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.  

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