Ever since I arrived in Tofino, I have been asked by pretty much everybody, "Do you surf?".
If you're not familiar with Tofino, it's a surfing town. Yep, a surfing town on the west coast of Vancouver Island, BC.
People come to Tofino specifically to surf, especially in the summer. Tourists come for lots of reasons, but surfing is usually one of them. On any given day, rain or shine, 6 in the morning or 9 at night, you'll see dozens of surfers out on the water.
So, I finally decided to give it a go.
The lodge I work at offers surf lessons (as does almost every other resort here) and they were offering free lessons for staff one evening. Despite being super nervous about the freezing cold Pacific water, I signed up. I mean, I had been in Tofino for three and a half weeks and I hadn't tried surfing yet. People were shocked.
There were a few other staff coming along that had been surfing a few times but wanted an actual lesson on it. That left me as the only one who hadn't surfed (I'm not counting the time when I was 13 because I don't think I even stood up on the board).
We got kitted out in our wetsuits, grabbed our boards, and walked to the beach. It was a miserable, rainy, windy day but the waves were nice and small - good for beginners like me.
"I'm going to get hypothermia and die." I thought as we neared the edge of the water.
I braced myself for the numbing cold and stepped into the water. Nothing. I felt the sensation of the water, but it wasn't cold. The water was now up to my shins. Still good. Hips, waist, stomach, chest. Not bad at all. It wasn't warm, but I wasn't shivering or losing feeling in my toes.
I caught a wave after a few minutes, paddled like mad, shakily stood up, and promptly fell off. I was tumbled around in the shallow water for a second or two and felt the cold water sneak into my hood and through my wetsuit. I popped up out of the water facing the shore and looked behind me, just in time to get hit in the face with a wave. I emerged sputtering and squinting from the salt water.
"This is awesome!" I thought as I smiled from ear to ear, seaweed clinging to my face.
Repeat that scene about 40 times for the next two hours and you've got my Thursday evening. It's not easy and I think I only had about three successful pop-ups (when you stand up on the board correctly) but I had an absolute blast. I don't know why I waited so long to try it! I understand why people wake up at 5am on their day off and go surfing in the rain. I understand why people get a job in Tofino solely for the chance to go surfing all summer (or winter).
The only downside is the aching. You don't realize how much exercise you're doing but it really is hard work. Paddling, standing up and balancing on a board in the water, and walking back out to the waves for a couple hours. It's tough going.
After the lesson, I went home, showered, and ate a burrito in bed in my pyjamas. I stood up to get ready for bed and just about fell on my face. My legs felt like jello. My arms were like noodles. Everything ached! Just standing upright was an effort.
Fast forward to 4am the next morning when I woke up for work and it was even worse. Then rolling out croissant dough at 5am and feeling like I couldn't even apply pressure to the rolling pin. Going up the flight of stairs to the dry pantry and feeling like I had to go on all fours like when I was a kid. Getting off work and going up the stairs to my room and actually going on all fours like when I was a kid. It's Sunday and I'm still sore and aching.
But it's all worth it. I can't wait for the next staff surf lesson so I can go out again!
Lemon Raspberry Macarons
Recipes adapted from Bouchon Bakery
3.6 g silver leaf gelatin (1 1/4 sheets)
216 g eggs
216 g granulated sugar
216 g freshly squeezed lemon juice
280 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch dice, at room temperature
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Raspberry French Buttercream
38 g granulated sugar
38 g granulated sugar
63 g egg yolks
75 g whole milk
250 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, at room temperature
12 g raspberry powder
212 g almond flour/meal
212 g powdered sugar
82 g egg whites
90 g egg whites
zest of 1 lemon
236 g granulated sugar
158 g water
5 g raspberry powder
Splash of water
First, make the buttercream. If you wish, the buttercream can be made in advance and stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. Take the buttercream out of the fridge thirty minutes before you need to use it and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer. Allow it to soften and then mix on low speed until it is the proper consistency.
Whisk 38 grams sugar and the yolks together in a medium bowl and set aside.
