Sorry about posting a little later than I usually do, but my mom was in town visiting me! Since she was only in town for one full day, we packed as much as we could into it. Boat rides up the coast, natural hot springs, tacos, good dinners, an incredible local clothing designer, more tacos, and some beautiful beach walks. All in a days work here in gorgeous Tofino.
The highlight of her stay was the trip to the natural hot springs. As if Tofino isn't remote enough, the actual hot springs are only accessible by either boat or seaplane. It was a beautiful hour and a half boat ride up the coast, where we saw sea lions, seals, sea otters, and even a few grey whales! The boat is docked in a secluded cove and you continue on foot on a boardwalk through the rainforest.
It was a beautifully sunny day, but in the forest it was cool and quiet. The old-growth forests of Clayoquot Sound have managed to avoid major logging, so many of the giant trees are hundreds of years old. Shaggy moss hanging from tree branches, fallen trunks taller than a man, and wild salmonberries hanging off the bushes were all around us.
While most hot springs have been built up and developed, these had not been touched by any sort of man-made construction. A tiny trickling stream flowed through the forest and collected in natural rock pools right on the rocky shore of the ocean. The various pools were only deep enough for about 5 people to sit in at most, but there was a series of about 4 or 5 pools carved into the rocks. The water was as hot as a hot tub and crystal clear.
We spent a few hours at the hot springs, then trekked back to the boat. On the way back to Tofino, was stopped in a small bay and as the sun started to sink lower in the sky, we watched three grey whales feeding. While we could only see their backs and tails, it was quite amazing to see them so close to us.
The hot springs are just out of frame in this picture, right in the rocks at the bottom. The ocean waves were crashing ten feet from you as you tried to shift your butt to find a comfy spot on the rocks as you relaxed in the natural hot springs.
Across the cove, there is a Native village where this beautiful dog was from. In the summer, this guy and his buddy swim across the cove, walk through the forest of the boardwalk, and spend the afternoons trying to bum food off the visitors. They were incredibly well-behaved and would still enjoy a good cuddling even if you didn't give them any food. This particular one had such piercing white-blue eyes that I've never seen on a dog other than a husky. He was more than happy to rub his face against mine and kept putting his paw in my lap, despite the fact that I never gave him a scrap of food.
While Sunday gave us clear skies with not a cloud in sight, Monday was a more typical west coast day - fog rolling in from the ocean and overcast skies.
The sunset on Sunday night was actually the first sunset I've seen in the three weeks that I've been here. Waking up at 3:45am means I have to go to bed before the sun sets, even on my weekends (gotta keep up that sleep schedule). This was taken right outside where I work and where my mom stayed this weekend.
I'm finally starting to settle in and feel comfortable here. I have been wrapped up in my own problems and haven't really been enjoying the area as much as I should have. Sometimes it takes someone else's view of things to make you realize how good you have it.
S'more Cream Puffs
Cookies for Cream Puffs
Recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery
180 g light brown sugar
150 g all-purpose flour
30 g graham crackers, crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
85 g unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4-inch dice
Recipe from Bouchon Bakery
175 g all-purpose flour
33 g sugar
240 g water
120 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2.5 g kosher salt
250 g eggs
Chocolate Pastry Cream
Recipe from Bouchon Bakery
167 g dark chocolate (70%), coarsely chopped
25 g unsweetened chocolate (100%), coarsely chopped
25 g all-purpose flour (or custard powder, if you have it)
25 g unsweetened alkalized cocoa powder
60 g egg yolks
87 g sugar
500 g whole milk
52 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
100 g egg whites
150 g sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
First, make the cookies. Place the brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and use a fork to break up any lumps. Add the all-purpose flour, then the crushed graham crumbs. Whisk to combine.
Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on low to combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter and pulse the mixer on the lowest setting to begin incorporating and breaking up the butter. Increase the speed to low and mix for about 3 minutes, until the butter is broken up and completely incorporated into the dry mixture; the mixture will begin to come together in large crumbles but will not gather into one uniform mass.
