Basic Soufflé in Three Variations

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I just taught a soufflé class. It was my first class at a school that was new to me, and it was fantastic! I didn’t realize how much I missed teaching! We had a blast (although, I admit it took me a while to get the hang of this new kitchen).

The students didn’t even complain that I made them whip all their egg whites by hand (it builds character). The recipe is a basic roux soufflé, which can be adapted to any flavor your heart desires. My heart desired cheese, chocolate, and raspberry.

Ingredients

For ramekin prep:

1 tablespoon melted butter

¼ cup granulated sugar / parmesan cheese

For Roux:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon flour

½ cup milk

To add flavor

½ teaspoon vanilla extract, or liqueur or , for savory… nutmeg and thyme

For the Main Flavor:

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, or 1/4 cup raspberry jam or 3 ounces grated Gruyere cheese

2 eggs, separated

pinch cream of tartar

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 450° F. Coat ramekins with melted butter, then sugar or cheese. Set aside.
  1. Prepare roux by melting butter in a skillet, adding the flour, and stirring over med heat until a paste forms. Add milk slowly to make a bechamel. Remove from heat and add your main flavor.  Then stir in egg yolks.
  1. Separately whip whites with cream of tartar to stiff peak.  If it is a sweet souffle, add 2 tablespoons of sugar slowly, after the whites have reached soft peak.  Fold egg whites carefully into base.
  1. Fill ramekin to rim, and make a gutter around the edge with your thumb. Place on baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes, until risen and dry on the sides.   Place ramekin on a lined plate to serve.

Remember–even a fallen soufflé is delicious!

Double Chocolate Fudge Cookies

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Chocolate_Cookies

This is one of my favorite cookie recipes.  I like to have cookie dough on hand in the freezer, because you never know when you might need a quick dessert.  (Ironically, though I am a pastry chef, I always forget to prepare dessert for company.)  I like to use ebony, or extra dark cocoa powder. It has long been available to chefs (it’s the one they use in Oreo cookies), and happily it’s now available to home cooks.   I also like bittersweet chocolate chunks, but you can use any chunk you like. Milk, white, butterscotch—even carob. (Although what’s the point of that?) You can use any nut you want, too. Come to think of it, this recipe is really just a chocolaty suggestion.

Ingredients

1 cup pecan pieces

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks, 8 ounces), softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 ½ teaspoon unrefined salt – try Bali pyramid, Maldon, Portuguese or Spanish flor di sal, or a salt infused with chocolate, espresso, vanilla, or matcha

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup extra dark cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 ¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate chunks

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spread the pecans out onto a dry baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until fragrant and toasted. Cool completely.
  1. Coat baking sheet with pan spray and set aside. In a large bowl cream together butter and sugars until smooth and lump free. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, the eggs one at a time, and vanilla, stirring to incorporate thoroughly. Stir in cocoa, baking powder, then the flour in 2-3 increments. Fold in chocolate and cooled nuts.
  1. Using an ice cream scoop, or two spoons, drop walnut-sized balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet 1-inch apart. Sprinkle the top with remaining salt, and bake for 12-18 minutes, until firm. Cool completely, and store airtight.

Variations

Regular Chocolate Chip – If you guessed that this is just a modified chocolate chip cookie recipe, you’re right. If you want to get back to the original, omit the cocoa powder and make up that difference with more flour. Then try finishing with Murray River, Black Lava, or Black Diamond salt.

Chocolate Medley – Use whatever kind of chocolate chip you like. Or use your favorite candy or chopped up candy bar. Or omit the extra chocolate all together and use dried cherries—not that anyone will be happy about that switch. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Mexican Chocolate – To simulate the flavors of Mexican hot chocolate in a cookie, add ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon of cayenne or other hot chile powder, use chopped Ibarra or other Mexican style chocolate, and finish with Manzanillo, or salt infused with chiles.

 

Classic Salted Chocolate Soufflé

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Souffles are the classic pastry phobia. But there is no reason not to try making them at home. Even a fallen soufflé tastes amazing. For best results, have patience, and some good, straight-sided ramekins. For me, this roux based soufflé has always been the most successful. It’s a very stable base that can be used for a number of different flavors, including savory cheese. See the Variations for some ideas.

Ingredients

¾ cup butter (6 ounces) unsalted butter, plus an extra tablespoon for the ramekin

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup milk

½ cup granulated sugar, divided

2 large egg yolks

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 ½ teaspoon unrefined salt – try Maldon, Cyprus Flake, any fleur de sel, or a salt infused with rosemary, orange, rose, vanilla, chocolate, or espresso

5 egg whites

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 425° F. Combine milk and sugar in a small saucepan, and heat to a simmer. Stir until sugar is melted, then set aside. Melt chocolate over a double boiler (or in a microwave, stopping to stir every 15 seconds until melted), then set aside. Coat four 8-ounce ramekins very lightly with melted butter, then with granulated sugar, tapping out the extra. Set aside.
  1. Melt 6 ounces of the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the flour, and whisk it in until it is all absorbed. (This is a roux.) Slowly drizzle in milk, while whisking, to form a smooth paste. (This is the base for béchamel sauce.) Remove from heat and stir in egg yolks, one at a time. Add chocolate, 1 teaspoon salt, and mix until well incorporated. Transfer to a large bowl.
  1. In a clean bowl, using a standing mixer, handheld beaters, or a balloon whisk, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold a third of the stiff egg whites into the chocolate base to thin it out, then add the rest and carefully fold together until uniform in color. (Do not fold too much, or you will deflate the air in the egg whites.)
  1. Fill prepared ramekins all the way to the rim. Wipe off any drips on the rim, place them on a baking sheet, and sprinkle the top with a bit more salt. Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, until risen well above the rim. (The risen sides of the soufflé will look dry when it is ready.) Remove from oven, carefully and transfer ramekin to a napkin lined plate (to keep the ramekin from sliding as it is carried to the table). Serve immediately, and offer your guests accompanying bowls of whipped cream, fresh berries, or complimentary sauces.

