I admit it. I revel in the glory of carefully wiped countertops and tidy, vacuumed rugs. I like the security of knowing that my refrigerator is wiped clean of smudged hand prints and that the bed is neatly made. But lately, order in my home just isn’t happening — and I know it’s all my fault.
Because my house really is just a reflection of the helter-scelter schedule I’ve been keeping. It’s a schedule that might otherwise be my demise if I didn’t have one important way to combat stress and chaos.
Or more specifically, I bake. I’ve said it before, I’m really not a natural baker, but this simple recipe stole my heart sometime last year and just hasn’t given it back. Last Sunday, as the blue, dreamy evening sky streamed through my kitchen window, I found serenity in the ritual and science of following Cindy Mushet’s recipe for chocolate soufflé.
Somehow, when a whisk is in one hand and a cup of sugar is in the other, my multiple, worldly concerns are narrowed to just one: make the food taste good. And with this recipe, it’s effortless.
Soufflés have a reputation for being complicated and laborious to prepare, but here, they’re deceptively simple. And even better, they’re perfect do-ahead deserts for a crowd because they can sit in the fridge until you’re ready to bake them.
After about 15 minutes in the oven, the rich chocolate batter transforms into towering pillars of cakey heaven. If you’re really sneaky, you can watch the cake firm up through the oven door window. Watch it rise up over the edges of the dish and when it looks good and proud, take it out and top it with powdered sugar or vanilla icecream.
Recipe for Chocolate Souffle
From The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet, provided by Gourmet.com
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (up to 70 percent cacao), finely chopped
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (4 ounces) whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder dissolved in 1/2 teaspoon water
Pinch of salt
3 large eggs, separated, plus 1 additional egg white
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
Confectioners sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 375°F and position an oven rack in the bottom third. Generously butter the soufflé dishes (including the rims), dust them with sugar, and tap out the excess.
Melt the chocolate:
Pour 2 inches of water in the bottom of the double boiler and bring to a rolling boil. Off the heat, place the chocolate in the top of the double boiler. Turn the heat off and set the chocolate over the steaming water. Stir occasionally with the spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Leave over the warm water until needed.
Make the béchamel:
Melt the butter in the small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat, add the flour, and whisk well to remove any lumps. Return to the heat and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly to remove any lumps. Remove the pan from the heat and add the milk slowly, whisking constantly. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until thickened to the consistency of thin pudding. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Whisk in the espresso powder and pinch of salt. With a clean spatula, scrape the melted chocolate into the large bowl. Add the béchamel sauce and whisk to blend. Whisk in the egg yolks. Cover and keep warm while you whip the egg whites.
Whip the egg whites:
In the very clean bowl of the stand mixer, whip the 4 egg whites on medium speed until they form soft peaks. With the mixer running, rain in the granulated sugar and beat until firm peaks form. You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl. With a spatula, gently stir one-fourth of the egg whites into the chocolate béchamel sauce to lighten the mixture. Fold in the remaining whites just until there are no more streaks of whites.
Fill the dishes and bake:
Transfer the soufflé batter to the pastry bag. Pipe the batter into each soufflé dish, filling it to 1/4 inch below the rim. Transfer the dishes to the baking sheet. Bake for 14 to 18 minutes (higher percentage chocolates will bake more quickly), until the soufflés are set and firm to the touch in the center. Serve immediately, dusted with confectioners sugar and accompanied by individual pitchers of custard sauce.[/print_this]