It has been seven days since I came to Tofino and five days of new job as a pastry cook. As always, expectations differ from reality, in both good and bad ways. It's certainly quite different than I imagined, if I'm being honest.
I don't want to go into too much detail, especially not right off the bat. I would absolutely love to make some (much needed) major improvements in organization but I don't feel like it's my place right now. I don't want to step on anyones toes and come barging in, thinking I know everything. Because I don't. But I know I can improve the current situation.
Other than that, things are going quite well. It's beautifully quiet here. When I am walking to work at 4:45 AM, all I hear is birds chirping, waves crashing against the beach, and the rustling of tree branches in the wind. I literally work on a beautiful beach surrounded by jagged rocks, windswept trees, and rainforest.
Everyone has been incredibly nice to me as well. Everyone says hello to me and introduces themselves as soon as they see me. I've probably forgotten 90% of everyones names (and even called one guy Dave. His name was not Dave).
Living with roommates is easier than I thought. My three roommates are very relaxed and super friendly. They're interested in how I'm settling in, but they're not smothering me. I like my alone time, so being able to chill in my bed on my laptop is a nice reprieve from being around people all the time.
Of course, there are downsides. I miss my boyfriend, of course. His birthday is on Thursday and I won't be there to celebrate with him. To make up for my absence, I have hidden handwritten notes all over his apartment for him to find over the course of a few weeks. I think he has found ten or so notes, but there are many more for him to find.
Just trying my best to be there for him when I'm not physically there.
I miss the comfort and familiarity of home. I miss my cat. I miss knowing my way around everywhere. I miss my kitchen.
And that's what life is really about, isn't it? Constantly learning things, whether it's good or bad. I'd like to think so.
Meringue Nests with Rhubarb Chiboust and Poached Rhubarb
250 g sugar
125 g egg whites
226 g rhubarb, cut into 1 inch chunks
125 g rhubarb puree
125 g sugar
125 g eggs
125 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
240 g sugar
120 g egg whites
3 stalks rhubarb, cut on an angle, 1/2 inch thick
200 g rhubarb puree
75 g sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 stalks of rhubarb
To start, make the rhubarb curd. Place the 226 g of rhubarb in a saucepan and pour enough water to just cover it. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Once the rhubarb is cooled, blend the rhubarb and water using a blender or immersion blender, then strain through a fine mesh sieve. Press the pulp against the sieve to get as much juice as possible. You should not have any pulp left over. If you do, return the pulp to the blender and puree again, then strain again. Reserve the strain rhubarb puree.
Combine the rhubarb puree, eggs, and sugar in a bowl and cook over a double boiler, whisking constantly until the mixture reaches 80 C/ 175 F. Take off the heat and transfer to a mixer bowl. Whip on high speed and add the butter in small pieces. Whip until the curd has cooled to room temperature.
Reserve at room temperature if you are making the rest of the dessert the same day. If not, place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the curd and refrigerate immediately.
For the swiss meringue, preheat the oven to 200 F.
Combine the sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl over a double boiler and cook until the mixture is no longer gritty, whisking constantly. Once it is no longer gritty, immediately transfer to the stand mixer and whip on medium-high speed until the meringue is glossy and holds a peak, about 5 to 7 minutes.
With a piping bag fitted with a round 1/2 inch piping tip, pipe a spiral as the base, then pipe a border along the outside circle of the spiral several times to build up a "wall", being careful to keep an even circle. Keep in mind that you cannot make it too high or it will collapse during baking. An ideal size would be 3 inches in diameter and about 1.5 inches in height.
Immediately bake the meringue nests with 1.5 hours, then turn the oven off but leave the meringue nests in the oven for a further 30 minutes. Remove from the oven.
For the poached rhubarb, combine the rhubarb, rhubarb puree, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the saucepan. Gently simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until the rhubarb is tender but not falling apart. Gently remove the rhubarb from the syrup and increase the heat to medium-high. Reduce for a further 5 minutes, until the puree has a syrupy consistency. Remove from heat and let it cool slightly.
For the italian meringue, place the sugar in a clean saucepan and add enough water to create a paste with the sugar.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Heat the sugar-water mixture over medium-low heat to dissolve the sugar, then increase the heat to medium-high. When the syrup reaches 110 C/ 230 F, increase the mixer speed to medium-high. When the sugar reaches 121 C/ 250 F, take the pot off the heat. The egg whites should be at stiff peaks now. Gently pour the sugar syrup inbetween the bowl of the mixer and the paddle. Increase the speed to high and whip until the meringue has cooled to room temperature.
For the rhubarb "paper", preheat the oven to 200 F. Using a paring knife, make a shallow incision in a stalk of rhubarb at the base, top, and along the length of the rhubarb, connecting all four incisions to make a rectangle. Gently peel the rhubarb skin off the stalk. Scrape the back of the rhubarb skin to remove any stringy bits. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 3 to 5 minutes, until it is dry and paper-like. Use scissors to cut into your desired shapes.
To assemble, you should have roughly equal weights of rhubarb curd and italian meringue. If the rhubarb curd has been in the fridge, bring it to room temperature.
Place the rhubarb curd in a large bowl. Add one-third of the italian meringue and stir into the curd to lighten it. Fold in the remaining italian meringue gently to avoid deflating it. Transfer to a piping bag and fill the meringue nests slightly higher than the "wall" of the nest. Gently place a piece of the poached rhubarb on top, then drizzle a small amount of the reduced rhubarb-vanilla syrup over the top.
Serve immediately. Enjoy!