Slaying Kitchen Fears
December 17, 2007
I consider myself pretty intrepid in the kitchen (exhibit A here; exhibit B here). But certain kitchen topics strike terror in the heart of this cook. Some are fear of physical pain: mandoline; flambé. Others are a pure fear of failure: soufflé.
Last weekend, I had the occasion to conquer my soufflé phobia. Kevin requested a dessert that was chocolaty and, knowing that we were about to leave for almost a week in Minnesota, I looked for something that wouldn’t yield 10-plus servings. I came across a recipe for individual chocolate soufflés and made the mistake of mentioning it to Kevin before fully considering whether I was up for the challenge.
His eyes went wide with excitement and I knew I had to make it for him. After all, he did drive me around Chicago to no fewer than five potential purveyors of potato ricers this weekend—all in the midst of a blizzard. He deserved an individual chocolate soufflé.
Once our ramekins were scraped clean, I couldn’t figure out what I was so scared of. But then, I think that’s the case with a lot of kitchen milestones: all it takes to demystify an intimidating dish is to try it once. And these soufflés were pretty painless. The worst thing that could happen kind of did happen. Instead of gorgeously puffed up chocolate soufflés, we had slightly deflated chocolate soufflés (I was concerned about that when I chose a Cooking Light recipe, but being just the two of us, I wasn’t too concerned about the “wow” factor. If I were making these for guests, I’d go with a more decadent recipe, I think.) But find me someone who will turn away a slightly deflated chocolate soufflé (especially one disguised with a scoop of vanilla ice cream). I know we sure didn’t.
I really wanted to add a little ground espresso or coffee to this recipe, but given my soufflé apprehension, I figured it’d be best to stick to the recipe. Next time, I’ll give it a try. Yes, that’s right, next time. These were so painless and delicious I’m certain they’ll be back. So take that, soufflé.
Individual Chocolate Soufflés
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 tablespoons 1% low-fat milk
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg yolk
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350°. Coat 2 (8-ounce) ramekins with cooking spray, and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons granulated sugar. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet; set aside.
Combine water and next 5 ingredients (water through egg yolk) in the top of a double boiler. Cook over simmering water until thick (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat; add vanilla.
Beat egg white and cream of tartar at high speed of a mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold one-fourth of egg white mixture into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture. Spoon evenly into prepared ramekins. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until puffy and set. Sprinkle each soufflé with 1 teaspoon powdered sugar. Serve immediately.