It’s almost unnoticeable, barely a little stroke of the tongue. Light as a feather, this little candy which we swallow, eyes closed, nevertheless takes us to a parallel world. It goes to our brain, makes us dizzy. Here in L.A., should one simply go along with the flow, and free oneself of the constraints of the real world? We hang on to our dreams and loose our footing, we leave surrounded by bursts of laughter, which echo in our ears like reminiscences from the past. Mirages, hallucinations pound our head like projectiles. We lose the sense of our own materialness, and a sudden feeling of exhilaration comes over us: the mysterious sensation of having communed – a religious emotion which gives rise to an insatiable appetite, which only the most spiritual treat can quench. There is only one thing to do: make our way to Sweet Nuns in Faircrest Heights, where we will kidnap four religieuses (French for nuns).
These religieuses are made of two classic choux puffs covered in a craquelin – or crunchy glaze. We select four flavors: Vanilla, Rose, Chocolate-Blackcurrant, and Coffee. All of them are glazed in icing, except for the coffee one, which is topped with thin sheet of chocolate decorated with printed patterns.
The Religieuses by The Sweet Nuns have an average diameter of 68 mm (at their widest point) and a height of 58 mm. The specimens we purchased weighed on average 87 grams and cost $6.00 each.
We start by looking into the choux puffs, common to all our little nuns, before investigating their respective fillings. These choux – baked on premise all day long – taste pleasantly fresh. The craquelin is elegant, rather thin and neatly placed on the choux. It creates a perceptible contrast in texture with the soft choux dough underneath. In general, the small choux on top (the nun’s head) are slightly drier than the bottom ones. The latter seem excessively browned underneath, even though this does not in fact affect the overall taste. We feel they could benefit from a more homogenous baking, to obtain the desired dough coloring without overcooking the bottoms.
As to the vanilla, rose and chocolate-blackcurrant icings, they seem to be done in two layers. The outer one is a kind of jelly that gives them shine and makes sticky to the fingers. The inner layer below seems to be made with a colored marzipan.
The Vanilla Religieuse contains vanilla from two different origins: Madagascar and Tahiti. This combination produces a vanilla flavor which is very pronounced without being overpowering. The cream, packed with vanilla seeds, is smooth and unctuous.
The Rose Religieuse is in fact a variation of the vanilla one, enriched with rosewater. The rose flavor is well-dosed, thus avoiding the dreaded « beauty product » feel which is always a risk with rose-flavored pastries. The cream is kept white in color, creating an elegant final product – even though we find it slightly too similar to the Vanilla Religieuse.
An intriguing sight with its electric blue cape, the Chocolate-Blackcurrant Religieuse offers an interesting pairing of flavors. A few blackcurrant berries are incorporated in the chocolate cream, creating a nice balance: the fresh berries impart fruity notes to the chocolate, and both aromas combine well together, without having one dominate the other.
The most original is undoubtedly the Coffee Religieuse, who visibly woke up topsy-turvy, with its choux the wrong side up. Upon slicing it, we discover that it is the only one which contains two different cream fillings. Both are coffee flavored, but the white cream appears to have stronger taste than the beige one surrounding it, in which the coffee flavor comes out more gently. The choice of dark chocolate for the decoration is particularly judicious, as it imparts a certain bitterness and smokiness which pair well with coffee.
Notwithstanding a lack of homogeneity in the baking of the choux, these American nuns remain a very pleasant surprise for our seasoned palate. The choux dough is nicely puffed, the craquelin is neat and crisp, and the overall products are conscientiously assembled. The fillings are true to the flavors announced and flawlessly unctuous. The offering ranges from the most classic models, like the Vanilla Religieuse, to the more original, like the coffee one – demonstrating the pastry shop’s ability to propose both conventional products and more innovative ones. When two flavors are combined, like in the Chocolate-Blackcurrant Religieuse, they are well balanced – we would even say they operate in synergy with each other. This tasting at Sweet Nuns leaves us with an overall impression of high quality, and gives us no doubt that this address – still relatively unknown – will soon be much talked-about in L.A.
5450 W Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90019, USA (shop N°204, on the 2nd floor)
Open from Tuesday to Friday from 2pm to 6pm, on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4.30pm.
Tel: +1 323 447 2200