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A chocolate soufflé is one of those desserts that can inspire both fear and wonder. You are warned of a lengthy wait if you order one in a restaurant, though the warning is accompanied with an implicit promise that your patients will be rewarded. And, everyone has heard of the inevitable collapse caused by a slamming door or dropped pot. Soufflés are finicky and temperamental, only to be attempted by the culinary expert or adventurer, at least that is what some would have you believe. But the reality is quite the opposite. I am here to tell you my friends that if you have an oven and a whisk, you can make a chocolate soufflé.
I have cooked chocolate soufflés for virtually everyone I know. I have taken them to dinner parties and made them at a beach house. My little red ramekins have been around and will continue to see a lot of action. Chocolate soufflés are such a standby that I have to remind myself that I need to expand my horizons if only for the sake of my guests who quite likely believe I don’t know how to cook anything else. That said I have never been disappointed by the result. I’m no baker but these little chocolate treasures are close to perfect and as fool-proof a recipe as there is.
- 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
- 6 tbps unsalted butter
- 3 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- ¾ cups sugar
- pinch salt
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 6 tbps flour
Melt butter and chocolate together in a double boiler. Remove from heat and let cool to luke warm.
With electric mixer whip eggs, egg yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla until they are pale yellow and form ribbons. It will take 5 to 6 minutes or more longer with a whisk.
Sift flour over eggs and fold in. Gently fold in chocolate.
Pour batter into buttered ramekins. Cover each with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to bake.
Bake at 400o for 18 minutes. Serve immediately.
You can serve your soufflé with whipped cream or ice cream or dress them up with a dusting of icing sugar. I prefer mine served with a spoon.
These soufflés have a light cakey exterior and a rich gooey centre. The basic recipe is perfect in its simplicity but lends itself to embellishment. A dash of almond or hazelnut extract is a great addition. A tablespoon of rum or brandy is nice touch too. I haven’t tried it, but my guess is a splash of Grand Marnier would be awesome. The most important ingredient is your imagination.
This is the perfect make-ahead dessert. You can mix them up the day before or even throw them in the freezer for a week. Just add a minute to the cooking time if you’re starting with a frozen soufflé. Like so many of the French classics the soufflé has been ascribed with almost mystical qualities. But I want the moral of this story to be “don’t be afraid of the soufflé.” They are not finicky or temperamental. There is no magic and no secret society of soufflé chefs. The only “secret” is the air you whip into the eggs.
National Strawberry Day. I know to those of you currently obsessed with all thinks olympic, if I were to play a little word association game with you and say “red”, as a response “strawberries” would be far below “flag” “hockey jersey” and “screaming crowd”. But while you’ve been hanging on ever second of the hockey game and the crashes at the sliding centre, spring has been quietly creeping into Victoria (Exhibit A: to you right is a photo of the chives in my garden!). I for one have no trouble embracing spring and the fair strawberry.
For National Strawberry Day I decided to make a strawberry syrup. It’s a simple 15 min process, and you can adjust the amount of sugar and lemon to taste. I think the next time that I make this, I’ll try it with maple syrup to make it more robust (and well, maybe a little more patriotic! ).
Simple Strawberry Syrup
1 pound sliced strawberries
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
Pinch of salt
1/4 c fresh squeezed lemon juice
Bring strawberries, water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt to boil in medium pot over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer vigorously, uncovered, 10 minutes. Add lemon juice. Strain, pressing on solids – a sieve lined in cheese cloth works well. Cover and keep in the fridge.
I decided to save the pulp separately, and use it as a spread on waffles, or maybe bake it into muffins? (I’ll let you know what I come up with!)
Now for the fun part – enjoying the fruits of your work.
I can see this syrup would be great on ice cream, or as a garnish on a nice plated slice of cake. You could eat it on waffles or pancakes, and mix it into a marinade. But I decided that I wanted to use the syrup to make italian sodas. My inspiration for this was from one of my favorite restaurants in town, a little place called Devour. Autumn, one of the women who works the counter there, has lately been cooking up a variety of savory sodas which are really tasty. Yesterday I had thyme, pink peppercorn and cardamon soda, with a little simple syrup. It was a great change from your regular lunch choices.
For my drinks, I mixed the strawberry syrup with in 1:4 or 1:3 proportion with fizzy water. In one I muddled in fresh rosemary and in another cup I tried fresh thyme. The latter was too strong for me, but I really liked the rosemary and strawberry combination. Also, they are very pretty, just like Eva.
Cold days in February call for chili. Warm sunny days in February also call for chili, especially when we’re celebrating the Olympics. Our grand opening party was epic. I also made an epic amount of chili: one “four legged-meat”, one turkey. Chili is a cheap, warm and yummy way to feed cold party revellers who have been smoking cigars outside.
Surprisingly, I had quite a few leftovers. (Okay, not surprising at all. I always make too much food. It’s a throwback from my childhood – you never know who’s going to stop by hungry! Jim says I should estimate how much food I’ll need, then divide it by two. Every time.) Chili freezes well, I’ll have you know.
On Wednesday night we watched Canada school Russia in the men’s quarter-finals hockey game. Another big bash.
I pulled the chili out of the freezer and served up… chili dogs. Who doesn’t love a chili dog?
The recipe below is an approximation. I usually start my chili from dried beans but I constructed an easier, less time-intensive recipe using canned beans for my friend Mike K., so here it is. Now you have two versions of turkey/chicken chili (see Bean Day from January 6). If you want to make Jim’s four-legged version, substitute lean ground beef for the chicken and add chopped mushrooms and red and yellow peppers. Then add a whole schwack of cayenne pepper just to set your mouth on fire.
Turkey Chipotle Chili
- 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 1 large grated carrot
- 2 lbs lean ground turkey (or chicken)
- Salt & pepper (to taste)
- 3 Tbsp (or more) chili powder (or more, to taste)
- 2 Tbsp ground cumin
- 4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
- 2 large cans diced tomatoes (add more tomatoes if the sauce calls for it)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 can each black beans, romano beans and brown beans (no pork!) (add more beans if you want them or the chili seems to need them)
- 1 can hominy (or corn niblets if you can’t find hominy)
- 1 can tomato paste
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a dutch oven. Add the onions, garlic and celery, and sauté until translucent (5-8 minutes). Add the carrot and sauté for another 5 minutes (until soft).
- Add the turkey and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the turkey begins to brown (10 minutes or so).
- Add the chili powder, cumin and chipotles. Mix well. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves and reduce heat to simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally (make sure you really scrape the bottom of the pot so the chili doesn’t burn). Add chicken broth, water or more tomatoes to thin if necessary.
- Add the beans and corn, and check the flavour. Add more salt, pepper, adobo sauce (from the chipotles), chili powder and/or cumin if the sauce calls for it.
- Add the tomato paste, 1 heaping Tbsp at a time, until the sauce has the right flavour and consistency. Cook for another 20 minutes to 2 hours, on very low heat, to blend the flavours (again, stir it occasionally, and scrape the bottom of the pot well).
* You can add other vegetables or beans if you want. It’s all about taste!