(Chocolate) Souffle Girl

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

Soufflé. French for “breathed” or “puffed,” this classic, notoriously difficult dish can send shivers through a chef’s spine. As our friend over at Bunny Eats Design puts it, it is the home cook’s nemesis.

I’ve always wanted to make a soufflé. After watching countless movies and TV shows, I wanted to be that person pulling a beautifully risen soufflé out of the oven. Not going to lie, the “Asylum of the Daleks” episode of Doctor Who with Jenna-Louise Coleman as Souffle Girl played a pretty big part in influencing that desire. So I set to work, combing the internet for recipes and diligently reading up on the eggs chapter of McGee’s On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen. Coincidentally, Martin requested a soufflé for his birthday, so that was the deciding factor for me to pick up my whisk and carpe soufflé (hm, that combination of Latin and French worked better in my head…).

Voila! Chocolate souffle

Voila! Chocolate soufflé

Martin has a huge sweet tooth so it was an easy choice to make a chocolate soufflé. I also prepared a vanilla crème anglaise to accompany it. It was certainly ambitious, especially since, for want of a stand mixer, I did everything by hand. A lot of love went into whipping up those egg whites. But in that moment when I pulled the soufflés out of the oven and saw how tall they had risen, I felt so very proud of my accomplishment! (Martin enjoyed it too – he endearingly nicknamed it the Girlfriend Soufflé.)

Here's a shot that really shows the height of its rise.

Here’s a shot that really shows the height of its rise.

Though I consulted On Food and Cooking for most of the technique, I have to credit Food Network Kitchens for providing a starting point for figuring out the proportions of ingredients (although I did end up making some adjustments). Our kitchen just happened to be perfectly prepared to handle this daunting task, so read carefully, plan well, and take inventory of your equipment. This is going to be a long post, so please bear with me.

Soufflé Ingredients (listed in order of usage):

Butter and white sugar for prepping ramekins

3 1/2 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used most of a Ghirardelli 60% cacao baking bar)

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg yolks

1 1/2 tablespoons warm water

1 tablespoon white granulated sugar

6 egg whites, brought to room temperature

1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup white granulated sugar

Crème Anglaise Ingredients:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons white granulated sugar

Using these proportions, I was able to fill 2 smaller (4 oz-ish) ramekins and 2 standard 6 oz ramekins.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. According to On Food and Cooking, this will yield the quickest and most dramatic rise, but also a faster collapse. I opted for this because I prefer my soufflés lighter and more airy; low and slow will yield more of a lava cake consistency and a less dramatic rise.

Step 1: Prep Ramekins

Step 1: Prep Ramekins

1) Prepare the ramekins by buttering the base of the ramekin all the way up the sides. I used a scrap of paper towel and some softened butter that had been sitting on the counter. Coat the buttered ramekins with sugar. I read a trick online to minimize mess: add a spoonful or two of sugar to the ramekin. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and shake to get all of the sides evenly coated. Shake out the excess into the next ramekin and continue the process. Some recipes say to freeze or refrigerate these prepped ramekins. I left them out on the counter and achieved fine results.

Step 2a: Melt Chocolate

Step 2a: Melt Chocolate

2) Create a double-boiler by bringing about 1 inch of water to a simmer in a small saucepan. Place a heat resistant bowl (like a Pyrex) inside, making sure the bottom does not touch the water. Melt the chopped chocolate with the butter.A silicon spatula is helpful to stir and scrape down the sides of the bowl, ensuring the mixture blends smoothly.

Step 2b: Smooth, melted chocolate

Step 2b: Smooth, melted chocolate

When the mixture is completely smooth, take off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside for later.

Step 3: Egg Yolks and Water

Step 3: Egg Yolks and Water

3) Whisk the egg yolks with the warm water in a small bowl until frothy and pale yellow. Sprinkle in the 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue whisking until it reaches the “ribbon stage,” so named because a lifted whisk will cause the mixture to cascade down in a ribbon-like pattern. This will take about 5 minutes from the time you add in the sugar.

