2011 is my year of imperfection – a curious notion I know but one I have become very attached to. The idea of devoting a year to being imperfect dawned upon me last December. It came from my increasing frustrations with a very small kitchen and a desperate need for sunlight.
So it’s Sunday and it seems an appropriate day to practice being imperfect. My dish of choice is a soufflé; not any soufflé but a Julia Child’s soufflé. I loved the film and when I was in the States last year, I brought that wonderful classic – Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Now in my year of imperfection, I am making no aspirations towards mastery; instead, all I want to do is cook. So here is:
Chocolate soufflé in a tiny kitchen
The first thing I need to do is get my ingredients sorted and to turn on the oven. I might want to embrace imperfection but a little organisation in the kitchen will be needed. This is a souffle. Conversion via Google and the oven is on, so it heats to 425 (218 C).
Next to my ingredients:
2 cups of milk,
½ cup of white sugar;
1/3 cup of strong coffee;
200 grams of dark 70% chocolate
1/3 cup of what Julia calls all purpose flour and by this I presume that she means plain; and finally six egg whites and four egg yolks, separated of course.
Also vanilla extra – 1 tablespoon and yes, a pinch of salt.
Now it is good thing that this is an imperfect soufflé because already there is yolk in the whites. I have no idea what this means for the final result but the separation of egg is a new experience for me. (I am not a cake baker: the domain of cookery, where such dexterous precision is required.) In a year of perfection, I would have started again, but not this year. My one concession is note to self – buy an egg separator!
Now, and I confess according to the film, The Mastering the Art of French Cookery was originally written for American cooks who did not have domestic help. So I’m hoping given this promise of handholding, so that what followings will not be the collapse of my delicious airy and light soufflé through stress.
(Now just as an example of how frightfully small this kitchen is, I have to balance the cookbook on the side of the sink, so I can read it. This is because the ingredients are taking up the available bench room…)
And so we begin …
Place chocolate and coffee into a bowl over a simmering saucepan of water – the aim is to begin the melting process.
While this is happening, prepare your soufflé dish. Cover the surface with butter. Now I am going to deviate from Julia here and follow Gordon or what I think is Gordon. It’s a half-remembered tip from an online soufflé recipe.
Butter inside of the dish. Place it in the fridge for five minutes and then rebutter it. Finish by coating the inside with some drinking chocolate. Now I have Valrohona and its perfect for such a purpose. It is 100%cacao and when drinking it, it is like drinking silk.
(I’m now having the rest of the coffee that I made earlier – fab stuff from Bon Marche. Very very retro- it’s caramel coffee. The only reason why I am using it is that I have run out of everything else!)
Now Julia says create a collar of butter tin foil. Well I’ve decided that this is getting a little complicated, especially as my chocolate/ coffee mix has now melted and nothing else is prepared!
Now one of the ways to cope with a small kitchen is not to have a lot of stuff – it’s a great excuse only to have GOOD stuff. So with a quick dry, my saucepan is now being used to make the chocolate basis of the soufflé.
Add the flour to the saucepan and slowly add in the milk. This is where I need to stop writing as it is lumpy and the only way to get out of this is to whisk. So I’m whisking.
Crisis averted, or so I think. It is meant to be whisked into the consistency of a smooth cream! Add the butter and stir over moderate heat until boiling. Let boil for two minutes and continue to stir. (Note: it has turned into a smooth cream! Thank you, Julia)
Skimming forward to see what is next, I realise that I still haven’t whisked my egg whites into submission. I have no idea of timing and so I am starting to panic a little. I’m new to this imperfection thing. I want to default to my normal position – extreme multi-tasking. But my second whisk has gone missing and I am forbidden for using the KitchenAid.
So where was I?
Take the chocolate/ coffee mixture from the heat and allow it to cool. Julia says to stir every minute or so to help with the cooling. Taste wise, it’s uninspiring - just butter, milk and flour. It tastes like and is batter. You can see from the picture that it is slightly lumpy.
One by one the egg yolks are whisked into this batter. Finally, you add the melted chocolate/ coffee combo and finally vanilla extract.
My co-conspirator has just come to my rescue and is going to beat the egg whites for me. In a kitchen this small, you need all the outside help that you can get. I stand back in full admission, as he uses his KitchenAid.
So the chocolate sauce is complete and attention now needs to be turned to the egg whites. Unsurprisingly, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Then slowly, almost sprinkle by sprinkle, add the sugar. What you should get is glossy Disney-like peaks.
Fold in the chocolate mixture and add to the soufflé dish. (I added the chocolate mix a little at a time, so as not to collapse (is this the right word?) the soufflé mixture
Now I can already tell that I have way, and I mean way, too much egg mixture. At this stage, the kitchen is a complete mess. I find myself turning in circles trying to work out what to do next.
Whatever you do turn the temperature of the oven down to 190 as the soufflé goes in.
Now we wait….
Twenty-two minutes in and it’s looking good. Slightly lope-sided as this is not an oven that cooks evenly. I’m too frightened to open the door and besides I’m exhausted.
I’ve just washed all the dishes that I used and my complaints about lack of bench space and resulted in a reshuffling of monumental proportions. Our idea of having music in the kitchen is now unplugged; the rest, much more bench space.
This whole experience makes me think that my idea of removing everything from the bench-top to cook (like I did at Christmas) is a damn fine idea!
OK… five minutes to go to reach the minimum of 30 minutes. Now I need to wait until the top has cracked. The good news is that it appears to have evened out and can I say it smells fantastic!
I need a skewer to test if it is ready – add to the shopping list. (A word of caution – the problem of coating the inside of the soufflé dish with chocolate is that it will look burnt – it’s not!)
What it has left me wondering is how you could possibly do this for a dinner party. Well, Julia has the answer! You can make this mixture an hour before cooking it. You place it in the prepared soufflé dish and cover it with aluminium foil.
So to the taste…
The texture is light and airy. I can’t taste the coffee but otherwise it is wonderful.
As to what I would do next time – reduce the eggs to five (so five white and four yolks). I think I’d also reduce the chocolate by half.
So as Julia would say Bon Appetite!