Monday, February 13, 2017

Cranberry White Chocolate Soufflé

    I once worked for a great French chef that was famous for his soufflés.  We both met each other while working at a Northern Italian restaurant for a short time, so the French chef felt confident about hiring me as a sous chef in a French café that he recently took over.
     Previous to our meeting, the French chef was running the kitchen of a very nice old fine dining restaurant.  That old restaurant had a change of ownership and the new owners decided to close the restaurant in favor of opening a retail shop.  During the final two weeks that the old restaurant was open, the chef ran a very interesting special du jour to liquidate the extensive food stock.  "Any kind of soufflé request for $5.00" was the special offer!
     Because of the $5.00 liquidation price for soufflé, that old restaurant did the most amount of sales that it had ever booked during the final two weeks of business.  The chef's idea was to offer sweet or savory soufflé at a rock bottom price, so he could sell all the remaining food stock before the doors were nailed shut.  Most customers came in for the cheap soufflé and ended up ordering a complete dinner with wine too.  The plan worked and nearly the entire food and wine stock was liquidated!
     Needless to say, I learned a few things about food marketing while working with the French chef at the French café.  As a lunch sous chef, I became adept at designing special du jour items that sold well.  I also learned the importance of offering savory appetizer soufflés and sweet dessert soufflés to maintain the French ambiance in a fine dining café.
     Soufflé basically means to "puff up."  An egg white meringue that is whisked to soft peaks is what makes a soufflé puff up.  The base of the soufflé is what contains the flavor.  The base can be made with a savory sauce, sweet dessert sauce or puree.
     Béchamel or Velouté Sauces are often used to make savory soufflé.  A Bleu Cheese Soufflé is a good example of a savory soufflé that is made with Béchamel.  The cheese is combined with the Béchamel before the soft meringue is folded in.
     Crème Anglaise or a Sweet Béchamel Dessert Sauce is often used as a base for a dessert soufflé.  Béchamel Soufflés are also called Roux Soufflé, because Roux acts as a stabilizer.  Crème Anglaise Sauce only requires egg yolks with no roux.  Egg yolks are a stabilizer and they can be used as a liaison to tighten warm cream, thin Béchamel Sauces or purees.  When purees are used as a base, the liquid is either reduced with sugar to a syrup consistency or the puree liquid is stabilized with starch or an egg yolk liaison.
     The soufflé proportion of soft meringue to flavor base can be varied to create interesting texture effects.  The consistency of the flavor base also can be varied to create interesting texture effects.  Adding egg yolks to the flavor base creates interesting changes in texture too.  The proportion of chocolate also affects texture.  As one can see, there is plenty to toy around with when creating a unique soufflé recipe.
     The soufflé shape can be uniform or it can be free-form.  Some say that every soufflé ramekin should have a parchment paper collar to prevent flowering, but some soufflés actually gain an interesting look when allowed to flower.  Using fancy soufflé molds is also an option.  Fancy silicone baking molds are perfect for creating a modern free standing soufflé presentations.
     The surface texture of a soufflé also varies.  Some chefs prefer a soft thin "custard skin" texture on the surface.  Other chefs demand a slightly crunchy crust texture.  Learning how to make a soufflé batter, so it yields a desired surface texture also only comes with experience.
     The only two things that do not vary when making soufflé is the oven temperature and baking time.  All traditional soufflés are baked for 20 minutes in a 375ºF oven, with no exception.  Basically the specific oven temperature and baking time is the arena that all chefs must accept as an even playing field.    
     This all may seem complicated, but in reality, soufflé making is as easy as playing with food.  The more experience that a cook gains with fiddling around with soufflé making ideas, the more that a cook will learn.  Starting with a classic soufflé recipe is a good place to start, but understanding the soufflé principle is more important!  The tiny air bubbles in a soft meringue cause a soufflé to puff up when baked and this is the best place to start, when thinking about making that first soufflé!              
     Cranberry White Chocolate Soufflé:
     This recipe yields 1 individual dessert soufflé portion. 
     This is a puree & crème liaison base soufflé that has a classic thin crust.  No accompanying dessert sauce is needed with this great tasting soufflé.  The flavor of fresh cranberry and white chocolate tastes nice on its own!   
     Try not to disturb a soufflé while it is baking.  A soufflé takes twenty minutes to bake.  
     Step 1:  Place 1/3 cup of water in a sauce pot.
     Add 1/3 cup of sugar.
     Attach a candy thermometer to the pot, so the tip is well into the liquid.
     Step 2:  Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Boil till the water evaporates and the molten sugar starts to bubble.
     Cook the molten sugar till the temperature reaches the hard crack stage range of 300ºF to 310ºF.  
     Step 3:  Immediately add 1/2 cup of chopped fresh cranberries.
     Allow the molten hot sugar to seize the cranberries as it cools and hardens.
     *Do not sir or the sugar will stick to a spoon like hard candy.
     Wait till the hardened sugar starts to heat and liquify.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 3/4 cup of water.
     Add 1/4 cup of brandy.
     Gently simmer till the hardened sugar melts and the cranberries are soft.
     Step 5:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Press the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Step 6:  Place the sauce pot over low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the puree sauce is a medium thin syrup consistency that can easily glaze a spoon.
     *The yield will be a little less than 1/2 cup.
     Set the Cranberry Puree Sauce aside and let it cool to room temperature.
     Step 6:  Heat 1/3 cup of cream over low heat in a small sauce pot.
     Add 1 ounce of chopped white chocolate.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin sauce consistency that can coat a spoon.
     *The yield will be a little less than 1/4 cup.
     Keep the White Chocolate Crème warm on a stove top.
     Step 7:  Lightly brush a 2 cup capacity soufflé ramekin with melted unsalted butter.
     Lightly dust the butter with flour and shake out any excess flour.
     Set the prepared soufflé ramekin aside.
     Step 8:  Separate the yolks and whites of 2 large eggs into separate mixing bowls.
     Step 9:  Slowly add the warm White Chocolate Crème to the egg yolks in the mixing bowl, while constantly stirring.
     Add the Cranberry Puree Sauce to the White Chocolate Crème Egg Yolk Liaison while stirring.
     Set the soufflé base mixture aside.
     Step 10:  Whisk the egg whites till medium soft meringue peaks form.
     Step 11:  Gently fold the Cranberry White Chocolate Crème Liaison Base mixture into the Soft Meringue in the mixing bowl.
     *Fold in 1/3 of the sauce at a time.  The mixture should not be thoroughly combined or the air bubbles will be knocked out of the meringue!
     *The total volume yield of the soufflé mixture will be a little more than 1 1/3 cups.  This amount will puff up and fill a 2 cup soufflé ramekin after baking, so no parchment paper collar will need to be attached to the ramekin!
     Step 12:  Immediately pour the soufflé mixture into the prepared soufflé ramekin.
     Place the souffle ramekin on a baking pan.
     Place the pan in a 375ºF oven.
     Bake till the soufflé puffs up and till a thin brown crust forms over the top of the soufflé.  (About 20 minutes.)
     Step 13:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Set the soufflé ramekin on a doily lined serving dish.
     Sprinkle a little bit of powdered sugar over the soufflé.
     Serve the Cranberry White Chocolate Soufflé immediately while it is still hot and puffed up!

     This Cranberry White Chocolate Soufflé is a great choice for a winter holiday dessert!

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