I almost never make dessert. Many desserts require precise measurements of ingredients and a need to follow steps to a tee. That’s just not how I tend to roll in the kitchen, man. I like to wing it and tweak things up when I cook. With desserts you better know what the hell you are doing if you’re gonna improvise. This beautiful soufflé you see here? Wasn’t me. You say it looks so pretty? Wasn’t me. You think that it is perfect? Wasn’t me.
Soufflé is one of the most intimidating dishes to take on. A quick look at the ingredients will have you thinking hey piece of cake, this looks pretty simple. But this isn’t cake, it’s soufflé, pay attention. Any number of things can go wrong during this process which can cause it not to rise at all, to have a lumpy, icky texture, or to collapse after quickly rising so epically. You know, like Paula Deen. OUCH! How did the editors let that one through! Please, I’m not being mean. I only poke fun because I have no respect for the woman.
So anyhow, if I never make dessert then why would I tackle something so delicate and precise? Cause I am a balls out, take charge kind of cook, that’s why! Oh, and I am a moron. I’ve got a friend from France who we all like to call Stinky Wolf(ask Sasaquatch about it-he understands) who likes to talk and act like he knows it all in the kitchen. It can get pretty annoying. Most annoying of all is that he knows it all in the kitchen. I’ve eaten with him at least 100 times and the dude has some serious skills. I’ve seen him make soufflés of both the dinner and dessert variety and from time to time his will collapse so I take heart in this and convince myself I won’t feel so bad if this isn’t a smashing success. Yes, I take joy in the failure of my friends. If we can’t find joy in our friends failures well then where the hell can we find it?
3 Tbsps unsalted butter, very soft to coat the ramequins
1/2 cup superfine sugar-plus a bit extra for dusting
2/3 cup of whole milk
1/3 cup of heavy cream
3 Large egg yolks
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
1 & 1/4 Tbsp cornstarch
4 Large egg whites
finely grated zest and the juice of 2 lemons
Confectioners’ sugar to dust
This is a recipe I got from Gordon Ramsay’s World Kitchen. First thing to do is brush (upwards! This is actually important!) 4 ramequins of 250 ml size with the softened butter. I didn’t have that specific size so I used 5 of slightly smaller proportion. Got that part done? Ok, now toss them in the fridge for a few minutes to chill. Once they’ve mellowed out take them out and give them a second coat of butter. Now sprinkle some superfine sugar so that the base and sides are covered evenly. Shake out the excess sugar. Easy as hell so far.
Now, one of the key things you need to get right for this to work is the soufflé base. Well, you can’t really afford to screw up any parts to this otherwise it really won’t work but anyway, onto the base. Heat the milk and cream in a pan but don’t let it boil, get it to just below the boiling point then remove it from the heat and tell it to simmer the f**k down! Get out a sexy stainless steel mixing bowl and whisk the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of the superfine sugar with trepidation and mild suspicion until it looks pale and thick. You know, like a brit. I kid I kid! My good and great friend The Sasquatch is a brit so it’s really just a shot at him. Sift the flour and cornstarch onto the yolk mix and whisk again until smooth, like me. Ok, that creamy milk that you scolded to simmer down before? Go get that now and slowly whisk it into this smooth, pale, thick yolky concoction. Pour all of this back into the pan and stir it constantly, counterclockwise with an occasional figure 8 thrown in, over a low heat. The book says to do this for about 5 minutes or so until it’s really smooth and thick. I needed closer to 10 minutes before I got mine good and thick. Maybe my heat wasn’t high enough. Set it aside to cool off and preheat your oven to 400f.
We come to the most keyest(it is too a word) part of the recipe; the egg whites. Ramsay specifies to whisk these in a clean bowl but I know the types that read this blog. You like it dirty. So if you want to use a dirty bowl who am I to stop you? Although I assume you can get really sick whisking eggs in a dirty bowl but that’s just a risk I am willing to let you take I guess. The whites absolutely must be whisked to stiff peaks for this to work. My girlfriend took care of this part for me whilst I was working on the base. Now before you start calling her a hero for taking on the hardest part please note that a mixer was used for this. You can whisk this manually, and any dude who’s been single awhile will have a deft hand at manual whisking, but it is a long, tiring pain in the ass so having this mixer is a blessing. As I post this image I now realize you are all staring at my girlfriend’s stiff peaks. Oh the shame and humiliation.
Now if you can tear your eyes away from her stunning peaks to finish reading this the next step is to add a few drops of the lemon juice, whisk again, then gradually whisk in the rest of the superfine sugar until you’ve got a thick glossy mixture not unlike stiff egg whites with sugar and a touch of lemon in it.
Back to the soufflé base that we set aside earlier. Stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice and then whisk in 1/3 of the egg white mix to loosen it up cause who likes a damn uptight soufflé right? The rest of the egg whites need to be gently, carefully folded into this until it’s all evenly blended together. NO WHISKING here folks. The egg whites need to keep all that air the mixer just worked it’s ass off to get in there.
Ok, we’re all set now to scoop the mixture into the ramequins. Fill them to the top and give them a good tap on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Smooth the mixture to flatten it with a small rubber spatula deal and then run the tip of the spatula around the inside edge of the ramequin. This will help it to rise. Place them on a baking sheet and gently place the sheet in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. You’ll be tempted to open the door to the oven and admire your handiwork. Don’t. The sudden temperature change can cause the soufflés to collapse. The vibes from the door closing again can do it too.
As they were baking my girlfriend and I watched closely and were blown away by how much we got them to rise! Seems like we did everything bang on. At about the 13 minute mark the tops start to take on a nice golden colour and my girlfriend sous chef says to me, hey they look ready to me. Oh, so now I am working with a sous chef with an opinion? No, I say. The recipe says 15 minutes! And then it happened. The centers started to fall as did the hope and joy in my heart. “Oh, the Phatman got a glorious quick rise but couldn’t keep it up?” Wow, you are going to go there. It happens to the best of us and it isn’t a big deal! But ya, that’s pretty much how it went down if you will. Then I realize the error. I had to use 5 slightly smaller ramequins remember? I probably should have slightly reduced the cooking time too! Damn it all to hell.
Oh well, I take them out of the oven and dust with the confectioners sugar, feeling defeated. They still do look pretty though and smell great. I sit down to taste them and hot damn they are actually really good. Not too sweet. There is some great zing from the lemon and they came out smooth and creamy too. I agree with you guys though. This is all my girlfriend’s fault for not being assertive enough.