If your (my) body temperature runs hot, April and October are the months you live for. You actually have a shot at looking AND feeling good. For me, April is a celebration, a release for my body and my mind.
And, when I think sunshine and baking, I think Meyer lemons, which bridge the gap between tart winter citrus and the sweet fruits of summer. Meyer lemons are yolky, thin-skinned lemons originally from China. They were hard to find for awhile, but, at least in New York, I find them easily in February and March. I juice them and freeze the juice for the rest of the year. The zest I mix into a jar of sugar and store as a lemony surprise for tea.
I don’t remember when we bought Elegant Desserts, but for most of my youth, it was the only cookbook we had in the house. I marveled at the pictures. Ached for the equipment, which I understood was for fancy homes who could find marron glace.
But one recipe looked like magic I could actually try. Simple ingredients. A pot that looked humble in the photos. Somehow, it came out right the first time and I was the only eleven year old I knew who had whipped up a cream puff. (The pastry cream was runny so they were a mess.)
So, when April came around, I decided to make the recipe for Meyer Lemon Eclairs that I’ve had bookmarked for a long time.
I ordered kumquats and Meyer lemons from Fresh Direct. Kumquats are doll-sized oranges with a slightly sweeter tang. I’d never had one in my house and not I am hoarding the leftover candied bits and syrup because they are THAT delicious. Do not let the cauldron of kumquat guts dissuade you. (Do you think I can create a kumquat martini?)
The eclairs were great. Crispy and eggy in balance. My main tip with choux pastry is to bake it about a minute longer than you think. Let it get toasty.
The cream was loose and runny, although I followed the directions closely. I could tell, though, as it cooled that it probably hadn’t quite come up to temperature. Adding the whipped cream to it made me a little queasy. There is a point where the amount of fat in a dessert, what with egg yolks, butter and cream, is just, well, gluttonous. Not my bag, this particular cream. No one needs this much richness in their arteries!
But the flavor was spectacular. Tart, sweet, a tiny bit salty, the crunch and give, the softness of the filling. Really pleasurable.
Eclairs and creme puffs are magic. The kind of magic we muggles can do if we want.