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Photo: coffee religieuse © 2011 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

The name means “nun” in French, and by most accounts this pastry takes its name from a resemblance, however oblique, to a nun in a habit. The religieuse is constructed of two choux pastry cases filled with crème pâtissière (confectioner’s custard), a large one on the bottom and a smaller one on top, traditionally iced with a chocolate or coffee nappage and joined together with buttercream. Often, the buttercream icing is delicately piped to look like ruffles. At my local bakery, however, they’re pretty “low church”—but even sans ruffles, you risk succumbing to the sin of gluttony when these magnificent gourmandises are around.

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