Place two pieces of parchment paper on the work surface and divide the crumbles between the sheets. Using your hands bring the crumbles together to begin to form a dough; it will still be crumbly. Then top each potion of the dough with another piece of parchment paper and roll out to 1/4 inch thick. Transfer to the back of a sheet pan, stacking one on top of the other, and freeze for 5 to 10 minutes.
Working with one sheet at a time, continue rolling, freezing the dough again as it softens, until it is 1/16th inch thick. During this process, the dough will crack and gaps will form; parch them as needed with bits of dough. Do not worry if the edges are a bit rough; the cookie will be cut with a cutter.
Freeze until cold before cutting out cookies. The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month.
For the choux, prepare your sheet pan. Line a sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper. Use a template underneath the silpat/parchment to help with spacing and consistent size.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Combine the flour and sugar in a small bowl.
Combine the water, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan, place over medium heat, and stir as the butter melts. Once the butter has melted, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, then remove the pan from the heat and, with a stiff heatproof or wooden spoon, stir in all of the flour. Continue to stir for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture has a paste-like consistency, then place over medium heat and stir rapidly for 1 to 2 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean; the dough should be glossy and smooth but not dry.
Immediately transfer the dough to the mixer bowl and mix on low for about 30 seconds to release some of the moisture. Slowly begin adding the eggs, about 50 grams at a time, beating until each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next one. Continue adding the eggs, reserving 25 grams, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl when pulled with the paddle but then grabs back on again.
Increase the speed to medium and mix for 15 seconds to be sure all of the eggs are incorporated. Stop the mixer. When the paddle if lifted, the dough should form a bird's beak - it should hold its shape and turn down over itself but not break off. If the dough is too stiff, add the reserved egg.
Transfer the dough to a pastry bag and chill the dough until cold, about 20 minutes. Pipe the dough on the silpat or parchment using the templates. Cut out a cookie that, when baked, will cover not just the top of the puff but the sides and bottom as well (mine were too small and just covered the top bit!). Place a cookie on top of the choux and press down a tiny bit, just enough to secure it to the choux.
Put the choux in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 350 F and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until golden brown. Lower the oven temperature to 325 F and bake for about 10 minutes, until the puffs are light and feel hollow. Break one open if necessary: the centre should appear completely cooked.
Set the pan on a cooking rack and cool completely before filling.
For the pastry cream, melt the two chocolates together.
Combine the all-purpose flour (or custard powder) and the cocoa powder in a small bowl.
Set up an ice heath. Place a medium bowl in the ice water and set a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl.
Put the yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and mix on medium-low speed for about 30 seconds. Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour in the sugar, then whisk on medium speed until lighter in colour, about 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then whisk on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. When the whisk is lifted, the mixture should form a slowly dissolving ribbon.
Reduce the speed to low, add the flour-cocoa mixture and mix for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixture running on low speed, slowly pour in the milk. Scrape the bowl again and mix for another minute, until combined.
Pour the mixture into a large saucepan set over medium heat, and gently stir with a heatproof spatula until it begins to thicken. Switch to a whisk and whisk as the cream comes to a simmer, rotating the whisk around the bottom to keep the cream from scorching. Once you see bubbles breaking the surface, cook for about 5 minutes longer, whisking constantly, until the pastry cream has thickened.
Pour the pastry cream through the strainer, pressing gently to push the thickened cream through. Whisk for about 1 minute to cool slightly, then whisk in the butter in two additions. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the chocolate in two additions, whisking until incorporated.
Pour into a covered container and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 days.
For the swiss meringue, combine the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place over a hot water bath and whisk constantly until the mixture is no longer gritty and all the sugar has dissolved. Immediately transfer to the stand mixer and whip on medium-high until the meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, add to the meringue, and whip for 15 seconds to distribute.
Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fit with a star tip.
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and stir gently until it has a creamy consistency. Transfer to a piping bag with a round tip.
To assemble, use a serrated knife to cut the top third of the cream puff off. Pipe the pastry cream in the bottom, then pipe the meringue. Place the top back on and gently press to secure it. Using a hand held butane torch, torch the meringue, being careful not to burn the cream puff itself. Serve immediately.