I’m on a bit of a Quebec dessert kick right now! It all started when I was researching Pouding chomeur and was introduced to more Quebec treats by my best friend, Jules. This one intrigued me because it seemed like a variation on a cinnamon roll but a little less complicated to make. The process of assembling them is similar but the dough is very different. Where a cinnamon roll has a bread-like consistency due to the yeast, these are flaky and crispy as they’re made out of pie pastry dough. And because of their size, I find that they are truly a little treat vs the major commitment that a cinnamon roll can become!
The name is probably the most intriguing part – Pets de soeurs which literally translates into “Nuns’ farts”! No one knows where it comes from but I would have to agree with some theories that it relates to Quebec’s love/hate relationship with the Catholic church. The Roman Catholic church was extremely powerful in the early days of Quebec’s history, running it as their little fiefdom with many quashing the rights of the villagers and townsfolk. One way for the settlers to rebel against this “supreme executive power” (to quote Monty Python*) was to make many a Catholic term a swear word. As a result, while most vulgar words are based on sex or excrement, many of Quebec’s really profane swear words are based upon Catholic church references such as Sacrament (sacrament), Chalice (calice), Christ (crisse), Host (ostie) and Tabernacle (tabarnac). And if you were REALLY upset, you would combine them together for something like “ostie calice de tabarnac”!!!
So, it could absolutely stand to reason that such deliciously sinful treats would be given a name that could make them sound profane and repugnant and thus limit a person’s consumption of them (or increase their consumption if they were feeling really rebellious)! Let’s face it … who’s ever really thought of what foods with names like “Toad in the Hole”, “Bubble and Squeak”, “Piggies in a Blanket” and “Spotted Dick” really mean? So, best to forget the etymology and just enjoy them because these “nuns’ farts” are dee-lish-us! And while I baked mine as individual rolls, I did see pie versions of this in the store where the rolls are sitting in a brown sugar syrup inside of a pie shell … now THAT is sinful!
And making them is really easy. Many people commented how their moms used to make this with leftover pie dough. I didn’t have any leftover dough, so I just used pie crust dough equivalent to one crust that I already had on hand. I was able to make about 18 rolls with it. Here is what you need:
Pie crust dough (I use Tenderflake to make mine and follow their instructions on how to make a flaky pie crust to a tee)
Butter, softened (about 2 tbsp)
Maple Syrup or Cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350F. Roll out the dough into a rectangle as best as you can. I rolled the pie dough to a point where the dough was quite thin – I could see the markings on my counter through the dough. Then, spread the softened butter all over the dough (like buttering a giant pancake). Then sprinkle a liberal amount of brown sugar on top. One recipe I saw said to make the brown sugar layer about 1/4″ thick … I didn’t do quite that much, but if you like things really sweet, that thickness would definitely work! Then, pour some maple syrup over top of the brown sugar – as much or as little as you want. Most recipes I read actually called for a sprinkling of cinnamon instead of maple syrup … I think either would work well depending upon your taste preferences and from my Pouding chomeur experience, I know that brown sugar and maple syrup combined work VERY well together! Then, roll the whole thing up like a jelly roll along the long side and cut it into 3/4″ to 1″ slices.
Place the slice on its side on a parchment-lined baking sheet and then bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Place on a cooling rack after 5 minutes. They’re delicious warm or cooled!
A few things I might do differently next time:
– I might bake it in a non-stick cake pan vs a baking sheet. If you do it in a cake pan, it might keep the sugar more “contained” to each roll. Looking at the picture above, you can see how the sugar has spread out for each roll. On the flip side, that spread-out sugar becomes brittle caramel … very tasty! Also, I’m not sure if I bake them that close together (like cinnamon rolls), how they would separate after baking – the whole thing might fall apart.
– I might dip the top of the roll in some crystallized sugar before baking to get some nice sweet crunchy bits on top … I saw a picture of these on another website and they were very pretty.
– I would roll the dough more tightly than I did. After I cut the slices, I found myself having to re-roll many a piece because it sort of fell apart and as you can see from the photo at the top, the roll spread out a fair bit during the baking process, so I don’t think you can roll it too tight.
* I made a Monty Python reference above and must show this scene from one of my all-time favourite movies, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Enjoy this while you eat your farts!