p2: Chocolate Mousse

The Sweet

When one thinks of French Desserts, they invariably at one point think of Chocolate Mousse; when one thinks of any hoity-toity restaurant dessert we think of chocolate mousse (just done in some super-pretty, sculptured, towering, surrounded-by-things-that-don’t-look-edible way). When we think of Mousse in general, chocolate is the first one seared into the frontal cortex (or whatever cortex that works that).

Which makes it sort of odd that the first “mousses,” a word translating to “Foam” btw, were most likely savory creations. Theorized (but not really recorded) to have originated during the 1700’s, most likely when they started playing with aerating egg whites in meringues and other things. These would be folded with shredded and pureed meat to be baked, poached, steamed, etc.

Using the technique with desserts probably wasn’t so long of a wait; folding meringues or similarly fluffy and aerated frostings with cooked/pureed fruit or other seasonings would have been quite the logically accessible feat for various pastry toppings or simpler sweet tooth treats. Bringing in chocolate to the occasion, on the other hand, would be a different matter entirely.

classic-chocolate-mousse-6461Despite being introduced via the Spanish in the early 1600’s, the use of chocolate in dessert was a long way off. As an import item from the Americas, France’s only way of getting it in at the time being by Spanish trade or their recent acquisition of the Martinique island, cacao was quite the luxury. And being so expensive and rare, even the royalty was wary in having it used in any other way than the simplest version to which they knew: as a Drink. Its original use, as many are probably aware, was as a hot, often spiced (at least in the Americas), SAVORY drink, very similar to coffee. In fact, the first businesses allowed to sell the cacao to the public in France were Cafes, well those and Apothecaries, since it was also seen as medicinary.

And it stayed like this for a couple centuries, even with all the advancement in surrounding countries in converting the bean to a sweet solid, to be used in various dessert preps. The French just stuck with their fancy drink until, finally, they either did some development of their own or chose to buy the delicious sweets from Holland or wherever. By the 1850’s, it was melted and folded with meringue, making France’s first chocolate mousse. From there, like many of the desserts in this list, it spun and grew to a dessert every professional and home cook has made at least once. Not to mention paired with everything from seasonal fruit to sea salt and olive oil.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

Mousses in general, I find, are a pretty easy and fun thing to put together! There are a lot of ways one can make them, and like soufflé you can use whatever kinds of flavor you want. Only with a mousse, all that’s important is getting a concentrated, intense flavor; don’t need to worry about the “base’s” viscosity and thickness TOO much. So long as it can be folded into something, you’re good.

As for what we fold it into, we have a few options: whipped cream, egg whites (simply beaten or fully “meringued”), sabayon, a combination of all or none, anything with air incorporated. You can add and adjust it however you want, with more or less cream, butter, egg, sugar, etc. So long as it’s fluffy, you’re good.

Talking about the Chocolate, now, we can get to a few fun subjects. The main strategy is to melt the chocolate, and it should be a GOOD quality 60-70% bittersweet (gotten at a co-op/whole foods/baking supply store), with some cream/milk and/or butter, basically making a ganache. Any flavors can be added via booze, herbs, or spices. This is then folded with whatever aeration device one chooses until “fully incorporated,” though I like leaving a few white streaks for effect (it’s pretty! Plus it doesn’t harm the final product flavors).

There’s even this method of making it where, basically, one just melts the chocolate with some water (huge taboo, you NEVER want to get even a drop of water into melting straight chocolate, usually), then whisking it vigorously over an ice bath. Simply put, aerating the chocolate on its own before it cools and re-sets.

Personally, I love making my chocolate mousses with just whipped cream, really keep that rich, chocolatey ganache characteristic with a thicker, marshmallowy consistency. Maybe getting in a LITTLE whipped egg whites, which bring in a lighter, delicate mousse factor to the equation. But that’s my preference.

The FRENCH method, as I’ve researched, is quite interesting, and pretty singular across the board. Though amounts and certain practices may vary recipe to recipe, most posts on a “French Chococolate Mousse” I’ve found have a few main things in common. None of them use Whipped Cream, folding only with beaten Egg Whites. The only time heavy cream is used is to melt with the chocolate, which is made sure to be done VERY gently. Finally, they always incorporate Egg Yolks, usually just by “tempering” with the warm, recently melted chocolate.

SAMSUNGThough that’s not always the case. Julia Child had a very intriguing recipe for hers, in which she basically made a thick, fluffy sabayon out of the egg yolks (-cough- and booze), which theoretically should add another layer of thickness and aeration to help the mousse along. She, like others, also used a bit of coffee to help boost the chocolatey flavors. As such, I felt compelled that, if I were to follow a specific French(ish) recipe to make a certain version of chocolate mousse, this would be the one I tried. If anything, it required a lot more effort to do the yolks right, and it was a little fun and unique.

Chocolate Mousse (a la Julia Child)
4 Large Eggs, separated
2/3 cup + 1 Tb Sugar
2 Tb Brandy/Cognac
1 Tb Water
6oz Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped or chipped
6oz Butter, cubed
¼ cup Dark Brewed Coffee
Pinch of Salt
½ tsp Vanilla

DirectionsSAMSUNG

  1. Combine Egg Yolks, 2/3 cup of Sugar, Liquor and Water in bowl and move over lightly simmering water/double boiler.
  2. Whisk vigorously as it heats, keeping it over until it’s light, fluffy, and has “aerated” as much as it seems it will go.
  3. Remove and place over a bowl of ice water. Working quickly, replace its spot over the water with a bowl of the Chocolate, Butter, and Coffee, turning off the heat and keeping them covered with a towel to melt slowly and gently.SAMSUNG
  4. Continue whipping the yolks as it chills, getting it as stiff and voluminous as possible.SAMSUNG
  5. Stir the chocolate every now and then until it’s completely melted and silky, taking off the heat once done.SAMSUNG
  6. Let cool a couple minutes, using the time to whip the Egg Whites (and also ensure the yolks stay aerated).SAMSUNG
  7. Combine in bowl with Salt and Vanilla, whipping with stand or hand mixer until it’s turned fluffy and starting to keep shape (not yet at “soft peak” stage). Sprinkle in the remaining tablespoon of Sugar and continue working to Firm Peaks.SAMSUNG
  8. Take the chocolate, slowly pouring it in a slow, steady stream into the egg yolk mixture, folding it in until mostly incorporated.SAMSUNG
  9. Working with 1/3 of it at a time, gently add and fold in the whipped whites (may need to move chocolate to a bigger bowl to complete, there’s a lot), adding in the next mound of meringue when the previous is mostly mixed in.SAMSUNG
  10. Fold until no trace of white can be seen and transfer to the desired holding vessels, whether it be cups, chocolate bowls, or even a pie shell!SAMSUNG
  11. Let chill in fridge at least an hour and enjoy, preferably with whipped cream and crunchy topping.

