I’m often asked if it’s hard being a vegetarian in Paris. The question makes a lot of sense. After all, when you think of French cuisine, you probably conjure up images of bœuf bourguignon, coq au vin, foie gras, even escargots. And ham, well, ham is practically its own food group here. The truth is, though, that between cheese crêpes and savory tarts (as long as there are no lardons in there), I’ve never really had much trouble finding something to eat. But one of the best things about being a vegetarian in Paris isn’t even French …
Leave it to the French to create a pastry called “the Gland.” Sounds a little strange in English, right, but what does it mean in French? Well, it means “acorn.” It can also mean something else a little less arboreal and more anatomical … but I’m not going there. I’ll let you do it: Google Translate.
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.
As soon as I decided to start writing about French pastries for this blog, I realized how little I actually understood about the technical differences among the various forms of French sweet baked goods. For example, what exactly is viennoiserie and how is it different from pâtisserie? If I write about something made from choux pastry, is it a viennoiserie or a pâtisserie? I considered sitting down for a little interview with my friend Arno—a former boulanger … or was that patissier … or both?—but I ended up doing some research on my own instead, and I think I’ve figured it out, so here goes:
je parle américain’s Basic French Pastry Primer (or useless information for your next visit to the boulangerie)