Friday, January 28, 2011

W&W "Red Velvet Soufflé"

Memorial Day 2010 I spent the day in Newport, RI. The last thing my traveling companions and I did before leaving was to have an amazing dinner at The Spiced Pear at the Chandler at Cliff Walk.

The final part of our meal was cinnamon soufflé with amaretto and apple compote. It was amazing. From that moment on I've wanted to make a soufflé. There was a day that we were going to make them for one of our Sunday Family Dinner nights. Not enough time was devoted to learning how to make a soufflé by any of us.

All these months later I finally decided it was time. I wasn't going to wait any longer. I have a tendency to do that - wait until someone will do something with me. I guess it's for support or maybe camaraderie. The waiting for me was over. I was nervous that I would mess up the mixture, but I really wanted to try.

The first thing I needed was ramekins. I had seen them at Crate & Barrel for $2.95 each. That was a great price. I wanted four. I went on a Friday night to purchase them in preparation for making the soufflé the following Monday. I left Astoria at 7pm and arrived just before 7:30pm at the door of a closed Crate & Barrel. I was shocked. The revolving door wouldn't turn. The lights were on, but I couldn't get in. Finally I noticed the posted hours. How could a Crate & Barrel in Manhattan be closed on a Friday night at 7pm? I looked around to make sure I wasn't in some Twilight Zone Manhattan. No such luck.

The next day I was scheduled off work before the ridiculously early closing time so I was prepared to bust a move across town before those revolving doors were locked on me two days in a row. I made it and purchased the 4 ramekins that I wanted.

I had most of the ingredients I needed in my kitchen already. What I didn't have was eggs, red food coloring, whipping cream and sour cream.

The day of baking had finally arrived. I had spent the day basking in and running away from the art at MoMA. I had indulged in lively discussions about art, family and religion. I was nourished with 16 bean soup; my thirst quenched with Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The pièce de résistance was to be my first soufflé.

I chose red velvet soufflé. I had already made a red velvet cake on my own twice; it seemed the right choice for me. My close friends know that I love red velvet cake. I want it to be something I'm known for making. A red velvet soufflé seems like a city cousin to the Southern cake.

It was midnight by the time I started making the soufflé's. I was determined though and nobody was leaving until they were done and we had eaten them or thrown them away because they failed to rise.

I started by greasing the bottom and sides of my ramekins with butter - real butter - and then sprinkling them with sugar, lightly coating the butter. The next logical step was separating the eggs. Of the 5 eggs needed per the recipe, 4 yokes needed to be ready to mix into the chocolate as soon as it was melted. I chose Ghirardelli bittersweet baking chocolate per a recipe that I'd seen in a copy of Southern Living magazine. The recipe I had chosen and the one in the magazine were identical excepting the Ghirardelli suggestion.

When the chocolate was melted I stirred in the egg yokes, the sugar, the milk, the red food coloring and the vanilla necessary to flavor and color the soufflé. I actually used my whisk for the first time. I set the chocolate mixture to the side while I beat the egg whites, pinch of salt and more sugar into stiff peaks. As I said, the chocolate needs 4 yokes, but the whites of all 5 eggs are necessary. I couldn't help but be reminded of The Golden Girls episode where Blanche, delirious from staying up all night attempting to be the next great Southern writer, confuses Roses bag of egg yokes for little balls of sunshine. I laughed to myself as I threw a little ball of sunshine in the trash.

With the egg whites stiffly beaten to peaks it was time to fold them into the chocolate. I think the folding was what made me the most nervous. I mean does it have to be folded into the chocolate instead of just stirred in? What if I don't fold it correctly? Is there a right and wrong way to fold? I just had to get over the fear and start folding. As I did so the chocolate became lighter in color and airier in texture. That's what I'm assuming makes the soufflé rise - all the air created by folding in the light egg white mixture.

When all the mixing, blending and folding was done, it was time to spoon. I spooned the mixture into the waiting ramekins. The ramekins were on a cookie sheet for even baking. The oven was preheated to 350°. I placed the ramekins in the oven and set the timer for 20 minutes.

Time to make the topping. First nervous moment: folding; second nervous moment; too much noise during baking making the soufflé's fall. I had to use the beaters. I had to mix whipping cream, sour cream and sugar to a pourable consistency. It didn't take long and through the window in the oven door I could see that the noise had not disturbed the soufflé's. On the contrary, the soufflé’s had risen higher than expected. Thank goodness for the cookie sheet. It caught the entire overflow and prevented soufflé from burning on the bottom of my oven.

Twenty minutes of bake time and the stick came out of the center of one soufflé with a few moist crumbs. Done.

The three of us were standing in the kitchen. The anxious excitement of the rise had turned into anticipation of eating. I didn't even remove the ramekins from the cookie sheet. I poured the whipped sour cream on top of each of them and gave my guinea pigs each a spoon and we dove in.

It was light, fluffy, moist, rich and delicious. I was so proud. The whipped sour cream was such an interesting compliment to the chocolate.

Next time I will fill the ramekins with less mixture to prevent the unsightly overflow. I will also remember to serve it with a nip of Jameson Irish Whiskey.