Combine the milk and remaining 38 grams of sugar in a medium saucepan, set over
medium heat, and stir to dissolve the sugar. When the milk is just below a simmer, remove
the pan from the heat and, whisking constantly, pour it into the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the pan and place over medium heat. Whisking constantly, bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 1 minute, lowering the heat if necessary to prevent the mixture from curdling. It should be very thick.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer. fit the mixer with a whisk attachment, turn the mixture to medium, and whisk for about 8 minutes, until the mixture is completely cool.
Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, to the egg yolk mixture. If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter. Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hod its shape, it should be refrigerated for a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.
Add the raspberry powder and fold in by hand until completely combined.
For the lemon curd, place the gelatin in a bath of ice water to soften.
Whisk the eggs and sugar in a medium saucepan. Slowly whisk in the lemon juice. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk slowly, until the mixture begins to simmer. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, whisking constantly, until thickened. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk gently for 1 to 2 minutes to release steam and cool the curd slightly.
Remove the gelatin from the water, squeeze out excess water, and whisk it into the hot curd. Strain the curd through a fine-mesh strainer. Using a Vitamix or an immersion blender, blend on low speed for a few seconds, then add the butter 2 to 3 pieces at a time, blending until incorporated. Add the zest and blend to incorporate. Let the curd cool to room temperature.
The curd can be used at this point or transferred to a covered container. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
Start on the macarons. The macarons need to be as close in size as possible and a template is the easiest way to ensure that. Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface with the long side facing you. Using a glass or bowl, trace the desired size of your macaroons (I used a 1.5 inch diameter for these). Make sure to leave 1 inch of space between them. Turn the parchment over and lay it on a sheet pan. Lift up each corner of the parchment and spray with non-stick spray to keep it from blowing up while the cookies are baking. Repeat with a second sheet.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar into a large bowl and whisk together. Make a well in the center, leaving a layer of flour at the bottom. Pour in the 82 grams egg whites and combine with a spatula. Add the lemon zest and stir until evenly distributed. Set aside.
Place the remaining 90 grams egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Combine the 236 grams sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 203 F/110 C.
Letting the syrup continue to cook, add a pinch of sugar to the egg whites, turn the mixer to medium speed, and whip to soft peaks. If the whites reach soft peaks before the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, reduce the speed to the lowest setting, just to keep them moving.
When the syrup reaches 248 F/120 C, remove the pan from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add the syrup, pouring it between the side of the bowl and
the whisk. The meringue will deflate. Increase the speed to medium and whip for 5 minutes, or until the whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Although the bowl will still be warm, the meringue should have cooled. If not, continue to whip until it is cool.
Fold one-third of the meringue into the almond mixture, then continue adding the whites a little at a time (you may not use them all) until when you fold a portion of the batter over on itself, the "ribbon" slowly moves. The mixture shouldn't be so stiff that it holds its shape without moving at all, but it shouldn't be so loose that it dissolves into itself and does not maintain the ribbon; it is better for the mixture to be sightly stiff than too loose.
Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip. Hold the bag upright 1/2 inch above the center of one of the traced circles and pipe out enough to fill in the circle. Lift away the pastry bag and fill the remaining circles on the first pan. Lift up the sheet pan and tap the bottom of the pan to spread the batter evenly and smooth any peaks left by the bag.
Place the sheet pan in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 9 to 12 minutes, until the tops are shiny and crisp. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees again.
Pipe the remaining macaron mixture into the circles of the second sheet pan and bake as directed above. Let cool completely.
For the garnish, combine the raspberry powder and a splash of water and mix until there are no lumps. It should be liquidy. Using a pastry brush, dip it into the raspberry mixture and flick over half of the finished macarons until the desired look is created. This is very messy and will splatter raspberry water everywhere else. Let them dry for a few minutes.
Transfer the buttercream to the pastry bag with the 3/8 inch tip. Transfer the lemon curd to a pastry bag with the 3/8 inch tip. Remove the macarons from the parchment paper. Turn half of them over. Pipe a ring of buttercream, not quite reaching the edge of the macaron. Fill the hole with lemon curd. Top with a second macaron and gently press to spread the buttercream to the edges. Repeat with remaining macarons and filling.
The macarons are best if wrapped individually in a few layers of plastic wrap and frozen for at least 24 hours or up to 2 weeks. Defrost in the refrigerator for 3 hours, then bring to room temperature before seving. They can be served the day they are made or stored in a covered container in the refrigerator up to 2 days.