My Thoughts

SAMSUNGYeah, overall I really think I prefer using just whipped cream and maybe some meringue for folding, just love the richness and that fluffy feel to it. Not that this isn’t a good mousse, just… different. The texture is somewhat springy, maybe spongey-reminiscent, you can tell it’s affected by the egg yolks but I can’t quite describe how. It’s good, quite good, and sorta craveable in its own right, just not how I translate my “ideal” mousse.

The flavor is nice though, dark and concentrated chocolate, great to have with the whipped cream. I would actually make a couple adjustments to Julia’s formula though. First, a little less sugar, maybe use only ½ cup, because it’s pretty sweet (like, overly). Second, though I love and understand the concept of using just a bit of coffee to act as an undertone, actually INCREASING the flavors and personality of chocolate in our minds, there’s also too much of this in the recipe. I eat it, and it doesn’t taste like chocolate mousse; it tastes like chocolate-coffee, which is not what you want. Cut yours in half just to be safe.SAMSUNG

But none of that really stopped me spooning as much of it as I could in the middle of the night like it was fat-free pudding. And at least it tasted good in pie!

1Possible Pairings

A while back I purchased and read through a relatively well known book on pairing wine, which I loved. Besides chapters on particular regional pairings, discussing components, etc, it also had a few pages on “special subjects,” like cheese pairing and other difficult ingredients. One page discussed dessert, and had a whole thing on chocolate with wine. I just loved going through this particular section, because the author talked about the different levels of chocolate, and making sure you kept different kinds of chocolate desserts in mind, and basically the fact that you have to use all these different wines depending on the situation… and then basically just used some form of Muscat/Moscato for every chocolate situation.

Of course, they were all really different kinds of muscat wine, but the irony I think is just hilarious. That said, it’s at least a great starting point; I think a really good quality, sweet and bubbly, singularly refreshing Moscato d’Astiis a great wine to go with this. They’re both aerated, and despite its chocolate-ness the mousse doesn’t need that heavy or concentrated of a dessert wine to go with it. Other simpler, not too aged, syrupy, or oxidated Moscato dessert wines can work well; maybe even a Muscat de Setubal (from Portugal).

DSCN0375We could also enjoy some form of Raspberry dessert wine; there’s a local Minnesotan vineyard that makes one that tastes great with chocolate dishes such as this. Though really any sort of good fruit-based wine or Liqueurcan go with this, it just depends on one’s tastes and flavor preferences.

I harken to wonder if any full-bodied spirits like Cognac, Rum or Aquavit would actually be appropriate, though their inclusion in the recipe opens the door, and the mousse’s intensity in flavor (and sweetness) most likely allows for it to work on a certain level.

Finally, to start with a wine and end with one, I might choose some form of Coteaux du Layonas a good French accompaniment. The many desserts of Bordeaux should work too, but I like the idea of the calmer, spritely fruit and botrytis that clings to Loire’s sweet creations (vs the denser, syrupy Sauternes).

p1: Gratin Dauphinois

The Dish

enhanced-buzz-25038-1386024391-7Gotta love scalloped potatoes; I was going to save this dish for some other time in the future, maybe a rainy day, but I had a day full of absolutely nothing and a week to go until my next dish, this was a simple item on either list that I could whip together.

Overall, the term Gratin actually harkened back to the little fond or crust left in a baking dish after cooking, or that burned piece of cheese and cream at the bottom of a fondue pot. Always the prized piece of a dish, this would be scraped up and snacked with much affection. After some time, this word transferred to certain foods identified by being cooked in a low, wide ceramic pot that would develop an even, thick crusty top.

Though these can be made with practically anything, the epitome of the Gratin world has been and always will be based on the Potato. Gratin Dauphinois is no exception, having originated in the Southeastern Dauphiné region, being known for something quite unique as opposed to when one normally thinks of “gratin.” At the time of creation, thought to be around the 1700’s, cheese was quite the luxury ingredient, at times being used in a form of currency. A very rustic dish, made by those with not as much money to waste on luxuries for the sake of taste, thus excluded the use of the highly-prepared curdled and aged dairy product. As such it was, and still is, only prepared with Cream or Crème Fraiche and various seasonings.

There’s not much more to say about its history besides that; it became somewhat known after being served with Ortolans at a dinner for Dukes or something, but that’s about it. With a dish like this, who really cares? I just wanna dig right into it and forget all about anything else for a while.

A Word On…

Potatoes: It’s hard to say whether or not there’s a properly “traditional” potato to use for this dish, though I’ve found a few recipes that call for “Desiree,” a French Red potato that supposedly has a yellow, creamy center. What I can say is that most good and/or classic version use either only Waxy (red and sorta yellow) varieties or a combination of Waxy and Starch (brown/russet and sorta yellow), with them keeping a great structure after the long baking while still delivering a creamy flavor.017

The one thing you SHOULDN’T do is you ALL Russet/Starchy potatoes; you just end up with a soft, sorta mushy mix of potatoes and cream… which isn’t bad by any means, I’d eat it. But to make it “proper,” stick to the other kinds. For fun, and because the Buzzfeed recipe link did it, I decided to do a combo-strategy for my own, using some leftover Golden potatoes along with the firm, waxy reds.

Milk and Cream: A lot of recipes seem to differ in how much of each to use, and in fact many instances simply claim the dish uses “milk or cream.” Some use all cream, some almost all milk, and everything in between; the only thing I suggest one not do is use all Milk.

For the purposes of this post, I decided to go with a 3:1 ratio of Cream:Milk, recorded in another blog recipe as a certain chef’s claim to be a good quality, traditional mix. Plus, if I’m gonna make this dish, might as well be cream heavy right?

As for overall amount, basically everything I’ve found states the use of 500-600ml (2 ½ cups ish) of Dairy to every Kg/2.2lbs potato.

Cheese: NO! You move on now! Put the cheese down and go back to the cream! Gratin Dauphinoise does NOT use any of that stuff! If you wanna make a cheesy gratin, fine, but you will NOT slander this classic dish by gluing its name to it! The true, traditional recipe for this (and many others online say and follow the same rules, so I’m backed up on this) use only the cream and/or milk for the classic dish. You should too.

The same goes for using Eggs, a no-no.

Of course I’ve seen quite a few posts saying that, though comforting, this creates a somewhat bland potato dish. To which I say, any TRULY “bland” food is made not from the dish but from the cook who didn’t season the food properly like they should have. Don’t be afraid of the Salt and Pepper; I put it in the cream and on the potatoes as I layer them. At the end of the day it makes something that’s full, rich, with that heightening and deepness of milk and cream fats that’s simple, yes, but oh so good.

Cooking: A lot of people, when it comes to this dish that only relies on potatoes, milk, and cream, basically rely on Boiling the potato slices in the dairy for a while before layering and baking it out. This is a great technique and makes a nice, thick, blended combobulation of food, really bringing the starch content out to set the sauce. However, some researching has found that, again, a True dauphinoise gratin ONLY relies on Baking the potatoes in the hot cream. Going for the classic sense as I am, I of course am sticking with this style, of which a few things should be taken note.

