Saturday, February 26, 2011

Valentine chocolate love/(hate)

I’m usually inspired to make the foods I want to eat.  Makes sense, right?  Either that or sounds selfish.  Case in point – I love chocolate soufflé, so made it for Valentine’s Day.  Nope, I didn’t make my sweetheart’s favorite dessert, I made one of mine.  Perhaps not surprisingly, my little soufflés didn’t really turn out – thanks karma.  Not that they were terrible – I mean, warm chocolate stuff is hard to hate, but they were certainly not the specifically soufflé-ish consistency that was my goal.  In my mind there’s a texture continuum for this kind of dessert, and it goes something like this:

Chocolate sauce–Chocolate pudding–Chocolate mousse–chocolate soufflé–chocolate torte-chocolate cake

My valentine’s dessert fell somewhere in between chocolate pudding and mousse.  Not the same as soufflé!  I used Mark Bittman’s recipe, from my How to Cook Everything cookbook, but I think the failure lay in my technique.  I tried to be so careful in beating the egg whites – not under or over-beating.  I brought the whites to room temperature, as I remember being advised at one time (although Bittman didn’t specify this).  I think I may have strayed into the realm of over-beaten, but not by much.  

The real kicker, I think, was in the baking.  They were supposed to bake at 350 degrees for 15-25 minutes.  However, the oven had been at 500 degrees prior to that, baking smashed potatoes.  I think in my effort to lower the temperature quickly and change the oven rack’s position, the oven dipped to 300-325 and never really made it to 350.  I left them in there for close to 25 minutes, but it just didn’t cut it. 

Also, it threw me off that Bittman didn’t make mention of a water bath.  Any time I have made a soufflé/custard dish, I have always baked it in a water bath.  It just didn’t seem right to me to put the soufflés in the oven without one, so I put them in the bath.  I don’t think this factored into my ruin, but hey, I can’t say for sure.    

What really gets me is that a few years ago, I had the same chocolate soufflé inspiration on Christmas Eve.  That time, I baked it in one large dish rather than individual ramekins.  It was a great success!  It puffed up in the oven beautifully and had that great soufflé texture that evaded me this time.  Was it the oven temperature?  Something else?  All I can do is try again, I guess, and hope someday I get it right!  
(my sweetheart said he was more than willing to help by taste-testing.)

* the picture doesn't have much to do with chocolate, or soufflé.  However, it is a sweet valentine plant with heart-shaped leaves.  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom

You may be wondering, what is a “happy birthday, Mom” post doing on this food blog?  To that I would ask:  don’t we all learn something about eating and cooking from our mothers?  I certainly have learned a lot in this regard from mine.  My mother was always the primary food preparer and supplier in my house growing up.  Night after night she whipped up a home cooked meal for us all to eat together at the table that included most, if not all, food groups.  She loves to cook and taught me to love it, too.  She also passed on her habit of showing love to others through feeding them.  
So this post is for you, Ma, for teaching me to love food and cooking and feeding people.