Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Couldn't Go to Sleep... So I Made an Orange Dark Chocolate Soufflé with Orange Dark Chocolate Custard

The introduction of the soufflé is a bit hazy for me, but I've narrowed it down to two possibilities: a soufflé made by a PBS cooking personality back in the '90s (most likely Julia Child) or the soufflé made by Vince on the show "Recess." There must have been something about the possibility of youth just getting up and leaving school to train in culinary arts in Paris that resonated with me. Whichever of the initial influences,, one fact remained: I had perceived soufflés as too delicate, necessitating absolute silence, and extremely difficult and pointless to try and bake, because it would all collapse in the end. Well, let me say that whatever brought me to baking a soufflé of all things has shown me how not so difficult the process really is.

Well, let's start out with the fact you really don't need too many ingredients for the soufflé or the custard and other than the baking vessel (which should be able to hold at least 1 c liquid), I only needed a small pot and a bowl or two. Most likely, you have everything in your pantry and fridge for a soufflé and the accompanying custard. Take note the recipe I'm about to share is adapted from Jacqueline Bellefontaine's hot chocolate soufflé in Cookshelf Chocolate (p. 166). My version is a single serving version of the original (which serves four) and reorganizes some of the steps. I suppose if you happen to have the book, you'll recognise the other changes I made (accidental and otherwise). In order to get this right, having everything ready to go will be of great value to you. So, measure everything out first, preheat your oven to 350°F and have the baking rack set to the middle of the oven.

Begin the process by heating 1/4 c (and a bit) milk with 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter. As this heats up, grease the baking vessel with some butter and sprinkle the inside with some granulated sugar (much like flouring a cake pan); this will help to keep the soufflé from sticking to the vessel. Next, mix an egg yolk, 1/4 tbsp cornstarch, 1 tbsp granulated sugar, to the point of the dry ingredients disolving well into the egg yolk and add this to the milk just as the milk begins to boil. Lower the temperature and whisk this liquid mixture in the pot until the sauce thickens; you know it's ready when it takes a second or two for the liquid to come back together when you move the batter around (as shown above). At this point, add two and a half squares of orange intense dark chocolate and four dark chocolate candies (see the mise en place photo alluded to above so you see what I'm talking about) and melt into the soufflé batter. Once melted (as also seen above), take the batter off the heat and stir in a few drops of vanilla extract.

An aside: if you're not a huge fan of citrus and chocolate (which... I'll never understand if that's the case), go ahead and just use regular dark chocolate. If you also prefer a smoother texture and only want a bit of a bite from the crust of the soufflé, don't use orange dark chocolate, as the orange tends to separate and add that additional bit of crunch.

The base of the soufflé batter now complete, as it's now time to beat up the egg white that had been separated from the yolk which had already been cooked into the batter above. With my whisk in the chocolate batter, I beat up the egg white by hand with a fork, as I didn't want to wake up the residents with the electric hand mixer; besides, beating up egg whites by hand is a very humbling experience and adds to the pride of baking in the end. But if you're not into all that, go ahead and use the mixer. :) Whatever the method, beat to soft peaks.

Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate base; don't worry about getting everything really incorporated. Remember the airiness to the soufflé is dependent on the beaten up egg whites. With this in mind, transfer this to the baking dish and get this into the oven pronto. As long as you have the right size baking vessel (again something that holds about 1 c liquid) and that isn't too big, trust the process and leave this in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Do not open up the oven door as that will disrupt the baking process and will most likely aid in the collapsing of the soufflé before you can enjoy it. Note the original recipe suggests baking this for 40-45 min, but it also makes enough to fill a 5-cup baking vessel (obviously calling for a longer bake time).

So, with a 25-30 minute timeframe in mind, take no more than 10 min to wash and dry your dishes if you wish. Or get your camera ready, because the next steps will go quickly. You'll need about 15 min for the chocolate custard.

In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 tbsp cornstarch, 1/4 tbsp granulated sugar and a little bit of milk until you achieve a smooth consistency. Add this to some milk (1/2 c milk in total) just as it begins to boil in a small pot and gently stir until the liquid thickens. You'll know this liquid (now custard) is done when it begins to collect almost en masse when the pot is tilted. Take this off the heat and melt in one square of orange dark chocolate and one dark chocolate candy (i.e., more of the same chocolate you put into the soufflé itself). Transfer this to a small serving bowl and get ready for some dark chocolate deliciousness.

Take the soufflé out of the oven after it's risen well and holds it shape (again, after about 25-30 min of baking). Handle this with care as moving it haphazardly will cause the delicate soufflé to collapse into itself. Transfer this to a serving plate and dust with some powdered sugar.

A second aside: Don't have powdered sugar just sitting on your counter (waiting for crêpes or soufflés, for example)? No worries; I didn't either. If you have a food processor, set some granulated sugar in motion. Believe it or not, within about 30-60 seconds, the granulated sugar will be ground into powdered sugar. You could also resort to mortar and pestle techniques if you're that desperate for powdered sugar.

Dusted with the sugar, serve immediately (preferably sooner rather than later, before the soufflé collapses as it cools) with the chocolate custard. If nothing else, just allow yourself the honor of piercing the soufflé with a fork and being the one to collapse the soufflé; all of that work (which really isn't that much) in mind, you deserve it. After that, do let the soufflé cool a tad, as the interior especially is wicked hot.

A warm kind of comfort food and the added crunch from the orange pieces from the dark chocolate, this soufflé gives new meaning to enjoying "midnight dessert." Certainly, the pure joy of made from scratch preparation grants serenity as you fall asleep, knowing you were responsibile for that process instead of processed food being responsible for filling you.

For more delicious orange dark chocolate preparations, click here.

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