First, I’d say it really is important that, in this situation, one should stick with the higher cream content strategy in their dairy (all cream would work). Secondly, since you can’t just set the potatoes directly in the boiling milk right after cutting, one needs to work quickly in the peeling, slicing, and covering in the dairy mix so they don’t start to brown and oxidize. Finally, NO WATER! No rinsing, no soaking, no doing anything of the sort, like many recipes call for to clean or whatever. Though important in many other recipes, we need to reserve as MUCH natural starch as we possibly can, and contact with water just washes off some of this. So be a dear, save it for the cream, it needs it!

A final note, this cooking is usually done for a long time on a lower degrees, about 320F, until fully baked through; supposedly needing to be turned up at the end to get a crisp top, though I found there was no problem of that for me.

Seasonings: I’ve already talked about the salt and pepper, which leaves the issue: what else do we flavor this with?

Well, if you’re trying to stay truly traditional, then nothing, other than garlic. And even that you’re only use to rub the baking pan with. However, there are a couple very classic, non-obtrusive French practices when it comes to making cream-based sauces that I think are acceptable while still keeping the dish “true.” A little seasoning of Nutmeg is always fine and increases depth a bit, and I made the decision to take the rubbing garlic and toss it in the cream while it was heating up, just so it was a bit more present.

And if one doesn’t care too much about precise historical practices, Herbs! Herbs are amazing with gratins like this, whether it’s some fresh-picked thyme between the layers or chopped chives sprinkled on top for serving. Oh, and not to forget Leeks and Green Onions, they’d be pretty good… bacon too… I mean overall this dish is an amazing canvas in which to add almost anything to customize to your own tastes or whatever it’s being eaten with. Of course at that point it’s left true dauphinoise territory and moved into just delicious gratin, but who’d complain about on a Friday night?

Gratin Dauphinoise
3 Garlic cloves
1 7/8 cup Cream
5/8 cup Whole Milk
Salt and Pepper
Freshly Grated Nutmeg
1 kg/ 2.2 lbs mixed Red and Starchy potato

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 320F.013
  2. Cut or crush a clove of Garlic, rubbing it thoroughly around your chosen baking/casserole dish. Thoroughly butter the sides after and turn to your food prep.016
  3. Combine Garlic, Cream, Milk, and a heavy seasoning of Salt, Pepper, and Nutmeg in a sauce pot, turning to medium/med-high heat.015
  4. While this is heating, quickly peel and slice the Potatoes, cutting to a maximum 1/8” thickness, ideally via mandolin or food processor.019
  5. Once the cream has come to a boil, start putting together the gratin. Layer half the potatoes into the dish, no need to make it pretty. Season with more salt, pepper, nutmeg, and pour over half of the hot cream on top, straining as you do so.020
  6. If not already done, finish slicing the rest of the potatoes, arrange on top in a nice layer (if desired), pouring the rest of the hot cream on top until it comes just below the rim of the potatoes.021
  7. Move to oven, baking for about an hour and fifteen minutes, or until the top is golden and crispy.           Note: unless the baking dish is raised notably higher than the potatoes, I suggest placing it on another sheet, as it’ll likely start bubbling over.023
  8. Remove, letting rest and cool at least 5 minutes to settle. Scoop up and serve with desired protein, roasts work good, or grilled shrimp if you wanna go for an “alfredo” feeling.

The Verdict

I can see why this is one of Pepin’s favorite home comfort foods; when done right, it’s just soft, creamy goodness. You almost forget there’s no cheese in here, with how rich and developed that dairy comes through. Those saying that it’s bland are just psychotic, I could eat this kind of food every day and be happy; speaking of which, it really IS good cold the next day, the cream thickens up and sticks to it like a nice, gooey glaze.026

Which does come to my one issue; while cold it’s perfect, I found this particular method of Dauphinoise a bit lacking in the liquid consistency after baking. Or, put simply, the cream didn’t thicken up as much as I had wanted to while cooking. Still tastes damn good and all, but it’s a bit disconcerting seeing all that leftover sauce still in the dish and not sticking like glue to those creamy potatoes.

I think next time I might try the boiling-potatoes-in-cream-first method, see how that turns out. But either way, this guy’s already moved up as one of my new favorite go-to sides for any dinner.025

Primary Pairing – Hefeweizen or Kolsch

024When I’m eating something so rustic, comforting, and soul-satisfying as these potatoes, my first choice of inebriation almost always goes to a good beer. And after a brief consultation with a friend, we both agree that the best to go with this dish are gonna be the Pale, Low-Bitter and lesser Hopped varieties, Ales preferably but Lagers fit right in of course. The top two choices of course are the German Kolsch and Wheaty Hefeweizen (meaning “yeast” and “wheat”); my first pick going to the weissbier for its cloudy, creamy unfiltered body that just goes great with potatoes.

But both styles have a great, full white head, a sharp crispness and BARE hop to cut through the fat, and simpler, subtler flavors that mix and don’t compete with the gratin. Following that style, I would also advocate, and personally crave, a nice cold glass of Pilsner, especially if I was cooking/eating this with plenty of herbs to match the slightly higher hop content.

Of course final decision always depends on what protein one eats this with, if any. My friend also suggested the use of Barleywine (a big, high alcohol and super malty and hoppy creation) as an option to fully compete and contrast the heavy, rich aspect of the dish. And I myself would say it’s a perfect option if having it with a nice Roast Beef.

022My Bottle: Blanche de Bruxelles

‘Cuz I had a bottle in the cupboard, and ‘cuz it’s one of my favorite pale beers! I remember drinking a couple glasses after a day of work in the kitchen, was always one of the most refreshing items on tap.

A Belgian “white beer” that implements wheat along with its barley, this light and cutting drink brought that element of frothy, creamy texture that lifted the rich potatoes perfectly. A slight fullness, that delicate simple flavor of citrus and yeasty fruit that goes so well with cream dishes, and a bit of bitterness to cut any needed fat (and also went well with the charred shrimp I ate it with). It might not have been the “ideal” pairing, not sure if it really was strong enough to truly stand up or not, but it worked well and I had a very enjoyable experience with it, yet again.

Secondary Pairing – Southern/Cotes du Rhone Blanc

Being sorta in the Languedoc/Meditteranean coastal area of France, the white wines close to the Dauphiné haven’t gained much fame, mainly due to the changing developments in the region from mass-produced wine lakes to quality focused vineyards. Varietal choices are still across the board, as are styles and personality.

Not as close but still in the vicinity lies the Southern Rhone, mainly known for their blended Reds, also offering Whites blends made from a mix of the typical area Marsanne, Roussane, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, and various other random grapes. Though, like the reds, overall flavor and balance varies greatly, in the glass they end up generally low key, medium acidic, slightly fatty wines when done well, and simple pitcher wine when not-so-well. Either way, they end up a pretty good option to go with the sorta-heavy, single-note flavors of these soft potatoes, a nicely neutral simple companion or a balanced glass of light florals and heady skin, something that’ll refreshingly cut through and/or fill and lift the palette nicely alongside. I had a really great white from Chateneuf-du-Pape a while back that would have held itself beautifully next to these potatoes.

