This one almost broke me. I spent the week moaning “I don’t wanna”,”Please don’t make me”, “I’ll just skip it”. And other such logical and mature things you say to your husband when you have decided to spend all your free time baking things from show most people in Canada don’t really care about. I was clearly against this bake from the start. As Sue aptly put it, “It looks like a brain”. What the heck would I do with a giant brain filled with gelatin custard? I know, I’ll feed it to my in-laws! What else is family for but to lie to you about your mediocre baking/cooking. Well I am about to test how much my in-laws love me, that’s for sure!
Phew, I am exhausted! Seriously so tired. I know everyone with real reasons to be tired like: work, children or doing something useful with their time may want to punch me in the face but this bake was intense. I still don’t think I’ve recovered. This probably doesn’t bode well for me as a parent but this sugar baby kicked my butt. I’m too tired to keep complaining and there is so much to discuss. Like how blanched hazelnuts are always worth the investment.
The internet is a magical and enlightening place. In preparation for the post I, as usual, had to remember how to spell things, mainly the name of this bake so I googled “religious choux pastry”. Thankfully google knew exactly what I was getting at and populated the page with several recipes for Religieuse along with the ubiquitous Wikipedia entry. I take everything Wikipedia says as gospel (which I know is highly recommended) so I clicked on the entry to find out what I was about to bake. Along with a description of the components, I learned that the shape of the pastry is meant to represent a papal mitre (some hat thing…sorry Catholic people I don’t know what I’m talking about) NOT a fat snowman shaped Nun! This was very welcome news since I had decided that the pastry was borderline body shaming Nuns. So there you have it! The truth behind Religieuse. I should point out that the rest of the world hasn’t been reading Wikipedia as most other recipes start out by saying things like “representing a well-padded Nun” but that is neither here nor there.
Parlez vous francais? Me neither. Although really I should, I went to French immersion school for grades 7 and 8. After two years at Jeanne Sauve Public School my most prominent memories are of the oatmeal cookies they used to sell at recess and the turtle shaped piggy bank I made in tech class. I still talk about those oatmeal cookies and that turtle is hanging around somewhere but the French language? Gone. Which is why when I was looking at this recipe it never dawned on me that couronne means crown. I blame the public school system.
Before taking on this challenge of baking all the technicals my go to recipes to scratch the baking itch would mostly be muffins and cookies. With a smattering of bread mixed in. Usually, it would be a Friday night (I party hard at my house) and I would feel like baking. The next twenty minutes would consist of me scrolling through Pinterest for things like the ultimate best ever oatmeal cookies, followed by 20 minutes of mixing, scooping and baking. Most of the recipes I chose would produce thick and chewy cookies that would cause some serious post cookie guilt if you ate more than one.
This whole undertaking has changed so many things about baking for me. I have a new appreciation for baking that isn’t heavy and indulgent but instead is light and delicate. But the thing that has changed the most is that these recipes are so dainty that I ate about 12 tuiles last night and didn’t feel the least bit guilty about it!
Arguably one of my all-time favourite desserts, other than that isn’t my Mom’s lemon pound cake (that I still love in the face of my current disdain for lemons), my Mom’s Rice Krispie squares, or really anything my Mom bakes, is a Portuguese Custard Tart or pastéis de nata. Sadly I’ve never been to Portugal and tried an authentic pastéis de nata but I have sampled as many as I can get my hands on from various bakeries and they are all delicious. The bright yellow egg custard is lightly flavoured with cinnamon and perfectly bruleed on top.
Now that I’ve got you salivating over Portuguese Custard Tarts it’s time for me to tell you these are not the same. As sad as I was to learn that I wasn’t going to be mastering the Portuguese classic I did find out that the UK Egg Custard Tarts have a following of their own. And who doesn’t love a bit of food history with their baking? These tarts date back to the middle ages! Although I would have to wait to try my hand at the Portuguese version I was happy to be moving onto another British classic.
Lets be honest this was never going to go to plan. Poached meringues? Come on! I had always believed that the challenges in the series increased in difficulty as the weeks past. But if this is week two I’ll be crying, huddled with my cats, before we reach pastry week.
There is nothing to do but confess my dessert sins and hope I never have to poach meringues again.