The cherry blossoms are just staring to bloom here in Vancouver and the past few days have been warm enough to just wear a light little jacket. That means spring is around the corner! Although, from instagram and snapchat, I see that some of you (err…a lot of you) are still living in the dead of winter, as in snow is still on the ground and possibly still falling from the sky.
I feel like I'm not a real Canadian because in Vancouver, we don't have winters like the rest of Canada. Our winter is long, but it's just rain. Seriously. It just rains from October to April and it only dips below to -2 C or -4 C for a couple weeks at the most. It's not that bad at all and, honestly, I don't really mind the rain.
I did live in Montreal for a little bit - August to April - back when I went to McGill for my first year of uni. I knew that it would get freezing cold and a shit ton of snow, but I was prepared. However, what I wasn't prepared for was -36 C with windchill on a sunny day. I would wake up in the morning and the ice crystals would be creeping up my window. Some mornings, I could actually see my breath in my dorm because the buildings were so old and apparently didn't have proper insulation?? My dorm also lived at the top of a hill, so to get to classes, everyone had to gingerly walk down the icy sidewalk that was so still, almost everyone fell at least once a day. I contemplated getting crampons. A friend of mine went to class one morning with her hair still kind of wet from her shower. Her black hair froze, turned white, and a big chunk actually broke off. Her hair broke off. Now, that's too cold. Humans shouldn't live in places where your hair freezes and breaks off.
Anyways, my point of the matter is that I sympathize with you poor suckers still living in sub-zero climates. I know your pain. I mean, I was smart enough to come back to a more habitable climate, but hey - whatever floats your boat. Maybe you like the thrill of possibly getting frostbite every time you step out your front door.
I feel like now is about the time when everyone - whether it's -36 C or only 10 C - could use a bit of a tropical getaway, even if it's just in the form of a dessert. Spring fruits are a bit of a ways off still, but citrus is always in season. Not actually, because the limes are probably from Mexico, but the limes always come from Mexico. We don't grow limes here in Canada.
So, if you want to live vicariously through your taste buds, give these éclairs a try. After all, a can of coconut cream and a few limes costs much less than a plane ticket.
Lime and Coconut Éclairs
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 salt
250 g eggs
Coconut and Lime Pastry Cream
160 g whole milk
300 g coconut cream
3 limes, zested
100 g eggs
20 g egg yolks
100 g granulated sugar
18 g all-purpose flour
57 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
Lime Fluid Gel
100 g simple syrup
80 g fresh lime juice
2 g agar agar
3 limes, zested
Toasted unsweetened coconut
First, make the éclairs. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Make templates for your éclairs by taking two pieces of parchment and using a dark pen to make a line 6 inches long. Leave 2 inches between each line as the éclairs will expand as they bake. Once you have finished, flip the parchment over so the side with the pen markings are facing the sheet pan. This will ensure that you do not get pen on your éclairs.
Combine the water, salt, sugar, and butter in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir as the butter melts. Do not start at too high a heat or some of the water will evaporate before 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 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 bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low for about 30 seconds to release some of the moisture. Slowly begin adding the eggs, about 50 g at a time, beating until each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next one. Continue to add the eggs, reserving 25 g, 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 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 to an airtight container, place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface on the choux, and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
Transfer the choux to a piping bag fitted with a french tip if you have one or a large round tip if you don't have one.
Starting at the side of the parchment farthest from you, hold the tip of the pastry bag 3/4 inch above the parchment and apply gentle, steady pressure as you pipe the first éclair. When the éclair is about 6 inches ling, begin to lessen he pressure, and then stop it as you bring the dough back over itself, leaving a 1/2 inch curl at the end of the éclair. Pipe the remaining éclairs. Repeat with the second sheet.
If you are using a round tip, take a fork and gently drag it along the length of each éclair. You just want to create very light grooves, not deep gashes.
Wet your finger and press down on the tip of each éclair. Place the sheet pans in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 350 F. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the éclairs are beginning to brown; rotate the pans halfway through. Lower the temperature to 325 F and bake for an additional 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Lower the temperature to 300 F and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the éclairs are light and feel hollow. If you break one open, the centre should be completely cooked. Set on a cooling rack and cool completely before filling.
For the coconut and lime pastry cream, combine the milk, coconut cream, and lime zest in a saucepan set over medium heat. Bring it to just a simmer.
Meanwhile, combine the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and flour and whisk to combine.
Once the milk mixture has come to a simmer, slowly pour a small amount into the yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Continue tempering the yolks with the milk mixture, then transfer all of back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking continuously, until the mixture has thickened, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk for another minute, then add the butter and whisk until combined. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl set over an ice bath. Cool to room temperature, then place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the pastry cream and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours. Once it has cooled, transfer to a piping bag fitted with a very small round tip.
For the lime fluid gel, combine the simple syrup, lime juice, and agar in a saucepan set over medium-low heat. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 10 seconds. Remove from heat and transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.
Once the gel has set, use an immersion blender to purée it until a gel-like consistency has been reached. A drop of the gel should hold it's shape when piped and be completely smooth. Transfer to a squeeze bottle.
For the lime powder, place the lime zest in a microwavable safe plastic container. Microwave for 10 second intervals until the zest is dry, about 1 minute. Let it cool for a few minutes, then grind it in a spice grinder to create a fine powder.
To fill the éclairs, use a toothpick to create three holes in the bottom of each éclair - one at each end and one in the middle. Insert the piping tip of the coconut pastry cream into a hole and pipe until you start to feel a little bit of resistance. When you remove the tip, the cream should push out of the hole. Insert the tip into the two other holes and repeat the process. Repeat this process with all the éclairs.
To finish, pipe a mixture of small and large dots of pastry cream onto the top of the éclair, then pipe small dots of lime fluid gel. Sprinkle lime powder and toasted coconut over top.