On a side note, though Red wine certainly isn’t my first choice to eat with this (unless it’s paired with a protein that demands it), I will say that Buzzfeed’s choice of using something from Beaujolais wouldn’t be too bad. I think you’d have to be careful of your choice, since the unique flavors and tannins from the carbonicly macerated Gamay grapes could have really odd interactions with the fat-heavy Cream, but of the French Reds it’d be one of my first choices. Even better, the Beaujolais Blancs made from Chardonnay might yield even more impressive results.

 

 

 

p2: Tarte Tatin

msb_05_tarttatine_xlThe Sweet

The idea of making an Apple Tart in a caramelized, upside-down fashion isn’t new, featuring in various instances in Northern France recipes. Careme himself mentions “gâteaux renversés” in his 1841 “Patissier Royal Parisien,” glazed and using apples from Rouen. It’s said the actual dish and technique itself is named “Tarte Solognotte,” named after the Sologne region in which it became a specialty.

But its fame never stood out until the late, late 1800’s, when two sisters within that Sologne region opened up a hotel. They may not have officially invented it, but Stephanie and Caroline Tatin’s famous dessert brought the “Tarte Tatin” to the forefront of popularity, even though they never advertised nor released a recipe; the name itself was written by the famous French epicure and auther Curnonsky.

And their “happening” upon the dish is a funny story, depending on who you choose to believe, if anybody. For of course many claim an “accidental creation” by the sisters, and in more ways than one. There have been those who state one of the sisters accidentally put a regular tart in the oven upside-down. While others say that the apples for a pie filling started to burn one day, so they quickly covered in dough and moved to an oven to try and salvage. Whatever the story, and whether any of it is actually true, the fact remains that the sumptuously caramelized dessert vaulted to the forefront of epicurean popularity, especially after the owner of Maxim’s in Paris decided to place it on their menu.

And the rest is history. We now see the Tarte Tatin lauded in various blogs, randomly discussed in Pastry classes, used in classic and modern interpretations throughout wherever, featured in an episode of the Simpsons Ratatouille-Anton-Ego-remeniscent-even-though-the-damn-“flashback where he enjoyed “Tarte Tatin a-la-mode”-was-using-a-slice-of-regular-apple-pie-instead-of-proper-tarte-tatin-the-lazy-and-insulting-bastards… etc.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

How I see it, there are two main ways to make one of these well. The first, and most easily controlled, method is to simply make a caramel in the saucepan, then arrange the apples (cooking a bit more if desired) on top and baking. The second is cooking the sugar, butter, and apples all together until it caramelizes completely. I personally prefer the latter, since it feels a bit more classic, plus I love the idea of all the flavors mingling and developing together at the same time. Though the first method is great for trying out OTHER kinds of tart tatins (pear, peach, mango, etc).

One main note; when cooking the mixture, which will boil quite vigorously (no need to worry, it settles down a lot once taken off the stove), one needs to make sure it’s at a nicely medium-high to high temperature. If it’s too low, the apples will soften to almost mush before it caramelizes (in fact the apple half I was gonna use as my “centerpiece,” which I had put in first, split in half just as I was about finished). Too high isn’t much of an issue though; other recipes say “too low is mush, and too high the apples won’t cook enough,” which is complete bull. I actually replaced my ruined center with two RAW quarters, and those were completely cooked after I took it out of the oven.

Though one should take care to keep the apples moving around when cooking it hot; as you’ll see a couple of mine started to get some burns. Though on the other hand I think that actually stayed stuck to the pan after flipping, leaving just the beautifully smooth and caramelly apple top.

ApplesAs for the apples themselves, the truly French classics are made using a couple varieties called “Reine des Reinettes” (King of the Pippins) and “Calville.” Good luck, if you can find them in the US then a miracle has taken place (and please tell me where and how you did it!). Otherwise, basic baking/pie apples work as a good substitution, such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Gala, and Jonathan; I went with Braeburn myself.

In the matter of dough, though quite a few recipes call for and some other pages say you “can use” Puff Pastry, in theoretics it should always be made by some kind of Shortcrust or other flaky Pie dough; if you wanted to stay traditional that is.

Tarte Tatin
5-6 Braeburn, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, Gala or similar apples
4 oz (1 stick) Butter
1 cup Sugar
Tsp Salt
Basic Pie Dough (recipe follows)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.SAMSUNG
  2. In a wide-bottomed pan set to Medium-High, melt the Butter.SAMSUNG
  3. Once melted (or close to), sprinkle in your Sugar, stirring to incorporate until the grains dissolve somewhat.SAMSUNG
  4. While waiting for that to happen, quickly peel, quarter, and cut the cores out of your first 3-4 apples.SAMSUNG
  5. Toss them into the pan, turning to coat in the sugary fat.SAMSUNG
  6. As space opens up through cooking, peel and quarter the remaining apples (as needed) to fill the pan in as complete a single layer as possible.SAMSUNG
  7. Let cook for about 20 minutes, or until the bubbling sugar gets well caramelized. Stir every so often to ensure apples don’t burn and caramel is evenly distributed.SAMSUNG
  8. Remove, letting the caramel settle and arranging the apples, cut side up (so the uncut side will be up once flipped), in the pattern desired.SAMSUNG
  9. Prepare the Crust. Flour and roll out the dough in a large enough circle to cover the pan, trimming and cutting around a lid or similarly sized item.SAMSUNG
  10. Fold (or roll over pin, your preference) and move it over the apples to cover completely. Poke a few small holes around the dough to ensure venting.
  11. Place in oven, baking 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.SAMSUNG
  12. Remove, letting cool at least 10 minutes for the caramel to set somewhat.SAMSUNG
  13. Place serving plate or other pan over top, quickly and carefully flipping. Fix any apples that may have stuck, slice into wedges, and serve however desired (ice cream with cookies and meringue is good…).SAMSUNG

Basic Pie Dough
2 ½ cup Flour
Tsp Salt
8 oz (2 sticks) Butter, cold
¼-½ cup Iced Water

Directions

  1. Combine Flour and SaltSAMSUNG
  2. Chop the cold Butter into small pieces, adding them in. With your fingertips or in a food processor, start working the butter into the dough, pulsing or kneading it until the flour has a cornmeal-ish AND a good amount of pea-sized butter pieces.SAMSUNG
  3. Slowly drizzle in ¼ cup of Water, mixing it into the dough quickly until it comes together/pulls from the side, adding more water as necessary.SAMSUNG
  4. Divide in half, press into a flat round and wrap in plastic. Move into the fridge for at least an hour before use.SAMSUNG

My Thoughts

What is it about cooked apples and pie crust that makes us so damn insatiable, craving bite after bite until the whole damn baking dish is gone? I blame the butter, mainly in the crust but especially in the caramel for this old dessert. The whole thing was gone before the end of the night.