Step 4: Frothy yolks + melted chocolate

Step 4a: Frothy yolks + melted chocolate

4) Fold the egg yolk mixture into the melted chocolate, mixing gently. I drizzled the egg mixture into the chocolate rather than dumping it in all at once.

Step 4b: Fluffy chocolate

Step 4b: Fluffy chocolate

I think this helped to keep some of the yolk froth.

Step 5: Stiff but Glossy Peaks

Step 5: Stiff but Glossy Peaks

5) Time to foam! Take out your largest Pyrex (or other non-reactive) bowl; add the egg whites and lemon juice. Grab a NEW whisk or wash the first one very well. Any trace of egg yolk and the whites will not whisk up properly. Whisk away to get it started; then add in the sugar and continue whisking. I did this by hand, and it took about 10-15 minutes of vigorous whisking to get the stiff but glossy peaks that you’re looking for. Phew! What a workout.

Step 6: Gentle Folding

Step 6: Gentle Folding

6) Now it’s time for more folding. Some people say to work quickly but I heeded the advice of On Food and Cooking and worked gently instead. Spoon about 1/4 to 1/3 of the foam onto the chocolate mixture and gently fold to lighten. Add about half of the remaining foam and continue to fold, using as few strokes as possible. Then finish up the foam and fold. I’ve read that if you have to make the choice between white streaks and over-mixing, it’s OK to have white streaks. Too much or too vigorous mixing will lose a lot of your hard-earned voluminous foam.

Step 7: Spoon into Ramekins

Step 7: Spoon into Ramekins

7) Spoon the soufflé mixture into your prepared ramekins. Apparently, the cocoa strengthens the bubble walls so this souffle mixture, while it seems delicate, is actually quite resilient and could keep in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer indefinitely before its bubbly integrity deteriorates. I personally didn’t chance it. Place the ramekins onto a baking sheet and slide them onto a rack situated in the bottom 1/3 of the oven.

Step 8: Baking Time....

Step 8: Baking Time….

8) Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or just as the tops start to brown. Contrary to popular belief, you CAN open the oven without ruining the soufflé. It is the heat that causes the air bubbles to expand and loss of heat that causes the collapse. Still, I left well enough alone and was grateful for my glass doors through which I could keep a watchful eye.

Step 9: Crème Anglaise

Step 9: Crème Anglaise

9) If preparing a crème anglaise, you’ll have just enough time to do this now. Bring the cream and vanilla to a simmer. (If you have vanilla bean pods, this would be a great opportunity to use them instead of extract!) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until silky and not grainy. Add a bit of the cream to temper the yolks, whisking constantly or you may end up with scrambled eggs. Return the mixture to the pot and continue cooking until the consistency is substantial enough to cling to the back of a spoon. Set aside.

Step 10: The Finished Product

Step 10: The Finished Product

10) Serve immediately after removing from the oven. Like I mentioned earlier, this method yields a beautiful rise but also a very quick collapse. Break open the soufflé and drizzle in the crème anglaise.

DIG IN!

Dig in.

Drizzle. Serve.

Drizzle. Serve.

Bon appétit!

our-growing-edge-badgeThe soufflé has always been a bucket list item of mine, and in the kitchen, it happened to be a wonderful example of my own growing edge – the part of me that yearns to keep learning and trying new things and meeting new challenges. Just as I was basking in the glow of my soufflé accomplishment, I serendipitously received an email from Bunny Eats Design inviting us to participate in the monthly blogging event for Our Growing Edge. So I sat myself down and composed this post. I assure you this will not be my last soufflé, and I hope my post inspires you to try your first (Valentine’s day is just a few days away… hint hint)! Believe me, it can be done and oh, is it satisfying!

If you’re feeling apprehensive, I’m no expert but will gladly try to answer any questions you may have – just drop me a line. :3

Croissant Making at Elle A Cooking

Food Adventures, Food Life, Los Angeles

That’s right, friends. Martin’s Christmas present to me was adding croissants to our culinary repertoire — best boyfriend ever! I was very pleasantly surprised when he proudly announced that we would be taking this class with Elle A Cooking.

