Fluffly Souffles

Many think souffles are impossible to make, because of the jokes about falling souffles--which can come true if you open the oven before the egg sets! But, actually souffles are incredibly easy to make and usually wow your guests because they look lovely and have a light, creamy texture. Basically a souffle (means "blown up" or "puffed up" in French) is a custard (milk and egg) or creme patisserie (milk, egg and flour) base into which stiffly whipped egg whites are folded. The air bubbles in the whites expand during the cooking, making the souffle fluffy; the cooked egg in the base keeps the structure intact around the air bubbles. Souffles can be savory--like our Mexican flavored souffle in this week's recipe or sweet--as in a chocolate souffle (photo from Wikipedia).

The keys to make successful souffles are:
-have all the ingredients and utensils at hand and oven preheated to temperature
-egg whites should be cool, either by chilling the mixing bowl or the whites or both--don't let them sit at room temperature
-make sure you butter the souffle dish thoroughly (and dust with powdered sugar if the souffle is sweet)
-never open the oven door during the cooking process, only at the end of the baking time!
-don't have a chill draft in the house when the souffle is removed from the oven, the sudden drop in temperature can flatten it!
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. flour
1 cup milk
1 oz. semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
some powdered sugar
hot water to fill baking dish
Butter a souffle dish, dust with powdered sugar. Find a baking dish that the souffle dish will fit in with high enough sides that an inch of water can be poured in. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Separate the eggs and put the egg whites and mixing bowl in the refrigerator. Mix the egg yolks in a small bowl. Put the chocolate, milk and sugar in a saucepan and heat over low until melted, stirring. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over low heat and whisk in flour. Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture, whisking continuously until well mixed. Slowly whisk in the egg yolks and cook, whisking, over low heat until it thickens slightly. Remove the pot from the stove and let cool, whisking occasionally. Heat the water. In the meantime, take the egg whites out and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the vanilla and cinnamon into the chocolate mixture, then carefully fold in the egg whites using the least amount of strokes necessary to mix the two together. Put the souffle dish into the baking dish, pour the mixture into the souffle dish, pour the hot water into the baking dish so there is an inch of water, then put into the oven. Bake 20 minutes before opening the oven. Souffle is done if a knife inserted comes out clean. Serves 6. Wine to pair with chocolate souffle: the 2005 Peju Cabernet Sauvignon

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