Really rich, sticky, toffee-like caramel, muSAMSUNGch of which was leftover in the cooking pan to spoon up and chow down as is (look at it hang off that spoon!). The apples were just so soft and sweet and yum, contrast this with the perfectly crispy crunchy crust and this just makes a craveable after-dinner treat. I was actually worried about the crust, too, since as you can see in the pics some caramel had sorta “soaked through” part of it during cooking, but even that was still crispy. Oh, and that was after the raw dough just sat on top of the wet caramel for like half an hour or more (we were supposed to be at a certain point in dinner prep, but certain people were just sloooowwww and didn’t inform me until AFTER getting the pie dough on); so suffice it to say it’s a pretty durable recipe.

End of the day, I liked it and really wanna make it again, maybe with some different fruit.

23Possible Pairings

Deep, richly flavored caramelized apples? Sounds like a job for Calvados to me, the signature apple brandy of Northern France. If you can find an amazingly old, smoothly aged XO or similar quality bottle, that would make for quite the divine experience.

Though a deliciously syrupy glass of dessert wine wouldn’t be too bad either. Despite the regional closeness though, I don’t think any of the Loire dessert wines would work so well, at least not with THIS version of Tarte Tatin. They’re usually of the lighter, medium sweet variety, great with cheeses and lighter desserts. So unless one found a REALLY old, concentrated Quarts de Chaume (like a grand cru of the dessert region) or have a tarte tatin that’s not so deep with caramel, then I say go with another region.

Good quality, deeply colored old Saut24ernes; Selection des Grains Nobles from Alsace; Tokaji Aszu from Hungary, preferably of the higher puttonyo range; the Brown Stickies (Muscats, Tawnies, whatever they call them) from Australia, and, oh, a PX (pedro ximenez) from Sherry. All rich, syrupy, delectably sticky drinks influenced by botrytis, barrel ageing, oxidation, or a combination of all three. There are so many more similar fortified and dessert wines which jump up (god I want a Marsala right now), but this is a good starter list.

Truthfully, those are all probably TOO sweet and heavy for the actual dish, but I just can’t help but craaavveeee them whenever I think of this caramelly caramelly pie. Guess I’ve got a sweet tooth.

Actually, thinking about what would make a more “proper” and technical pairing, a dry Oloroso Sherry. It has those deep and complex flavors, matching oxidized caramelization, and I think the salty levels would juxtapose the sweetness in a fun way. Or maybe an Amontillado, which would still have some yeasty characters, which would pair nicely with the pie crust.25

Huh, a little more chatter with my dessert pairings than I usually try for. Oh well, pie and super-sweet wines gets me excited. Don’t forget to look into beers as well!

p1: Cheese Souffle

Part Two of my Soufflé adventures, this one taken place for a morning B-day Brunch.

The Dish

It’s sometimes said that, in truth, the very first soufflés were a variation of an omelet. There is in fact a recipe of “Omelette Soufflé,” involving a VERY well beaten mixture of eggs and milk which is cooked mostly in the oven. Some accounts have it that after this followed an even more intensive recipe whereby the yolks and whites were separated, the latter being whipped to a voluminous nature, and folded back in to make what has to be the simplest and most basic soufflé ever. Cooked in a heavy skillet pan of course.

Whether there’s truth to this or not, I find the recipe idea fascinating; the term “soufflé” itself translating purely as “to blow/puff up.” As a descriptor, there are probably many kinds of recipes it could have applied to before being known as what it is today; heck, I doubt that original omelet really rose that much (not the one that was separated, that woulda been huge, I’ve seen videos…) and yet there it is. Was there an evolution to it, a slowly winding path of eggs and pastry finally culminating in Careme’s use of newly ventilated ovens? Or was it just a random stumbling and popping up of various clumsy dishes until one finally made something epic?

Whatever the case, soufflé has been discovered and is here to stay, in all its wonderful forms. And though our initial thoughts always land on the rich chocolate or velvety vanilla dessert, there is always that other intriguingly delicious side of the coin, the “savory soufflé.” Basing the main flavors out of things like Ham, Fish, Seafood, Spinach, and so many others, the discovery of this whole aspect of soufflé cookery truly shows the immense versatility of the dish.enhanced-buzz-6383-1389654115-2

And the absolute King of all these is the Cheese Souffle. I have no clue exactly when or who first made it, probably Careme he’s made everything, but the results have spoken for itself. That amongst all the savory soufflés that can be made, it is one focusing purely on regional Gruyere that has implemented itself as THE Classic and Traditional savory version of this dish that Represents the rest.

Which is all I really have to say on the matter, let’s start getting into this food!

A Word On…

Soufflé: I’ve already talked a lot about soufflé construction in my Dessert article, and I’m too lazy to write it again, so read some more stuff there.

Cheese: Though I could definitely see a not-too-untasty version of this with Cheddar, the true king of this French classic has and always shall be Gruyere. It melts very well, super flavorful, and goes good with eggs.

SAMSUNGWhen trying to stay classic, one thus has to ensure they get FRENCH gruyere, as most of what we see regularly is from Switzerland. Swiss style makes an almost perfect substitute of course, and I do not fault the use of it for any reason, but for my purposes the French is best. And for those also trying to follow suit, that means you want to look for “Comte” Gruyere, one of the main two regions to actually make the cheese (I forgot the other one, but I couldn’t find it myself anyway so let’s just focus on comte). You may, as I did, find a couple kinds, regular and “doux,” a double aged version. Just stick with the younger, simpler one, which thus melts easier and carries a little more straightforward flavors.

Cheese Integration: A very interesting thing I found. After expecting practically every recipe to call for melting the cheese into the Bechamel (a white, milk-based gravy which most savory soufflé bases are made from), it was a shock to see quite a few did something different. Instead of adding it to the hot sauce, the shredded gruyere was folded into the cooled down mixture at the same time as the whipped egg whites. This actually seems to be somewhat more of the classic method, especially since Julia Child did it as well, so I thought I would try my hand at it. If you want to too, I would just suggest that you make sure the cheese is shred FINE; don’t want big pieces around when also handling the delicate egg whites.

“Encrusting” Cheese: Something quite peculiar I’ve found in most recipes for this is that, instead of dusting the heavily buttered pan in flour (or sugar like what’s done with dessert soufflés), other cooks sprinkle the sides with Parmesan. It was an odd substitute for flour, but I guess if it works then it boosts the whole cheesy aspect even more, even Julia Child did it. So I thought I’d look into it a bit more…SAMSUNG

Two Problems. First, though I am of course willing to honor and try this technique, there is no way in HELL I’m using PARMESAN for a FRENCH meal. I don’t care if it’s used even in classic recipes, it is not a French cheese, so no go. Thus I set myself to find the hardest French cheese I could in search of a reasonable substitute, and even had a pretty good idea in mind…

Only to find out that some a-holes decided to ban the shipment Mimolette, which would have been THE perfect cheese. It has the EXACT same texture as parmesan, and now of all times I need it for something. But of course, they just happen to decide that the termites are too much or something or other… so I ended up with the OTHER comte, comte doux, which I guess ironically is the firmest French cheese we can now get in our market. Funny how that worked out.

