Thursday, August 10, 2006

Chocolate Soufflé

Don't be afraid. I repeat. A soufflé is nothing to be afraid of. Right wing mormons and christians scare me more than the idea of making a soufflé. Somehow, somewhere along the line, the art of the soufflé has acquired this image of difficulty that would lead you think it shouldn't be attempted without some kind of witch doctors putting the mamba jahamba on the kitchen for you.

I'll be quite frank with you. Soufflés are simple. The rub is that simplicity demands perfection. Be fussy about the ingredients. There really aren't that many. Every single one of them counts. Counts. A. Lot. This recipe will serve four, and can be safely doubled with another soufflé dish.

Let's start with the soufflé dish. Fucking. Buy. One. I've heard heresy out there that suggests substituting a springform cake pan. Don't even try. As soon as you've demystified the process of the soufflé you'll be using the hell out of it. Buy a 2 or 2 1/2 quart ceramic soufflé dish. Quit whining and do it. You can use it for an ashtray if this recipe doesn't work.

When you take your soufflé dish from the cupboard make sure to wipe it out well with a very slightly damp towel. While you're at it do the mixing bowl for the egg whites and the chocolate base. Then let them air dry for at least 30 minutes. That will take care of two of the biggest enemies we will have to face, dust and water. Hate them both while you're souffléing (is that a word? if not it should be and will be for the rest of this post). When it is completely, utterly, totally dry use some european style unsalted butter (a good irish butter is best, but Challenge dairy out west has a very servicable product on the shelves of most self respecting grocers) and give an even coating to the inside of the dish. (you can't really over butter, but you do not want any gobs or dabs, it must be smooth) Then, dust the inside with finely ground sugar (between granulated and powdered, sometimes sold as "baker's sugar") There is an old myth that the butter and sugar helps the soufflé to rise, it's not true. It does help to make a sturdier crust which will translate into better structural integrity and also aid in removing the soufflé from the dish. Set this aside. Heat the oven to 375°

Make friends with someone who raises chickens so that you can get totally fresh eggs. Or buy them fresh from a roadside stand. If you're in the city, find yourself a totally obsessed pastry chef and get his egg connection. Come to think of it, inviting them over for a chocolate soufflé is a pretty perfect way to win yourself a chicken raising pal. Separate out 7 egg whites into a large steep sided mixing bowl that is completely clean and dry. Keep 5 yolks handy for the chocolate soufflé base.

Have a large pot on the front of the stove about 3/4 full of slowly boiling water. We're talking a real boil here but you don't want a lot of turbulance. Take a large, metal mixing bowl (you can go big here because you absolutely do not want any of the water you're heating over to get into the bowl. if that happens you're fucked)
Take 3 tablespoons of unsalted euro butter and melt them in the mixing bowl over the boiling water. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of cake flour and 1 1/2 cups whole milk. Cook this, stirring constantly until it begins to thicken slightly. Then whisk in 12 ounces of coarsly chopped bittersweet chocolate of at least 70% cocoa mass. Since this is the main flavor of the dish, do not try to save yourself any money here. There are times to economise and times to cut a corner here and there but this is not one of those times. I use the Trader Joe's Pound Plus® 70% cocoa mass bar, it's the same chocolate base I use for my truffles and it is good, readily available stuff. If you want to use Swiss, Belgian, Dutch or French top level brands please do so. If you have an absolute favorite brand of top flight chocolate, by all means, be my guest. Make sure that it contains at least 70% cocoa mass and you'll be fine. When the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy remove the bowl from over the boiling water (turn off the stove top)

Set the chocolate bowl down on a towel on the counter and whisk in 1/2 cup room temperature espresso coffee, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1/4 cup of baker's sugar (strain through a sieve or cheesecloth to make sure there are no little chunks or don't worry about a thing if you cheat and use pods while making your espresso) Now add five egg yolks one at a time while whisking. It will begin to look like your chocolate has seized up or some other horrid disaster has befallen your thick glossy chocolate base but do not be afraid. The graininess and ugly chunky stuff will disappear when we fold it in the egg white mixture.

Like with the angel food cake I can't explain why I prefer the end product produced by a hand whipping as opposed to an electric mixer. I might even be delusional about this. I say I can tell the difference and I say to hell with the mixer right now. I use a big, thin wire whisk. 7 egg whites and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tatar in the mixing bowl and mix to the stage of soft peaks. This means that when you lift your whisk out of the egg white mixture a peak will form, but will tilt and curl over. Soft. Peaks. That's what we're looking for. Now begin to slowly add 1/4 cup of the baker's sugar, whipping away the whole time. Take it from here to Stiff Peaks. Which is just what it sounds like. You want Viagra® stiff here. Don't give up or punk out. Stiff. Peaks. Bitchez.

In about four stages, fold the egg white mixture into the chocolate base. BE GENTLE. Use a soft (i have a trick silicone gel one that i love) spatula and go slowly and gently but also be relentless. The idea here is to not break the egg white fluffy thing down any more than is absolutely neccessary for a complete mix. Once all streaks of white are gone pour into your prepared soufflé dish and put it on the middle rack of the oven. 35 to 40 minutes of baking should do the trick. You want the soufflé to have risen dramatically over the top of the dish (about 2 inches is what i fucking call dramatic) Remove from the oven, dust with confectioner's sugar and serve. It will start to fall within two minutes so don't lollygag around. Some people like to divide the soufflé into smaller ramekins so that everybody gets their own little soufflé all to themselves. I don't do that because the bigger dish soufflé rise better and stay up longer. Dig right into it with a big spoon and put it on a plate in front of them and they won't fucking complain, trust me.

Serve with coffee (for us non alcohol drinking types), brandy, dry white wine, champagne or calvados for the perfect dessert. Simple. Elegant. Sophisticated. Soufflé.

Again, I stand ready to offer any technical advice, answer any questions and dispell any myths or fears surrounding this dish. Drop a dime in the comments and I will do my utmost to ensure your success. Be bold. Don't overcomplicate. Be precise and certain in your measuring. This works like a charm. If you serve it to someone you love, you're getting laid that night. For. Sure.

4 Comments:

Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

Stephen:

I love that you are doing recipes on your blog, but, please, would you consider saying "fuck" a little bit less?

love,
Mom

8:52 AM  
Blogger Tata said...

Hee hee! My mom gave up on my trash mouth.

I will:
*Fucking buy a souffle dish;
*Fucking try it;
*Ask questions I'm too ignorant to know I'll have.

I'm psyched!

9:21 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

best of luck to you tata m'dear. feel free to ask in the comments (which email to me automatically) or go straight through the email route. i have some serious down time in the works where my only defense against paranoid crowds in an airport will be my trusty laptop, thank god for all the hotspots in airports.

10:06 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

Mom:

I'll try. I promise. I just get excited sometimes. Thanks for reading.


Love,
Stephen

10:07 AM  

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