Stunning, flaky butter croissants

Stunning, flaky butter croissants – a labor of love

We spent a wonderful Saturday afternoon covered in flour and butter at Lilia’s place. I had always wanted to take cooking classes and this was a perfect way to start! Lilia’s classes are small, intimate gatherings that move at a comfortable pace, are very hands-on, and encourage lots of picture-taking and question-asking.

The basic croissant dough. Yes, that's butter being wrapped up in dough.

The basic croissant dough. Yes, that’s butter being wrapped up in dough.

The croissant class menu consisted of croissant dough from start to finish, classic butter croissants, pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants), and quince danish topped with homemade orange marmalade. We worked backwards, using pre-made dough that Lilia had prepared in advance and rolling, cutting, and shaping into our pastries. While they baked, we whipped together a batch of dough from the beginning, let it proof, and wrapped it around a stick of butter.

Pain Au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) with Valhrona dark chocolate - yum!

Pain Au Chocolat (chocolate croissants) with Valhrona dark chocolate – yum!

Lilia herself has a very calm demeanor and it was a pleasure learning from her. She has a very interesting back story as an engineer who pursued her dreams and attended Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to focus on pastries. I really admire her passion and drive to take hold of her life and take that leap.

Quince Danish topped with homemade orange (well, satsuma tangerine) marmalade

Quince Danish topped with homemade orange (well, satsuma tangerine) marmalade

She even showed us how to make a quick & simple orange marmalade from Satsuma tangerines, intended as a topping for the danishes but nearly polished off with fresh, hot-out-of-the-oven butter croissants. Incredible. Bon Appétit!

We wish we could share the recipes with you, but they are not ours to share so you’ll just have to sign up for a class with Lilia to glean her baking secrets yourself. At the end of class, she provides each person with a full set of recipe cards that details the step-by-step process for the dishes prepared that day… super helpful for replicating the process at home!

What we are happy to share with you are these mouthwatering pictures of our experience, and perhaps, after a few practice rounds, our advice and findings as amateur pâtissiers. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to make your own croissants (or macarons or other dishes on her Class Schedule), sign up for a class at Elle A Cooking! We highly recommend it.

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Check out Elle A Cooking here: http://www.elleacooking.com

Peach Crisp and Tenerelli Orchards

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

Quick, before summer ends! Run out and pick up some of the yummiest peaches you can find! Got ’em? Good.

Summer peaches!

It’s become part of our weekend routine now to swing by the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market on Sundays. Summer, my friends, is peach season and boy, do they look and taste great. We always stop by the same stall to get our peaches — the Tenerelli family farm. They grow dozens and dozens of varieties of peaches, most of which I’d never even heard of, and each week is always a pleasant surprise. They stole our hearts when we first tried their snow bright peaches — super sweet white peaches that are best served when they are extra ripe and are so soft that they bruise when you look at them. Amazing. I had never tasted a peach that tasted quite so… peachy. We returned week after week to try their other varieties – snow angel peaches (also white, more crunchy, and oh so sweet), glacier peaches (whites, crunchy, a bit more tart), and most recently, their O’ Henries, a yellow peach that truly captures the balance of sweetness and tartness that comes to mind when you think of the iconic peach. Just today we also tried their Ryan Sun yellow peaches, or as they affectionately refer to it – the ugly fuzzy ones.

Ryan Suns (aka “the ugly fuzzies”)

We brought some O’ Henries home and while I love eating peaches just the way they are, I wanted to turn these into a crisp. A crumble. You know, I honestly don’t know the difference between those terms. Usually they refer to hot-out-of-the-oven baked fruit topped with crumbly streusel-like topping and (if I’m lucky) served a la mode, so that’s good enough for me. A quick Google search tells me that a crisp is simply the British name for a crumble. So I guess this could be called a peach crumble, but because I love British accents and want to speak with one someday, let’s call it a crisp. (By the way, in case you’re wondering where the “cobbler” figures in, it’s basically a crumble/crisp with bits of dough instead of streusel as the topping, making it more similar to a peach pie.)

Voila – peach crisp!

