Before starting this Chocolate Religieuses recipe, organise all the necessary ingredients for the choux pastry.
For the choux pastry: Place the butter, salt and water in a saucepan on the heat.
Bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and pour all the flour at once.
Stir with a wooden spatula until there are no more lumps.
The resulting dough is called 'panada'. Dry off the panada on the heat, stirring with a wooden spatula, until the paste comes away from the sides of the saucepan and forms a ball.
Transfer the preparation into the stand mixer recipient, and beat for a brief moment with the flat beater to let it cool down.
One by one, incorporate the eggs, with the stand mixer set on low speed.
As you can notice, it is difficult to incorporate the egg at the start, but it will combine well after a while.
Repeat for the remaining eggs. The choux pastry is ready to use. It should be used immediately.
Pipe 10 large choux buns (Ø 5cm) and 10 smaller ones (Ø 3cm) on a baking sheet, arranging them in staggered lines. For this recipe, I used a plain nozzle with a large diameter of 20mm.
Bake in a preheated oven at 170°C (gas 3) until golden and hollow. These éclairs don't need to be glazed with egg wash since they will be coated with chocolate icing later on.
For the chocolate crème pâtissière: Organise all the necessary ingredients.
In a saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Cut the vanilla pod in half lengthwise, then add to the milk.
In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar with the whole eggs.
Blanch the preparation until light and fluffy.
Add the crème pâtissière powder. For this recipe I used crème pâtissière powder as a substitute to flour. This powder contains 99% corn starch and allows for lighter choux buns. Combine well.
When the milk starts boiling...
... pour it in one go over the cream preparation, stirring with a whisk.
Transfer the preparation into the saucepan used to boil the milk...
... and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Make sure that the cream does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
Transfer the preparation into the stand mixer recipient and beat at low speed.
Add the dark chocolate pistoles to the hot preparation. The chocolate will melt and incorporate easily.
When the chocolate is fully incorporated, increase the speed and beat until cooled down completely.
Add the soft butter, then beat for a further 3 minutes at maximum speed.
With the tip of a knife or a filling nozzle, pierce the underside of each choux bun.
Pour the chocolate preparation into a piping bag fitted with a filling nozzle (6 or 8mm diameter).
Place the tip of the nozzle inside the hole...
... then gently squeeze the bag to fill the bun with cream, gradually removing the nozzle. Make sure you do not squeeze the piping bag too hard, otherwise the choux buns could burst.
With the tip of a knife, wipe any cream excess that might have escaped from the bun.
Set aside. Repeat this operation with all the choux buns. Reserve in the fridge.
For the chocolate icing: For this recipe, I used fondant white icing as a base.
Alternatively, if you made coffee religieuses first for example, you can use the leftover icing as a base. If you don't have enough leftover icing, complete with some fondant white icing. Soften the fondant icing over a bain-marie. To maintain the glossy effect, the temperature should not exceed 37 or 40°C.
This is a good way not to waste any leftover icing. If you are making both coffee and chocolate religieuses, always start by making the coffee icing first. With the leftover coffee icing, simply add some cocoa powder. Chocolate will overpower the coffee flavour and the icing will a glossy dark brown. The other way around doesn't work though.
Add one tablespoon of cocoa powder first, then add a second one if necessary. The amount of cocoa powder varies according to the desired flavour intensity.
Combine gently with a spatula...
... until the chocolate is fully incorporated and there are no more lumps.
Icing the choux buns: Take one choux bun with your fingers...
... and carefully dip it in the hot chocolate icing (which should at a temperature of maximum 40°C). When the surface of the choux bun is in contact with the icing, make 3 or 4 quick movements, going up and down.
Let the icing excess drip off.
Wipe with your fingertip to create a neat, round end on the coating.
Place the coated choux bun on a baking sheet and let cool. As it sets, the icing should be smooth and glossy. Repeat the operation for all the choux buns. Make sure you regularly stir the chocolate icing to avoid a sort of skin forming on the surface. Basically, every time you're about to coat a choux bun, give a quick stir to the preparation.
For the finish: On top of the large choux buns, pipe a circle of vanilla or coffee crème au beurre to create a sort of ruffle. For this recipe, I made a coffee crème au beurre.
To create a ruffle effect, I recommend using a Sultane nozzle with a protruding cone. Place the cone into direct contact with the surface of the choux bun, then squeeze the piping bag gently...
...to create a regular ruffle.
Gently lift the piping bag, then place one small choux bun on top.
Repeat the operation for all the choux buns. Finish by placing small pieces of gold leaf on the surface, with the tip of a knife. Reserve in the fridge until ready to serve. Enjoy!