6.23.2012

A «Souffle» for My Soufflé

«Souffle» (pronounced sue-fl) is the French noun for "breath" - and I have to wonder if there is any correlation between that breath and my soufflé. I should look that up. I do know that I start to breathe hard (read: hyperventilate) when the soufflé I pre-ordered, when I chose my entrée, arrives tableside.

This post was inspired by my recent trip to San Francisco, California - a business trip I enjoyed a lot. It was really fun meeting alumni of The Honors College, and tons o' fun hanging with Mikey (my friend since 5th grade), and then more fun trying every chocolatier we could find in the city... for research. Yeah, that's it... it was research. No pleasure at all.


Our first forays were to the Recchiutti Confections and Scharffen Berger boutiques in the Ferry Building Market. Scharffen Berger is a great chocolate for nibbling - dark and intense. But, little known outside of the city, they also have a milk chocolate that is truly wonderful. It would be perfect for the Alice B. Toklas chocolate mousse from a few weeks ago.

Michael Recchiuti is an artist - visually, texturally and flavor-wise. To look at his creations is akin to seeing an exhibit of fine art at SF MoMA. To taste them and feel them on your tongue is, well, almost indescribable. I bought a box; my choices were all garden-themed as I was to share it with my friends and master landscape architect/designers at Lenkin Design. I picked flavors like star anise and pink peppercorn, spring jasmine tea, lemon verbena, rose caramel, lavender vanilla and candied orange peel.

A little later, we walked toward the Fog City Diner for lunch and, en route, stopped in at the TCHO chocolate factory. Say the first syllable of cho-colate and you now have the pronunciation of TCHO, much like the word for chocolate in the Nahuatl dialect. They have a great tour of the facility offered twice daily - and samples from soft and caramel-like milk chocolate to 99% cacao palettes which, while incredibly bitter, were somehow smooth and unctuous on the tongue.

Sunday found us in Hayes Valley where we dined at Sauce for brunch, then trolled the streets for sweets. Our first stop was Chantal Guillon for macarons. Amazing. My favorite flavor there - and maybe of any macaron I have had - was the orange blossom. Everyone spoke French so I did, too. Pourquoi pas? Then it was to Miette just for a look, as we had already peaked at the gingerbread cupcakes in their Ferry Building boutique.

Finally, we hit Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate - a chocolatier with beautiful and appealing flavor choices. Ours included fresh mint (really fresh!), citrus tea, lavender, hazelnut praline, Madagascar, fresh lemon and raspberry. While his combinations might not have the complexity of Recchiuti's work, the presentation and freshness were stellar.

I had planned to come home to the desert with armloads of chocolate for cooking, testing and baking. I am not quite sure how, but all the chocolate I bought disappeared before I even made it to the airport. Don't look at me and Mikey - we didn't touch it! (Lightning bolts anyone??)

So when it came to making a dessert for our friend Sara tonight, I had to go to the store here in Tucson to get chocolate. In remembering all the good chocolate I had in San Francisco, I opted to buy Ghiradelli which, at least, comes from the city...

I love dessert soufflés and I know they are not too difficult to make, but it does get awkward when I leave my guests at the dinner table to begin making them. Forty-five minutes later, after beating egg yolks and sugar, whipping egg whites into a frenzy, folding in chocolate and baking them, I return to the table. If they haven't fallen asleep or left, we all enjoy our soufflé.

This chocolate soufflé recipe, however, can be made in advance and refrigerated, then baked while you and your guests sit at the table and continue conversation, or finish your salads. Like my Cheese and Herb Soufflé, it may not be 'the' perfect soufflé but it is tasty, easy and impressive.

So, tonight, when we are finishing our salads, I will pop these in the oven and sit back at the table, «souffle» a sigh of relief, and enjoy our time with Sara. Anything better than that?

~ David

Chocolate Soufflé
Adapted from The New York Times

butter for greasing soufflé dishes
1/3 cup sugar, plus additional for preparing soufflé dish
3 large eggs, separated
2 ounces good quality bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter four 3/4 cup soufflé dishes. Sprinkle each with sugar, invert it and tap to remove excess sugar.

Beat egg yolks with all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar until very pale and very thick; mixture will fall in a ribbon from beaters when it is ready. Mix in the melted chocolate until well combined; set aside.

Wash and dry beaters well, then beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks; continue to beat, gradually adding remaining tablespoon sugar, until they are very stiff and glossy. Stir a quarter of the whites thoroughly into egg yolk-chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold in remaining whites, using a rubber spatula. Transfer to prepared soufflé dishes* and bake until center is nearly set, about 14-15 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

* At this point you can cover and refrigerate until you are ready to bake.

13 comments:

  1. How fantastic to be able to make the souffle wait for you! And a chocolate one. I made those twice baked cheese ones, but really they are not souffles by the time you eat them.
    I just love the name TCHO for a chocolate brand! So clever. You really had your arms full of the stuff. Lucky you!

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  2. Paula, Have you tried the cheese soufflé I posted? It is really a good recipe and it waits for you, too!

    So much chocolate, so little time - that was the way of the trip!

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  3. I was lucky enough to come across TCHO chocolate when I was in San Fran late last year. Love the stuff! The girls at Smitten Ice cream even use it in their gorgeous creations.
    Your soufflé looks like perfection!

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  4. Thanks, John. I thought the amazing array of chocolates in all variety of cacao percentages was astounding at TCHO. So sad I never had the Smitten ice cream... Next time for sure!

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  5. I am never going to have a soufflé dictate when can eat it ever again with this recipe! Oh how I would love to have gone on your chocolate tasting trip (for research) it would have been a wonderful day!

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  6. Research is very important, Anna - maybe I should scientifically try this recipe with a variety of chocolates to test which is best!

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  7. I immensely enjoy reading your post. The story, the history from your eyes to a classic dish like this is fascinating.

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  8. I had never thought about where the word "Souffle" (with an accent) may come from. How very interesting! You always instill courage and confidence in me--I can do this! It looks yummy and I will definitely try it!
    Merci!

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  9. Thanks, Anh! I hope you get a chance to try these soufflés!

    Susan, all you need for these is chocolate, sugar and eggs! No courage or confidence needed!

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  10. Please don't think I don't LOVE good chocolate, but I'm going to try this using Nutella. Dad was visiting this past weekend and related a story of a recent brunch where the restaurant had small desserts ready - and nutella souffle was one of them! xo
    Gaelen

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  11. Gaelen - I can't wait to find out how they work. I love nutella and think it would taste wonderful! Keep me posted! xox

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  12. I'll have to give these a try, thanks for sharing!

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