Second issue. I tried it. The damn thing screwed up my soufflé. Weeelll, not really screwed up… but as you’ll see in pictures later, my little baked baby never got the chance to rise up the sides of the pan and above the lip (the center did, burst right out, but not the actual sides) like it was supposed to. And I buttered EVERYTHING damn good. It was the cheese and I know it; I love the crust it gave it, but it held my soufflé hostage from itself. The bastard.

It’s an easy fix though. Next time, I’ll just rub the cheese (which reminds me, best way to grate this is on the rougher side of the box grater; you know the section that looks like a bunch of little metal tents?) on the bottom and lower half of the pan, that way the top is completely unrestrained. Cuz I still like the flavor and texture it gave, but it needs a lot of controlling.

Wrapping: With my dessert,SAMSUNG I wrapped the whole thing with parchment paper, but for this one I decided to try using aluminum foil instead, a technique that Julia Child and others tend to feature. I’d like to give results on which one I prefer, but as I just mentioned my soufflé was never able to raise high enough where I could tell. Either way, both are options, and the foil is MUCH easier to actually wrap around the dish.

Cooking Time/Temp: Instead of the iSAMSUNGdea to start at 425F and immediately turn down to 375F, most recipes for this call for an even 400F. Which makes sense, as it took a noticeable amount of time to actually cook… in fact, much longer than the recipes called for. A lot will say around 25-35 minutes, but even at 30 mine was painfully undercooked, as I found out after trying to serve it.

Unless you’re using a different kind of dish, or the batter turns out differently somehow, then it’ll take more like 45 minutes to cook all the way through. Really need to make sure it doesn’t move at all when shaking it.

Maybe if I tried the melted cheese method it would have worked?

Cheese Soufflé
4 Tb Butter
3 Tb Flour
1 ½ cup Milk
Tsp Fresh Grated Nutmeg
Salt and Pepper
4 Egg Yolks
5 Egg Whites
1 Tb Water
½ tsp Cream of Tartar
6 oz Comte Gruyere, finely grated
½ – 1oz Comte Doux Gruyere, roughly grated

Directions

  1. Turn oven to 400F.
  2. Melt Butter in a saucepan set over Medium heat.SAMSUNG
  3. Whisk in Flour to a paste-like Roux, cooking over heat for about a minute.SAMSUNG
  4. Once the roux has lightened slightly (Blanc stage, right before it starts darkening again), carefully add the warm or room-temperature Milk, whisking in to fully incorporate the two.SAMSUNG
  5. Heat the sauce, watching and stirring often so it doesn’t burn or curdle, until it thickens enough to coat a spoon (Nappé).SAMSUNG
  6. Season with Nutmeg, Salt, and Pepper before slowly pouring the hot mixture into the Egg Yolks to temper.SAMSUNG
  7. Let this rest and cool slightly on the side while you start whipping your Whites, combining them with Water and Tartar in a bowl.SAMSUNG
  8. Whip on High with a stand or hand mixer until reaching firm, stiff peaks.SAMSUNG
  9. Take this and alternatively fold 1/3 of it at a time into the still-warm Bechamel along with the finely grated Comte.SAMSUNG
  10. Quickly prepare a large, straight-sided casserole or soufflé dish if you haven’t already. Heavily and thoroughly butter the bottom, sides, and rim before sprinkling and coating the bottom and lower ½-1/3 of the sides with grated Comte Doux. Enwrap the container with a long, folded piece of aluminum foil so it sticks straight up from the rim.
  11. Fill the dish with as much of the batter as you can get in, trying to get to the very top.SAMSUNG
  12. Move to oven and bake 35-45 minutes, minimum, until it has risen noticeably, developed a dark brown complexion, and set all the way through.SAMSUNG
  13. Spoon onto a plate to enjoy as-is, or served with a Poached Egg, Hollandaise, and Cheese Wedge for a delicious breakfast.SAMSUNG

The Verdict

A lot different than I thought it’d be, but ohhhhh so good. I’m not sure if I actually got it to what it’s supposed to be (in fact I think there may have been a chance of slight overcooking), but boy did I not care.

It was like that perfect expression of airy, fluffy eggbake, or omelet, or scrambled egg texture, but different; it wasn’t heavy, but it wasn’t light either, just a warm juicy mouthfull. One which, soon as you bite into it, you get that flavor and feeling of CHEESE, heavenly heavenly gruyere cheese, that practically melts into your mouth, but you know nothing is actually melting. It’s like ideal form of a cheese omelet. Overall that’s just the best way I could describe it in my mind’s eye; I suggest you make it for yourself to fully experience.

SAMSUNGOh, a really fun surprise too; after taking it out of the oven (-cough- for a second time), my immediate worries were that there had been some burning; I mean you can see the picture. Actually that was one of my favorite parts of the whole thing. The older gruyere on the outside had fully melted and caramelized into a rich, heavy, sorta crusty strip of cheesy goodness reminiscent of the “burnt” bits of grilled cheese, or the last bits of congealed stuff at the bottom of a fondue pot (which any Frenchman will tell you is THE best part). Not only was it just plain awesome, it added a nice dimension next to the richly singular juicy-soft insides.

Something tells me my sister may be demanding I make this again soon…

Primary Pairing – Loire Whites

Whether it’s a sharply acidic Sancerre, lightly sweet and Riesling-esque Vouvray (or many of the other Chenin Blanc wines of the whole region), or the mildly yeasty and subtle body of a Muscadet Sevre-et-Maine, the whites in this northern area of France are all amazing to pair with food, and each shine qualities to match this interestingly light to medium bodied, fluffy cheese-centered dish. Don’t get me started on what their famous Cremants and some of the lighter dessert wines of the region could do for this… or a Savennieres! Oh, such an oddly unique, vibrantly strong character that Chenin Blanc region wine has; almost like the oxidation qualities in the previously discussed Jura.SAMSUNG

What you choose all depends on what you’re craving to drink with the souffle. The sauvignon blanc-based whites of the Central Valley/Eastern Touraine will cut right through everything; many of the Chenin Blanc based Vouvrays and Anjou-Saumur wines provide a fullness to lift up those rich flavors; and the Muscadet-based wines actually MATCH the salty qualities, not to mention the body. Cremants and Desserts (Coteaux du Layon, special Vouvrays, etc) are great for special occasions.

SAMSUNGMy Bottle: 2012 Chateau de la Roulerie, Coteaux du Layon

A little fat in the mouth, just a bare amount of sweetness, and a solid acidity from this all Chenin Blanc wine make for a svelt, yummy pairing alongside the hot, cheesy dish. Normally I might not have a Layon as my first choice, the particular region in the Anjou area known for its almost total devotion to refreshing Dessert wines. This basic Table Wine version, however, holds those sickly qualities back with simple, not-so-ripe grapes, while still maintaining just a bit of the area’s characteristic sweetness to counterbalance the salty cheese.

