally sublime piece from Pierre Hermé.
I have to hand it to Frascati, this religieuse concept is inspired. The coolest aspect is being able to detach the top puff, eat the big one, and then treat yourself to the baby as your dessert’s dessert, pretending that you didn’t save it for last. At least that’s how I always approached eating it. “Oh I didn’t see you there, little one. I thought I’d already finished. Oh, well . . . get ready to meet your maker!”
Another amazing piece from Ladurée is the Saint-Honoré Rose Framboise. It’s very similar except way fancier. My preference is for the religieuse, from a taste and gluttonous enjoyment perspective, but I’m saving the Saint-Honoré Rose Framboise, if only because it’s one of the most visually stunning pastries in the Ladurée lineup. Stay tuned for that this winter; I’m so holding onto it for the right moment . . . maybe Valentine’s, since it will be appropriately colored and themed.
You just can’t beat roses + raspberries. It is a thing of beauty . . .
So, yes, obviously go grab a Religieuse Rose. It is not a pastry to nibble. It is one in which to immerse yourself. Take bites that are too big and literally feel that sugar-rush sweep through your body. And since it’s made with roses, know that it’s classy and refined enough not to make you gain weight. I promise.