Ingredients:

Peach Mixture

6 peaches, white or yellow or both (I used 2 whites and 4 yellows)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract, optional

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Crumble Topping

1/2 cup butter (1 stick – frozen or very cold)

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup oats (1 minute quick oats for oatmeal is fine)

Prepped peaches

The first step is to prep the peaches. They need to be peeled, pitted, and sliced, and if your knife skills need work (like mine), this may take a while. I waited until after I finished slicing all the peaches before preheating the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the peach slices in the baking dish, add the vanilla and cinnamon, and toss to coat evenly. Set aside.

Lotsa butter!

Next, prepare the crumble. Most recipes will tell you that you need to “cut” the butter into the flour mixture until the butter breaks up into smaller-than-pea-sized bits. Doing this by hand would take a lot of work, even with a pastry cutter. Instead, I used my trusty little food processor. Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Slice the butter into thick pats, about 1/4 to a 1/2 inch thick, and throw them into the processor bowl too.

Crumbly goodness!

Pulse until the texture looks crumb-like. Add the oats and pulse just once or twice to mix. I tried making this crumble topping with butter straight from the refrigerator and it turned out sticky and doughy; it doesn’t brown quite the same way, so I’d recommend using frozen butter if you can.

Ready for the oven!

Top your peaches with an even layer of the crumble mixture. I used an 8″ x 8″ baking dish and sprinkled all of my crumble, which yielded a really thick crusty layer. I liked it, but if it’s not your thing, you can either use just enough to cover all the peaches (anywhere from half to 3/4 of the recipe) or use a 9″ x 12″ baking dish keeping in mind that this would spread the peaches out in a thinner layer as well.

Bubbly browned crumble topping

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the peach juices start to bubble and the topping gets roasty-toasty. Serve hot or cold, with ice cream or without. It keeps in the refrigerator for a few days (if it doesn’t get completely devoured first!) and reheats well in the microwave for a minute or two.

Beautiful O’ Henry peach from the Tenerelli Orchards

Whether or not you decide to try this recipe, I hope you’ll still run out to your farmer’s market (or grocery store – we don’t judge) and grab some peaches before summer ends. There’s nothing quite like enjoying fruit at the peak of the season. And if you’re local, we recommend swinging by the Mar Vista Farmer’s Market! It’s so quaint and there’s a certain comfort in seeing the same vendors and farmers setting up shop every week. Not to mention how fun it is to discover new fruits and vegetables as they start to come into season. Enjoy!

Banana Bread Muffins

Desserts and Sweets, Recipes

I always wondered what you’re supposed to do with the bananas sitting at the bottom of the fruit basket that all too quickly become too ripe to eat and almost ready to throw out. Sure, you could always freeze bananas for later, but what about the bananas that are just too far gone? It has only been in the past few months that I have begun doing what most people do with their overripe bananas — make banana bread.

I tried a few different recipes with varying results, and one day, for lack of eggs but desperate to get rid of a few bananas, I stumbled upon this one on AllRecipes.com. I adapted the recipe and made a few changes, and it came out incredibly moist and pretty darn yummy! I’ve used bananas that were completely black on the outside and a bit mushy on the inside, and some that have just gotten past the spotting and browning phase. There were times, as I was preparing the batter, that I questioned myself for a moment whether the bananas were still okay to eat. Apparently those are the best bananas to use for banana bread as they have become extra sweet. (But don’t use ones that have liquefied and fermented… those are beyond saving.)

For this most recent rendition, I used a cupcake tin and made cute little mini-loaves of banana bread, complete with colorful paper liners. Personally, I like these muffins more than slices or wedges of a larger loaf. Food is just more fun to eat when it’s smaller!

The finished product!

Please note that this bread is eggless but the recipe still calls for butter and refined sugar. If you want to make it a vegan bread, try substituting coconut spread, apple sauce, or some other fruit puree (I’ve heard canned pumpkin could work well). I recently received some liquid stevia from NuNaturals, but I’m still working on adjusting the “bulk” filler that is needed to take the place of the sugar solids. Stay tuned for a veganified version!