The body matches, the acid is enough to stand up to the fatty egg and cheese, and it just has that perfectly simple table wine nature that just makes you want to gulp it down with the area foods, much like I did that morning.

Secondary Pairing – Fine or VS Calvados (apple brandy)calv

Who doesn’t love Apples and Cheese? Cider would be great too, but I do enough of that, why not get into some good hard liquor every once in a while? The region that makes it is close by, it still has a bit of that fruity sweetness (though hard to find through the alcohol, I know), not to mention those barrel-aged and distilled(heated) flavors of baking and caramelization that match with the crispy dark soufflé cooked cheese on the outside. Who cares if I’m drinking in the morning, I think it would go really well with the big, fatty breakfast version I made as well, as the high alcohol would be able to just cut through all that butter, yolk, cheese, etc.

Which is one of the things I learned in class about the stronger alcoholic beverages; they pair with foods a lot better than some may think they do, so don’t be too afraid about using them. Many brandies and whiskies have a bit of tannin to them; maybe some sweetness; they often carry a strength in certain flavors that one just can’t find anywhere else (just look at liqueurs); and the high alcohol can actually be used to contrast and cut high fats, acids, sweetness, etc. Even if one has a light bodied dish, so long as at least one component is noticeably strong, we can consider Hard Alcohol as a potential, proper drinking partner. Just have to find the right one, and for here I would just love a younger Calvados.

p2: Souffle

Okay, how the heck is it that out of 44 different classic French desserts they could have chosen (3 of which are all some form of profiterole, 5 or more are different Tarts, and 2 of those tarts are some kinda plum), there’s not a single damn Soufflé!? Oh, well I guess they already have a souffle in the savory side… but wait, they also have a Savory Crepe paired with a Crepe Suzette, so that logic is thrown out the window! Well I say screw them, I’m changing it! This is now the “French 45,” and we shall have Soufflé!!imagesN8HN2EYL

The Sweet

The development of soufflé is likely long-lived but shortly-documented, its transition from fried egg to pastry most likely kicking off in Medieval Times, when Whisked Egg Whites started being incorporated into a variety of dishes. Though it wasn’t until the development of Meringue techniques in the 1600’s that the true potential in soufflé could be seen, but not yet realized.

Finally, new Ovens, heated by air drafts instead of coal, made their appearance in the early 1800’s, flagging in the first “true” soufflés (certain chefs such as Beauvilliers and Louis Ude had supposedly made very similar kinds of pastries less than 20-40 years prior, but they would be either unpublished or labeled), providing an even temperature for the pastry to cook properly. The first to make notable use and publication of the technique, and thus credited with its creation, is a certain Antoine Careme, the King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings, aka one of our personal Gods in the Kitchen. There’s much I could go into recounting about Careme, but that’s a post in and of itself.

untitledBesides perfecting the recipe, which he soon used to make hundreds more including the grand and famous Soufflé Rothschild (made with gold flecked liqueur-macerated-crystallized fruit), he also provided the inspiration for traditional Straight-sided cooking dish, using a similarly shaped Stiff Pastry Casing (as many oven-cooked things at the time were cooked in barely edible breads, pastries, and other handmade pots, it’s actually quite an interesting talking point, especially “chicken pot pie”).

And from there it’s history. Long years of refining old recipes and experimenting with new has lead to soufflés both precise and imaginative, along with a strong guidebook and understanding of the true “dos and don’ts,” and what we can get away with. There is of course much more to say about this and the soufflé’s history, of course, but I gotta save some material for the Cheese Soufflé whenever I get to it.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

Here’s the thing about soufflé: it’s a lot easier than people think it is. It’s not this super-long, extensive recipe based off exact measurements, extremely delicate poofy little pastry that’ll break at the slightest vibration. In fact, this weird little cliché of soufflés deflating for who knows what unseen force is just plain weird and unfounded. Any simply, properly made soufflé is very durable and stuSAMSUNGbborn; it’ll of course “shrink” a bit after it’s taken out of the oven (as it’s the warm air that causes it to rise up, so it’ll of course shrink down as it cools). But unless you actually stab it while cooking, its stability is guaranteed.

And it’s all based off of only Two components: Whipped Egg Whites, and a Flavorful Base/Batter. That’s it.

Again, simple. Before cooking, whip your egg whites to a very firm “stiff peak” stage; when you pull the mixer from the whites, there will be little horns that stand straight up when turned upside down (and stay that way if you tap it). You can use this as-is, or sometimes I’ll add in a small amount of sugar around “soft peak” stage and re-whip it to stiff peaks, sorta making a “light meringue” for a bit of stability (and it can make a fun crusty bake). Fold this into the base until it looks like foamy mousse batter thing, you be the judge of what looks right, and that’s it.

Of course, that’s not where people usually have issue grasping the concept, is it? Probably most of the caution and uncertainty comes through making this actual base, how to get in that flavor you want. What recipe do I use, what proportions of individual ingredients do I need to make sure it rises properly?

Well STOP. None of that stuff matters. The only things you need to know for making your base is that A: it’s Intensely Flavorful, and B: getting the right thickness is important. That’s it, it should be strong and distinct enough to survive the “thinning” of all the egg whites we fold in, much like when you make a mousse (which is basically what soufflé is, a baked mousse). And I like to think it should be somewhere in the range of “pan/cake batter” consistency, so long as its thick enough to hold flavor and stability, but thin enough “flow” and ribbon easily when lifting a spoon. There’s of course a general range here, it doesn’t have to be exact; can have something a little loose or a little thick. We just don’t want a firm, thick, cement batter that you can’t even fold egg whites in or a barely watery one where the foam will dissolve.

Now all you have to do is pick your flavor and find a simple way to make it taste good. Vanilla Soufflés are basically just made with Pastry Cream or a thick Anglaise; a Chocolate often made by melting the delicious goodies with a bit of milk and adding it to some egg yolks, sugar, and flour (similar to lava cake batter). If you wanted a Citrus soufflé, just make a Curd (lemon, lime, blood orange, whatever); Fruits you can just puree whole, maybe mix it with something (very classic recipes have you adding sieved fruit to sugar cooked to the “hard crack” stage). I’ve even read an article about a chef who just ignores any fats (egg, milk, whatever) and just thickens Juices and Flavored Water with Corn Starch.

There’s no real rules so long as it’s, again, flavorful and has a good, foldable thickness. Of course many chefs try and dissuade from the use of Fats (as just stated); which I do agree with, and I usually try and use only a little of those, the idea being that the fat will slide between the delicate network of the long protein strands in the whipped whites, thus taking it apart. But I just love the richness it’s able to add, along with the ability to make an ideal “batter” simply (most of the things I mentioned earlier are basic custards or cake batters), and so far hasn’t actually affected the soufflés I’ve made to any noticeable degree. Besides, the very classic soufflés are basically egg whites folded with the yolks, only flavored.

