These stacked choux puffs are a wonderful afternoon pick-me-up with – whate else? – coffee!
I’d almost forgotten how much I loved baking choux – the way they magically puff in the oven and create the perfect hiding place for rich filling. My recent obsession with them started when I made these fancy stacked Courtesan au Chocolat. I’ve been making successive batches ever since, and filling them with whatever yummy ingredient is close to hand.
After tasting these espresso-chocolate Religieuse, I knew it was a recipe to share. It’s become one of my favorite choux incarnations. Did you know that by stacking a smaller cream puff on top of a larger cream puff you create a new dessert with a fancy new name? Truly. It’s a French pastry called religieuse, and you can read more about it here. The name means “nun”, given because they are said to resemble nuns in their habits (if I squint my eyes I think I can see it). The puffs are held together with dollops of buttercream – all the better when it’s coffee buttercream, I say.
The choux recipe I use and recommend is from the SprinkleBakes book (that’s it in the upper left corner picture). It never fails me. I learned how to make choux paste by hand (without a mixer) from my days as aDaring Baker, and it’s still my preferred method. Yes, you can make it on a stand mixer, and it is less work, but I like the experience of working without modern gadgets when it comes to this pastry. I like that it’s just me, a wooden spoon and a mixing bowl.
Now, there are endless ways to make this stacked pastry look fancy. I’ve seen them macaron-topped, with frilled frostings, ruffles and dragees – but something about this coffee version begged for simplicity. I didn’t do much more than add a buttercream star and a roasted coffee bean on top.
Making the glaze is so simple. It’s a mixture of powdered sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder and coffee. I really can’t wait to use this glaze on a batch of homemade doughnuts. (I swoon.)
The interior is smooth, chocolaty and with an obvious coffee flavor. I use espresso powder in my baked goods when a strong coffee flavor is desired. Freeze-dried instant coffee is an acceptable substitution, just be sure to grind it to a fine powder in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle before adding it to confectionery.
My new favorite ingredient to use in frosting is this Tahitian vanilla bean powder. It’s made from pristine whole vanilla beans that have been ground fine. If you don’t have vanilla bean powder, then vanilla seeds or even vanilla extract will work. I just really love how it speckles the frosting and adds a sparkling note of vanilla flavor.
Espresso Religieuse (Caffeinated Nuns)
Pate a Choux
- 3/4 cup/175 ml water
- 6 Tbsp/85 g unsalted butter
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 cup/125 g all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt
Chocolate pastry cream
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 cup/225 ml whole milk
- 6 oz. fine quality semisweet chocolate chopped evenly
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 6 Tbsp/ 79g sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 2 Tbsp/30 g unsalted butter
- 1/2 tablespoon espresso powder or
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp hot coffee
- 1/2 Tbsp espresso powder
- 1 Tbsp unsweet cocoa powder chopped evenly
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1 drop chocolate brown gel food color
- 1/2 cup/113g of unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup/128g confectioners’ sugar – the finest you can find usually 10x
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder dissolved in 2 teaspoons hot water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 12-14 roasted whole coffee beans
- * Milk or heavy cream optional
Pate a Choux
- Preheat an oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
- Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
- Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny.
- As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
- Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe 12-14 choux about 1 inch-part in a baking sheet. Choux should be about 1 1/2 inches high about 1 1/2 inches wide. Pipe 12-14 smaller choux on the second sheet.
- Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
- Brush tops with egg wash (1 egg lightly beaten with pinch of salt)
- Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool. Can be stored in an airtight container overnight.
Chocolate pastry cream
- Dissolve cornstarch in 1/4 cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar chocolate and cocoa in a saucepan over low heat. When chocolate is melted and thoroughly combined with the milk, bring the mixture to a boil; remove from heat.
- Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook. Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter, espresso powder and vanilla. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately until completely cool. To fill pastry puffs, make a small slit in the sides or bottoms of the choux and pipe in pastry cream.
- Stir together 1 tablespoon of the hot coffee and espresso powder in a small cup. In a separate bowl, whisk together the unsweet cocoa and confectioners’ sugar. Add the coffee/espresso mixture and whisk until thick. Add more coffee as needed until a thick, runny glaze is achieved. Add the gel food color if desired. Dip the tops of each filled choux puff into the glaze to the midline. Lift the choux from the glaze and allow the excess to fall back into the bowl. Place the dipped puffs on wax paper and allow them to dry until the glaze hardens, about 1 1/2 hours.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the butter and confectioners’ sugar. Begin mixing on low speed until crumbly, and then increase to high and beat for 3 minutes. Add the espresso mixture and vanilla and beat until light and fluffy. Transfer mixture to a piping bag fitted with a small star tip.
- Place one large choux puff on a serving tray and pipe a buttercream star on top. Add a second smaller puff on top of the larger one and gently press down onto the buttercream star to secure. Pipe a buttercream star on top of the smaller puff and garnish the center with a whole coffee bean.
- Store puffs in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature before serving.
haha, I love the name of these sweet little treats! Too funny. And so pretty!
These are too cute! I especially like the name. It is like Morning coffee on Dessert steroids; perfect of any time of the day.
I absolutely love the way you are giving us a great multi-tasker use for the choux! And, I adore how your little "movie" makes these saintly ladies stack all by themselves! 🙂 Huzzah for mixing by hand, too. There is something to be said for feeling the dough/batter is right!
These look so good. I love the coffee choc combo!
mamma mia , complimenti sono una vera meraviglia , complimenti …..felice settimana
Divine! A fabulous treat.
I believe these will be the first fancy pastry I make in my new kitchen!
I adore choux pastry and these nuns look phenomenal! I love the coffee in here.:)
Ugh, how is everything you make so beautiful!!?? And they look incredibly delicious! Love these!
This religieuse is much easier to wrap my head around conceptually than la religieuse at the bottom of a fondue pot!
These look so beautiful and sound absolutely divine!!!!!!!!!
These look amazing! Wow, makes me want to tackle the challenge of making pastry by hand. How beautiful.
Yum I just drooled over the keyboard haha… (it's almost lunch time over here). These look absolutely gorgeous. I love paté a choux 🙂
They look so beautiful and so delicious! I would be even afraid to try making such treats 🙂
These look and sound delicious!
Such great attention to detail and so many layers. Looks absolutely delicious, too. : )
I'm with you, pate a choux is easy, fun and as you have shown, so versatile !
I have always been intimidated by choux but I may just give it a try if the result is anywhere close to these!
These look so delicious!
By god these look beautiful! x
I often wonder how long it takes you to make your creations. I know you have experience, but how long did it take you to make these?
Very yummy….. Fantastic!!!!
So delicious pictures!
Love the name! These are just so cute.
I've never been lucky making choux pastry. I think some of us
are just not blessed with the talent.
These are adorable, Heather. I wish I could reach through my computer monitor and grab one
or two! 😉
I love espresso flavored bakes! I need to try these soon! And I love their name!
Two layers of creme puff?! I'm so glad I stopped by your site today.
Question: how can you/should you store these? I'm making the poufs right now on a friday evening and wanna serve them on Sunday. Should i fill them Sunday morning or Saturday? Do they need to be refrigerated?
For best results I'd recommend filling them Sunday morning. The puffs will keep well airtight at room temperature, and the pastry cream can be made ahead and refrigerated.
If you have leftovers after serving, they should be refrigerated.