School started on Tuesday, woo hoo! The best part, I have two 1st graders who are excited to go to school. I hope that never ends! That also means that for us, it pretty much feels like summer is over.
For the last couple of years we have had a “Summer Desserts” list. We write them up on the chalkboard at the beginning of summer then over the next few months we make them and rate them. They have to be desserts we (I) have never made before.
The first year we were very ambitious and made like 8. We found A LOT of winners that year. I’m sure a few of them will show up on the blog in due time. This year, each person picked 1 dessert so we had 4 to make. To be honest I chose my husbands dessert but it was one I knew he would like. Anyway, giving two 6 year olds a choice is very hard for a control freak like me. And with good reason. They each picked a dessert that was really just decorating something. They did not advance my baking skills in any way, shape or form. On the plus side, the kids had a great time and enjoyed the finished product.
So, lets review this year’s Summer Dessert List. (Please note: all ratings are pictured at the very bottom of this post)
The first one we made was the American Flag Pie. You may have seen my post on that already. It was a winner! And even better, we enjoyed it with friends and family on 4th of July. And the whole point of creating something with love is to share it with your loved ones.
Next, we made Elizabeth’s choice: Ladybug Cookies. She saw the picture in Barbara Beery’s “Pink Princess Tea Parties” cookbook and she really wanted to try them. They were very easy to make (assemble) and we got to make them with lots of our cousins. It was a great day and there were three adults to supervise the mess that can come with mini chocolate chips, red icing and seven kids that are 6 and under.
These were a hit with the kiddos. You need Nilla Wafers, icing, mini chocolate chips, and either Milk Duds or Junior Mints. E truly hates mint. She doesn’t even like the smell if you talk to her after you brush your teeth… so we went with Milk Duds.
Audrey’s dessert choice was next and she chose the Flower Petal Cake from the cookbook “Birthday Cakes: Easy to make and spectacular to look at!” This again was more decorating than baking. I just baked a box mix, cut it up and reused the red icing from the Ladybug cookies (it was store bought and in the fridge; it was fine). Sweets are for special treats in our house- the girls don’t get them all the time. I think picking out the candy she got to decorate with was A’s favorite part. She really loves junk food and candy so this was probably better than Christmas for her.
For the finale, I saved for what was going to be the most difficult and the best of them all… Chocolate Soufflé. I have never made a soufflé and only eaten them a couple of times in restaurants. I always wanted to try to make one for dessert. I even bought a soufflé dish a few years ago… that until last Saturday had only been used as a serving bowl.
So, since school was starting on Tuesday and my husband was leaving on Sunday for a 4 day business trip, we made Saturday night our Last Night of Summer celebration. We had a delicious fancy dinner in the dining room and finished it off with Chocolate Soufflé!
I will admit, I was terrified before I began. I read the recipes from “The Joy of Cooking” by Irma Rombauer and from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” by Julia Child. Then I kind of made my own version based on those two- favoring the Julia Child version more. The most surprising thing to me was that I didn’t have to go to the store at all. I had all the ingredients already.
The thing I was most concerned about was timing. I wasn’t confident enough in my skills to prepare the whole thing ahead of time and bake it later. I needed to do it all at once (or at least the most important parts all at once). And, you have to eat a souffle right when it comes out of the oven. That means I had to put it in the oven just as we were sitting down to dinner. It was going to take 40-55 minutes total to bake so that would be the perfect amount of time to enjoy a nice dinner. Here is what I did… get ready, this was a doozy:
7 oz Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1/3 c Coffee
1/3 c Flour
2 c Milk
3 T Butter
4 Egg Yolks
1 T Vanilla Extract
6 Egg Whites
1/8 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
1/2 c Sugar
Powdered Sugar for garnish
Whipped Cream for serving (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 425 and make sure rack is in lower third of oven
Prepare the soufflé dish- butter it then sprinkle it with a light coating of sugar making sure to dump out any excess (as Joy of Cooking suggested)
Fold a large piece of aluminum foil in half lengthwise and butter one side. Tape it around the soufflé dish to form a collar (as Julia Child suggested)
In a heat proof bowl combine chocolate chips and coffee. Put that bowl over a simmering pot of water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water (aka make a double boiler). Stir together until a smooth sauce forms. Set aside.
Pour the flour into a medium to large saucepan set over medium heat.
Slowly dribble a little bit of milk in at a time while whisking constantly. As soon as you get a little bit of a smooth consistency, dump the rest of the milk in and keep whisking.
Increase the heat to medium high and add the butter.
Cook and stir until it is at a low boil. Continue to stir and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and continue to stir with the whisk for another minute to slightly cook.
Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time.
Whisk in the chocolate mixture.
Whisk in the vanilla.
I put a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the mixture (so a skin wouldn’t form) and set aside until I was ready to move on to the next step. In the meantime, I prepared my delicious dinner.
Dinner came out of the oven and then I started whipping up the egg whites (while I was terrified my beautiful dinner was getting cold).
Whip 6 egg whites a bit until frothy (there cannot be ANY yolk in there).
Add cream of tartar and salt.
When soft peaks form, gradually add sugar.
Beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks.
Mix 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and stir to “lighten” it.
Fold in half of the remaining egg whites; after those are combined fold in all the remaining egg whites.
Pour batter into prepared soufflé dish and put in oven
Immediately turn oven down to 375.*
Cook for 35-40 minutes or until almost done.
Sprinkle with powedered sugar and cook another 5-10 minutes; serve immediately
*We proceeded to our delicious (and still mostly warm) dinner.
After 35 minutes I checked the souffle, not even close. After 45, it was rising pretty high but still very liquidy. After 55 minutes I said I think I might have a world record for the highest souffle ever cooked. I mean look, it reached almost the very top of the collar. But there was no “cracking” on the top of the souffle and apparently it needs to crack.
After around 75 minutes I opened the oven again to sprinkle on some powdered sugar. It had fallen and it looked like the top was burning. So, I sprinkled on the sugar and waited 3 more minutes, admitted defeat and pulled it out.
We were ready to serve but it just kept deflating (which I know it is supposed to deflate some). We ate it anyway… we ate quite a bit. It had delicious super chocolatey flavor and the over-browed top was the best part (3 out of 4 of us thought it was the best part). But overall… this was a FAIL.
After we scooped our portions out there was actual liquid in the bottom of the dish.
Where did I go wrong? Were my egg whites not stiff enough (this is my guess)? Did I open the oven too many times? Was my souffle dish too small? If any of you master bakers out there can help me I would greatly appreciate it. This dessert has ENORMOUS potential… I just don’t know which part(s) I need to fix.
I did serve it with homemade whipped cream. That turned out well. And since I feel bad putting you through all that without a successful ending I will give you the whipped cream recipe. Every time I make whipped cream I wonder why one would ever buy the can; it really is so easy… not as fun to spray directly into your mouth but you have to make sacrifices sometimes
1 c Heavy Whipping Cream
1 T Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Pour the cream into a medium to large mixing bowl.
Use your hand mixer to begin whipping the cream; start slowly and then increase speed. You can also use an immersion blender.
As you are mixing, pour in the sugar and then the vanilla extract. Continue to whip until light and fluffy and little peaks will hold.
Give it a little taste and see if you like it. If you need to blend it more, keep going. Just don’t over blend or you will make butter. But, butter makes everything taste better anyway.
This isn’t super sweet whipped cream. If you like yours sweeter you can double the sugar.
So, to recap summer desserts…