Olivia Dish

Souffle to Lift the Spirits

In Cookbooks, Homemade, Paris, Sweets on December 20, 2010 at 9:01 pm
Saveur Souffle

A souffle to banish the "my car's been towed" blues

I skipped down the steps of the hair salon, tossing my mane and feeling saucy….only to discover that my car had been towed.

Well, that little boost to the spirits was short-lived. Now, sleek hair be damned, I was trudging over to pay off parking tickets I didn’t know I had, then walking to my next appointment, then catching a ride to pay even more money to get my ride back.

By the time I got home, I needed some cheering up, the sort one might get from a quality bourbon, or, yes! A dark chocolate souffle!

Souffles, if you’ve never tried whipping them up, are surprisingly easy to make.

As Mr. DeSpoon can vouch, I’ve been known in restaurants to turn to my dinner companion and say, “let’s skip dessert and go to my house. I’ll make souffle.” Within 30 minutes or so of getting started, I’ll  take a few eggs from the fridge and a couple of pantry items and deliver a precious puffed-up-but-gooey darling.

So, forget a sensible dinner. Tonight’s meal is rising in the oven even as I type. Take that she-whose-name-will-not-be-mentioned and 30 Minute Meals!

I make my dark chocolate souffle like this:

First, set the oven to 350 degrees, and yes, turn it on.

souffle in over

The fluffy batter goes into a chilled dish and into the oven.

Then–

1–butter and sugar a small souffle dish. Put the dish in the fridge.

2-heat 3 tablespoons of milk, 2.5 tablespoons of sugar and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan, just until the sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat, add a third of a bag of dark chocolate chips (or even better, 4 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped) and let the residual heat melt that.

3–separate 3 eggs, putting the whites in a large bowl for whipping. Temper the 3 yolks with a bit of the warm chocolate, then blend the eggs into the rest of the chocolate/milk/sugar mixture in the small saucepan.  Also stir in 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla.

4–Using a hand mixer, whip up the egg whites until they form soft peaks. In the early stages, sprinkle in a pinch of sugar to give it a little boost.

souffle

My souffle dish is too large, else this would have puffed over the top the way it's supposed to.

5–Lop a large spoonful of the whipped whites into the chocolate mixture, to lighten it. Then gently add the chocolate to the whites, and gently fold until blended–careful, not too much stirring.

6–Gently pour the whole caboodle into the chilled souffle dish. Sprinkle with a little granulated sugar if you want a crispier top. Then put the dish in the oven, bake for 20 minutes–then check. Ideally, you want it to be crispy on top but still gooey inside, and a minute or two makes all the difference. For example, I just left this very souffle in the oven for three extra minutes while I was typing this, and it’s not as gooey as it should be inside.

Dust with powdered sugar or not. Most important, eat promptly–and eat as much as you can manage just as it comes out of the oven, for that’s when it’s best. But don’t fret if you can’t stuff it all in at one time. After it falls, it’s still good–just more dense, like a flourless cake.

steaming souffle

Eat at once! I cooked this one about three minutes too long; should be sorta runny inside and it isn't.

I first fell for souffles at a restaurant in Paris called La Cigale Recamier, where they serve savory and sweet souffles so you can make a meal out of the puffy stuff. A little gimmicky, yes, but it was also quite good. Making souffles came later, thanks to a simple recipe in the Jan/Feb 1997 issue of Saveur. I modified that dark chocolate souffle recipe (less sugar) and my version is the one I know by heart and make today.

I’m also partial to a recipe for cornmeal souffle from the Edna Lewis/Scott Peacock cookbook, The Gift of Southern Cooking.  That one is easy too, but does seem to take me a tad longer to prepare. It’s delicious served with a juicy pork roast or pork chops.

As for the souffle effect, I’m already feeling lighter–and there’s more waiting for me in the kitchen. Pardon me, while I finish my dinner. Yes, things are looking up.

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