Monday, August 17, 2009

Kitchinspirations August Challenge: A la Julia

A couple of weeks ago, OakMonster from Hmm...Food...Good talked me into joining Kitchinspirations, a monthly cooking challenge blog. I figured it would be a good way to expand my cooking horizons even further from time to time. This month, the challenge is as follows:

And so this month ~ I challenge you to get to know Julia Child. Let her influence your cooking. Let her teach you something. Cook with Julia. If possible, or - if you haven't already, get your hands on a copy of Volume 1. Pick a recipe that inspires you - something you've always wanted to learn, to improve, or try for the first time. If you don't have a copy and don't want to buy just yet, ask around! As popular as this book has been, chances are it is in the collection of one of your friends or family members. Check the library, or (in Oregon) borrow from me.

Sounds like fun, right? I grew up watching her shows on PBS as a kid and have many fond memories of her descriptions of everything as "simple". Of course, to a little kid, nothing she made seemed simple at the time. I made my way to the kitchen, opened the bookcase to grab my copy of whatever Julia Child cookbook I had (I must have picked one up at an estate or rummage sale, right?) only to discover No Julia in the Collection. I checked a few times not believing the omission myself. Then, off to the bookstore I went. I picked up a copy of the classic Volume 1, and sat down with what I found to be a darned good read. Of course, I love butter, cream, and mushrooms, so how could I not love the book? Choosing what to make was the hard part. Eventually, I settled on the souffle au chocolat, or chocolate souffle.

It has been ages since I've played with folding whipped egg whites into anything, so I cheated and experimented first. On Friday we had some friends over for dinner and I made a recipe I found on Food and Wine for a Chocolate Souffle Sundae. It turned out pretty well, so I figured what the heck and decided to make the souffle for dessert after the parents brought over a ton of seafood for a boil dinner last night.

One warning to those who cook off the cuff and don't read a recipe in full before beginning: don't even attempt to do so with Miss Julia. She will find a way to make you miserable if you do. Fortunately, I did read the recipe through a few times before starting. I also decided to heck with a couple of her instructions and cheated with an easier route. I'm posting my version here. If you want the full real version, go get the book silly! You can find used copies for cheap.

Chocolate Souffle (based very heavily on Julia Child's Souffle au Chocolat on page 619 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

The Ingredients:
7oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup leftover coffee
1/2 Tbsp softened butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
3 Tbsp butter
4 eggs separated and 2 additional egg whites
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar

Special equipment: an 8in souffle dish

Oven preheat: 400F

1. Heat up your coffee to simmering. Stir in the chocolate and set aside to fully melt and cool.
2. Butter the souffle dish, place a buttered foil collar around it that comes up at least 3" above the top, and set it aside.
3. Put the flour in a saucepan, and slowly whisk in the milk. Add the butter and bring to a boil slowly. Boil for two minutes, stirring constantly, then take off the heat and continue to stir for another couple of minutes.
4. Beat the egg yolks just enough to break them up a bit, then temper them with a bit of the white sauce. Once fully tempered, add the egg yolks to the sauce a bit at a time. When fully incorporated, stir in the chocolate mixture, then the vanilla.
5. Whip the egg whites and salt in another bowl until they form soft peaks. Slowly begin to add the sugar and continue to whip until stiff shiny peaks are formed. Pretty much make it look like meringue.
6. Pour the chocolate mixture down the side of the mixing bowl, and fold it into the egg whites. When you no longer see streaks of white, pour the mixture into your souffle dish.
7. Place the souffle in the prepared oven, then turn it down to 375F. Bake 40 minutes for a softly set souffle, 45 for a firm set souffle.
8. Carefully remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing the collar. Remove the collar, and serve immediately with either whipped cream, custard cream, or vanilla ice cream.

My deviations include the chocolate melting method, tempering the eggs rather than hoping I could mix them into the sauce one by one without scrambling, and I skipped the powdered sugar topping for the last few minutes of baking. OK, I forgot the powdered sugar. It still turned out, OK? The family loved it, and wouldn't have missed the part that fell off when I removed the collar if I hadn't mentioned it.

Will I make this again? Absolutely. It was pretty, and it tasted great. Will I bother with the creme anglaise? Nope. Whipped cream will be just fine. And if some spills on the counter again, I'm calling it the cook's share and eating it when no one is looking.

Oh, and the best part? It really was as simple to make as Julia made everything on her show seem.

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