Without further ado, here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

1/3 cup white granulated sugar (I used a little less than this amount knowing how sweet my bananas were)

1/3 cup brown sugar, loosely packed

1/3 cup butter, softened

1 cup mashed bananas (I had three medium-sized bananas)

1 1/2 – 2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. I’m really bad at remembering to leave the butter out to soften before embarking on my baking adventures, so I popped it in the microwave for a few seconds, watching very closely. You want it to soften but not melt. Melted butter gives a different consistency to the final product. It took me 15 seconds to get the butter from straight-out-of-the-fridge to where I needed it to be.

Cream the softened butter together with both sugars. Add the bananas and vanilla extract and mix well. Toss in the dry ingredients — flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Start with 1 1/2 cups of flour and stir the batter. It will be thick, but if it feels too wet, add a bit more flour. Mix just enough to combine; you don’t want to overwork the dough.

Prepare your baking dish.To make these banana bread muffins, I lined a cupcake tin with paper liners. Using the double spoon method, fill each well with an even amount of batter. This recipe should yield just enough to make 12 muffins. Pop in the oven for 20 minutes or until the tops turn a pretty golden color and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the tins and let cool on a rack. Serve warm!

If you prefer a more bread-like banana bread, this recipe’s proportions will fill a 9x5x3 loaf pan or equivalent. In the past, I have also used an 8″ round Pyrex tupperware bowl lined with a parchment paper circle on the bottom. Alternatively, you could grease your pan or spray it with nonstick spray. Pour in the batter and bake for about 40 minutes. For this I started by setting my timer for 35 minutes and checking on it every 5 minutes thereafter. Use the toothpick method to test whether the batter has cooked through in the center, since every oven is different. When it’s done, transfer to a rack to cool so the trapped heat doesn’t form condensation and make the bread soggy. Lining the pan with parchment paper helps immensely with this step :) Just loosen the edges of the bread with a knife and carefully flip out of your baking vessel. I cut this bread round into 8 slices.

Leftovers freeze wonderfully. If storing the muffins, I recommend removing them from the paper liners first, as the paper can get gross and soggy. Just wrap each muffin or slice or wedge in plastic wrap and/or foil and store in a Ziploc bag. Microwave for a few seconds to warm up and it will be just like fresh baked! Yum!

An optional add-in to the batter that I have considered tossing in is a handful of chocolate chips. I suppose you could also add nuts but since I have a mild walnut allergy, I’m very grateful to have learned how to make my own nutless banana muffins. If I stumble across any other interesting flavor combinations, I’ll be sure to post. And as I mentioned earlier, I will be working on a veganified version as well. If you try making this at home, please let us know how it turned out!

Fresh Baked Focaccia – Quick and Easy

Appetizers and Starters, Recipes

While wasting time on Facebook I came upon an amazing image of freshly baked focaccia from my friend Tru. She was generous enough to share her recipe with us and we replicated with some minor changes. Best if eaten the same day with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Tastes amazing with Global Garden’s Meyer Lemon Olive Oil and Peach Cinnamon Balsamic Vinegar that we picked up during our olive oil tasting.

Image

Fresh Baked Focaccia – 1.5 hour prep, 40 min bake.

Ingredients:

1 packet of instant (active or rapid rise) yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
4 cups of flour
Olive oil or butter
Garlic powder
Dried Rosemary
Dried Thyme
Parmesan (optional)

Instructions:

1. Dissolve one packet of instant (active or rapid) yeast in 2 cups of warm water.

2. Add one tablespoon of sugar, one teaspoon of salt, and four cups of flour.

3. Mix together thoroughly and until mixture forms a dough ball and pulls away from the bowl.
4. Knead the dough ball for 15 to 20 minutes.

5. Generously grease a 9″x13″ pan and place kneaded dough ball to best fit the pan. The final product will stick so be generous!

6. Let the dough rest in a warm place for one hour.
7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F for about 10 minutes.
8. Generously drizzle olive oil over the dough. You could also choose to melt a stick of butter instead and drizzle the same way.

9. Sprinkle garlic powder, dried rosemary, dried thyme, and parmesan (optional) over the dough.

10. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
11. Let sit to cool before slicing and serving.
12. Voila!