Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The Art of Chocolate Soufflé

I have heard of the story of Soufflé. Temperamental concoction of egg whites, but oh-so-delightful to the palate. How could I resist trying out the recipe in Australia Vogue Entertaining + Travel (April / May 2008)? I could not. I was in the mood for a challenge.

Soft butter, to grease
75g caster sugar
100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
4 eggs, at room temperature, separated

The ingredients were simple enough. Nothing exotic or intimidating. I have seen recipes calling for Dutch cocoa or dark couverture chocolate. Where do you suppose I could get Dutch cocoa from? The Netherlands? Even though Sydney is truly a cosmopolitan city, I doubt our friendly Coles' or Woolworths' stock Dutch cocoa. Try SELECTED delis. Never mind.

Back to the Soufflé project.

Step 1: Grease and coat the insides and rims of four ramekins with a generous amount of butter, then caster sugar. I remember what Matthew McConaughey said in "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days". "Frosting". So the insides of the ramekins looked like they've been frosted. Beautiful. Put the ramekins on a baking tray. Done.

Step 2: Preheat oven at 200 degrees Celcius. KT was using the oven to toast the garlic bread whilst I whisked the egg whites. Done.

Step 3: Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler. Whisk in the 4 egg yolks one by one. Remove mixture from heat. Done. The mixture looked good enough for me to stick my finger in it for a taste, but I resisted the urge and risk of Salmonella poisoning.

Step 4: Whisk egg whites to soft peaks with an electric mixer. Electric mixer?!! I resorted to physical violence with my trusty stainless steel, manually operated balloon whisk. After much huffing and puffing, the soft peaks deigned to form.

Step 5: Whisk a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen up the mixture. Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining egg whites until just incorporated. I interpreted that as to handle the Soufflé mixture with the same care as you would a priceless antique. Done.

Step 6: Divide mixture among ramekins, then bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until risen. 10 minutes later, I reckoned they were done.

Comments on this recipe:
I could have whisked the egg whites more. I read other recipes on the Internet, and those recipes called for stiff peaks as opposed to soft, drooping peaks. Some recipes also suggested the use of a "binding agent" e.g. cream of Tartar or a pinch of salt to help stabilise the soft peaks, then to add sugar to the egg white mixture prior to whisking to form stiff peaks.

Some recipes also suggested to add butter and/or heavy cream and/or sugar to the chocolate mixture, perhaps to produce a more rich Soufflé. I wonder if the addition of such heavy ingredients would impede the rising of the Soufflé, hence needing the egg whites to be whisked until stiff peaks are formed.

All the recipes I searched on the Internet suggested longer cooking times, some as long as 26 minutes. A vast difference from the 8 to 10 minutes I operated on. The end-result should be a outer crust, yet still "jiggly" Soufflé core. Hmm...

The only way of mastering the Art is more research, practice, and trial and error.

Until the next practice session, I bid the Soufflé au revoir.


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