I'll admit it: sometimes I'm partial. Like on my last trip to the Caribbean, I knew I'd be all about to Saint Martin. From the minute we left, I was anticipating docking in Saint Martin. I mean, it's part Dutch and part French (like me), which means you can have a Dutch beer in one hand, an eclair in the other, all while your toes are in the Caribbean. So, yah, it's pretty freaking amazing.
But more than anything else, I was smitten of the idea of those pastries. So, when we stopped in the French capital of Marigot for a mid-morning snack, I beelined for the bakeries. Set among brightly colored houses and aside the lively produce market, the bakeries were side by side yet each had it's own twist. Some, like La Sucriere, were so classic they could be right out of Amélie while others Caribbean-ifyied the flavors. I wanted to channel the tropical meets Euro vibes of those bakeries so I created these coconut cream and mango eclairs. The eclair is such a classic pastry and it comes across as super impressive when, in reality, all it requires is some patience and lots of eggs. So, yes, I'm partial to Saint Martin because anywhere that can give me a bit of France and a bit of Carribean all at once? Well, it's got me smitten.
from about 1 medium mango peeled and diced
for the icing
and cacao nibs for garnish
For the pastry cream: Combine coconut milk, 2 tablespoons of the cane sugar, and the vanilla bean paste in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat then remove from heat. Meanwhile, whisk together the 3 egg yolks, cornstarch, and another 2 tablespoons of the cane sugar in a medium bowl until light and slightly thick. Gradually whisk half of the milk mixture, tablespoon by tablespoon, into egg yolk mixture. Pour the milk-yolk mixture back in the saucepan with the remaining milk and return to the stove over medium-high heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until pastry cream simmers and thickens, about 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, pass through a seive then transfer to bowl. Stir in mango puree and press plastic wrap directly onto surface. Chill until cold, at least 1 hour.
Pastry cream can be made ahead and refrigerated, wrapped well with plastic wrap on surface, up to 3 days.
For the pate au choux: Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange racks in the upper and lower third. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and trace 1 inch-by-3 inch rectangles, spaced 1 1/2 inches apart (you want about 15 rectangles per baking sheet). Combine butter, remaining 2 tablespoons of the cane sugar, and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add flour all at once and stir quickly with a wooden spoon until mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan. Continue to cook for 1 minute to dry out dough. Transfer dough to a bowl and let cool for a few minutes. Beat in remaining 4 whole eggs one at a time, beating until dough is smooth and glossy before adding the next egg.
Using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip (or a plastic storage bag with one corner snipped off), pipe dough onto the parchment paper tracings. Combine 1 egg with water and whisk until smooth then brush each pastry with the egg wash. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake until golden brown and dry to the touch, about 20 to 25 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly, at least 10 minutes.
Filling and Icing: Spoon the mango pastry cream into a pastry bag, poke two small holes in the bottom of each pastry then pipe the pastry cream into each pastry. Prepare icing by whisking together powdered sugar and just enough water until the mixture coats the back of a spoon and does not drip off. If desired, color the icing to your any color you'd like – I used 3 drops of red and 2 of yellow to get the color in the photo.
Assembly: Dip one of filled pastries in the icing and place in the refrigerator until icing is just set, about 10 minutes.
Food styling and photography by Aida Mollenkamp
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