Variations

Salted Caramel – Omit the ½ cup of sugar, and replace the bittersweet chocolate with an equal amount of caramel sauce. Use a big pyramid flake salt, or a smoked salt.

Fruity– Reduce the sugar to ¼ cup, and replace the bittersweet chocolate with an equal amount of fruit jam, marmalade, or lemon curd. Try a salt infused with citrus, rosemary, rose, or chipotle.

Pumpkin – Replace the bittersweet chocolate with an equal amount of pumpkin puree, and add about 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice with the egg yolks. Try Persian Blue here, or a salt infused with allspice, nutmeg, or cinnamon.

Cheese – Replace the sugar on the inside of the ramekin with finely grated parmesan cheese. Omit the sugar from the recipe, and replace the chocolate with an equal amount of grated cheese. Add herbs, and up to ½ cup of other garnish, such as chopped ham or sautéed mushrooms.   Try this with Murray River, smoked salt, or a salt infused with herbs, shitake, or truffles.

 

Onion Jam Allumettes

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These little morsels will be the talk of your holiday cocktail party.  the sweet-salt balance is subtle enough to compliment everything from champagne to your most complicated mixological concoction.

Allumette is the classic term for strips of puff pastry. The word means matchstick, but these are certainly not meant to be that thin. Aim for creating small, thin, bite-sized rectangles.

Ingredients

2 ½ pounds red onion, peeled, cut in half, and sliced thin

¼ cup olive oil

1 teaspoon unrefined sea salt—try Halen Mōn, flor de sal, a smoked salt, or a salt infused with shitake or truffles.

¼ teaspoon pepper

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme

¼ cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/3 red wine vinegar

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

1 package frozen puff pastry, defrosted in the refrigerator overnight (See the Frozen Puff Pastry in Techniques)

Method

  1. Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over high heat. Add onions, reduce heat, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, until the onions begin to sweat and soften. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, over low heat until they begin to color—about 30 minutes.
  1. Add ½ teaspoon of the salt, the pepper, the bay and thyme. Cover and continue to cook another 30 minutes.
  1. Add sugar, wine, and vinegars. Increase heat and bring to a boil, stirring, for 3-5 minutes. Reduce heat to as the liquid reduces, and the onions are creamy and sticky.
  1. Cool mixture, then transfer to a plastic tub and refrigerate. (If you make a large enough batch, you can sock some away for use throughout the year—it only gets better with age!)
  1. Preheat the oven to 450° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat it with pan spray. Whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash. Open the defrosted frozen puff pastry into a rectangle and rollout slightly, to flatten. You don’t need to reduce the thickness too much—it should be about ¼ inch thick. Brush the surface with the egg wash. Set it in the freezer for 5 minutes so that the dough stays firm when cut.
  1. sing a pastry wheel (aka pizza cutter) cut the chilled, egg washed puff pastry into ½ -inch-wide by 3-inch-long strips. Place them on the prepared baking sheet, about ½-inch apart. Top each wih a small dollop of onion jam, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Chill again for 5 -10 minutes. Bake until golden and puffed, about 15 minutes. Rotate the pan as necessary for even browning. Cool slightly, then arrange on a platter and serve.

 

The Cut-in Technique

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cut in
Streusel, scones, biscuits, and pie dough are all made using the cut-in technique. This is a method of incorporating fat and flour together not by beating or creaming, but by crumbling. The butter and flour do not actually combine, but remain separate, the butter in small chunks floating within the flour. It should never look like a paste. This peaceful coexistence of fat and flour is the key to tender, flaky baked goods. In the oven the moisture contained within the fat evaporates into steam, pushing up the dough, and leaving little pockets of air that our mouth reads as flakiness.

I like to keep the butter in what I call pea-sized pieces. While they do not have to be round, they should be approximately that small. To get your butter small, but keep it from melting and joining with the flour into a paste, keep you ingredients cold. I like to freeze the diced butter before adding it, and if the temperature in my kitchen is particularly warm I’ll even freeze the flour for 10-15 minutes.

I prefer using my fingers to break down the butter because I can better monitor the butter size. Many bakers like to keep their hands out of it entirely, preferring to use a pastry blender, a couple of knives or forks, or even a food processor (a technique that requires mastery). When I use my hands I am careful to pinch the chunks with my fingertips, and not my big, hot hands.

(The pastry blender is a groovy little tool used to break fat into flour. It’s been used for decades, and I bet if you don’t have one, your grandma does. It consists of a bow of a few wires connected to a handle.)
pastry knife(1)

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