Just don’t use Butter. For the love of god, NO BUTTER; you’ll have enough on the baking dish as is. You can stick with milk and yolks, they’re a little more of an indirect lipid source. You’ll have enough on the baking dish as is.

Now we just have to fold in the egg whites. You can do this with the batter at room temp, or some recipes do it soon after MAKING a Hot base; though I don’t like the idea of folding egg whites into something HOT (too much risk for destroying the delicate air bubbles), having it “warm” wouldn’t be an issue, and can help in the rising qualities. Just don’t use the batter while cold, it will weigh things down (in a sense).

As far as cooking vessel goes, any bakeproof ceramic/porcelain/whatever (NON-METAL) thing works. Little ramekins are classic, or you could use a casserole (I saw Jacques Pepin make one in a long rectangle one). All it has to be is WELL BUTTERED, very thoroughly; get the rim too. After which, you can choose whether or not you want to “dust it with sugar,” giving a fine coating on the bottom and sides. People say this “helps it climb,” but really it’s just to get a little crunchy coating around the sides.

Oh, and fill it to or very near the top; there’s no reason to leave room for overflow, we want to give our soufflés the best chance to grow Straight Up. Actually, one of the ways toSAMSUNG help this, so it doesn’t sort of mushroom out over the sides, is to wrap a chimney of parchment paper around the dish.

Final thing, concerning cooking temperatures and time. Usually sticking to 350-375 is a good bet, I’m liking this one thing I’ve found of starting the oven at 425 and turning it down to 375 as soon as the soufflé goes in. Of course smaller ramekins will cook faster than the large ones; about 12-15 minutes, with 25-30-ish for large casseroles. Feel free to open the oven and give the dish a little prod to see if it’s set or jiggles; again, they’re sturdier than what we’ve been told.

Quite a lot of recipes also have one cooking it in a hot water bath, like custards… which I just don’t like. There doesn’t seem to be a NEED for it, and it just prevents it from any chance of getting a nice little texture on the crust.

There we go, Soufflé. With all I wrote you’d think it was difficult (I know, I tend to ramble incoherently and ongoing at times, my apologies), but if you look at the individual points made I promise it’ll now look a lot more approachable than it did before. So let’s bake one shall we!?

Banana Soufflé
2-3 Egg Yolks
2 Tb Flour
1 Tb Salt
1 Tb AllspiceSAMSUNG
1 tsp Cinnamon
2-3 Tb Sugar, plus extra
½ cup Brown Sugar
1/3 cup Rum
1-2 Overripe Bananas (depending on size)
5-6 Egg Whites
Butter, as needed

Directions

  1. Thoroughly whisk egg Yolks, Salt, Flour, Spices, 2 Tb of Sugar and Half of the Brown Sugar until pale and fluffy.SAMSUNG
  2. Move rest of brown sugar into sauce pan with Rum, heating to a simmer until melted. Remove to let cool.SAMSUNG
  3. Mash Bananas, whisk into Yolk along with the cooled rum syrup. Taste and adjust alongside consistency with extra flour, sugar, rum, banana, or whatever desired/needed. Reserve until ready to bake.SAMSUNG
  4. Heat oven to 425F.SAMSUNG
  5. Take Ramekin/Casserole dish, thoroughly rub Butter into bottom, sides, corners, rim, etc (I suggest twice). Sprinkle with leftover Tb of sugar, shaking and turning around to evenly coat the bottom and sides.SAMSUNG
  6. In Stand or Hand mixer, whip egg whites to Stiff Peaks. If desired, sprinkle and mix in a couple Tb of sugar on low speed, turning back to high to re-whip towards stiff peak stage.
  7. Gently fold the beaten whites into your banana base, 1/3 of the eggs at a time.SAMSUNG
  8. Quickly transfer to your cooking dishes, filling to or as near to the top as possible.SAMSUNG
  9. Move to oven, immediately turning the temperature down to 375F. Cook until Browned, lightly Crispy, fully Risen and the center is Set, about 25-30 minutes for larger casseroles and 10-14 for small ramekins.SAMSUNG
  10. Serve immediately alongside Rum Sabayon and Banana Ice Cream.

My Thoughts

So easy, so delicious, I really love making these soufflés. I don’t think the one I made turned out perfect, but that’s fine, it’s an easy fix. Which is another great factor to making this classic dessert: when something goes wrong, you know exactly how to fix it (and in an easy way), which is more than what we can say for other baked goods.

If it’s dense and doesn’t rise, you need more egg whites/a thinner batter; if it’s too big and delicate, less; spongy and shrunk, overcooked; still batter-y inside, cook more next time; if it doesn’t rise straight and “tents” instead, more butter on the sides (I think I needed some on the rim); if it seems too moist and tender (hard to describe what I mean, but you’ll know), reduce the liquids in the base, and so on and so forth.

I still have yet to “know” what the proper and classic soufflé is supposed to be like structurally; is it supposed to be cake-like, really moist, egg-white-y… there’s been a lot of results from different recipes I’ve tried out. But as long as it tastes damn good, and hits that comfort spot in your soul, and looks pretty, that’s all that matters.

Which certainly happened with the Banana. It was like everything right with banana bread, and custard, and warm cake… all together. Actually, with the Sabayon and Banana Ice Cream (super easy and tasty, just blend frozen bananas), it sorta reminded me of reconstructed Bananas Foster. Just needed some sea-salt caramel and a crunchy topping to complete the idea.

Despite the various rambles and unclear conjectures, I do hope this post may help encourage a few people to try making their own soufflé. If you do, you’ll have to tell me the results!

Possible Pairings

It all depends on what kind of soufflé you’re making, but a good “general” choice is Moscato d’Asti, or a Sparkling Demi-sec. Moscato is great with different chocolate dishes, is light in body to not override, and of course why not have bubbly with this air-pocketed pastry?

untitledAs far as my Banana one, I’m sort of craving something with botrytis, but I don’t want that thick, heavy syrup that a Sauternes can get. One of the simpler, more affordable St. Croix-du-Mont or Loupiac would be great (two regions near the legendary Sancerre, same style but less concentration), maybe a Coteaux du Layon from Loire, so long as one of them has Botrytis.

Though I don’t consider them on a regular basis, if you can find a dessert wine made from Chardonnay, that would probably be a good drink with the banana. Again just avoid anything heavy. Oh, maybe a Vidal Ice Wine would be good.Amontillado-sherry-287x300

A tasty, lighter sweet Rum to pair with the tropical fruit, brown sugary-ness, and of course the Rum Sabayon. Ties into the idea of bananas foster better too.

And in the world of fortifieds, I could totally go for a sweetened Amontillado Cream Sherry, so long as it’s made well. I do love a good sherry, and rarely do the cheaper sweet stuff, but this could work. Port wouldn’t really work, except maybe a “White Port.”