Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Touch of Spain

Addison, and some friends, spent Easter holiday traveling around Spain. When I mentioned this to my parents, with a touch of annoyance that school seemed to have only begun, they gently reminded me of my study abroad experience many years ago which included lots of traveling. Isn't that the point really? Not all learning is done in a classroom. In fact, much isn't. 

Mercado de San Miguel (Food market in Madrid)
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Addison loves food as much as I do and he also enjoys photographing it. I thought I would share some of his pictures. I didn't include descriptions, but I think they pretty much speak for themselves. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflés

Several years ago I took a pastry course at Tante Marie's Cooking School in San Francisco. It was a birthday gift from my husband. He was not trying to make a statement about my cooking or baking. I had asked, or rather begged, to take the classes. They were not inexpensive, but they were worth every penny. 

My friend, Cessie, and I drove her sporty, BMW up highway 280 from Palo Alto to Tante Marie’s lovely location on a hill over-looking San Francisco Bay. I am not sure if you can see the bay any more, but the school is still just as charming.

Eating dessert on an empty stomach isn’t the best idea or so they told us. So each class began with a bite to eat, usually a little pasta tossed with a vegetable or two which was lightly sauced. We each would don a coveted Tante Marie apron and help the instructor prepare the quick meal. 

While we dined we went through the recipes and techniques we would be covering during the evening. Then we set to work baking and creating.  By the time class was over our stomachs and minds were full, we had goodies to take home, and the San Francisco skyline was lit by millions of lights. It was magical. 

We were sad when the course came to an end. The classes were not only fun, we learned an enormous amount and made new friends. We left with a binder full of great recipes, and lots of new confidence. If you even have the opportunity to take a cooking class at Tante Marie's Cooking School or any cooking school do jump at the chance.  

While all the recipes we received are fabulous, the chocolate soufflé recipe is one of the best and the one I make the most often. The soufflés are dark and intense, but not too sweet. Be sure to use good quality chocolate since that is the dominate flavor. Unlike most soufflés, this one is very stable. It can even be made a day ahead and still yield excellent results. Which makes it a winner in my book. My husband loved these soufflés, especially with whipped cream and raspberry sauce. He would sneak in the kitchen after the company had left in hopes of finding one or two left over.

Butter souffle cups. Swirl sugar from one cup to the next until all are coated.

Separate eggs and melt chocolate. Allow the egg whites to come to room temperature to get maximum volume when they are whipped.

The white sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Add egg yolks one at a time. Don't worry if the mixture looks grainy.

After all egg yolks are added continue to whisk until smooth. Add vanilla.

Gently whisk or stir a quarter of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture. It will lighten the mixture and make it easier to fold in the rest of the egg whites without losing too much volume.

Use a large rubber spatula to fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining whites. Scoop down and up to throughly incorporate.

Fold only as much as necessary to incorporate the whites and chocolate to get the most rise from the soufflés.

Fill soufflé cups 3/4 full. Cover and refrigerate if not baking immediately.
The soufflés are delicious on their own or served with slightly sweetened whipped cream. Raspberry or caramel sauce are also nice additions.

The soufflés will have the most rise immediately out of the oven. Don't worry if they settle a little. It does not affect the taste. Just the presentation. 

Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflés 
Adapted from a recipe from Tante Marie's Cooking School 

8 ounces (226 g) bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup (125 ml) milk
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
additional butter and granulated sugar for the soufflé cups
powdered sugar to dust the tops, optional
slightly sweetened whipped cream, optional

Preheat oven to 375℉ (190℃). Butter eight, 6 ounce (170 ml) soufflé cups and dust with granulated sugar. Place cups on a cookie sheet.

Gently melt chocolate in a bowl over simmering water or in a microwave on 50% power until melted. Stir until smooth. Set aside.

Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add flour and stir with a whisk for a minute. Slowly add the milk a little at a time, whisking until a smooth sauce forms. Continue to cook and whisk until mixture thickens (1-2 minutes). Remove from heat. Whisk white sauce into melted chocolate. Add egg yolks one at a time mixing until smooth. Don't be concerned if at first the mixture looks lumpy. It will smooth out after the final egg yolk. Stir in vanilla.

In a bowl beat egg whites with cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating until whites are stiff. Stir a quarter of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Then fold the chocolate mixture into the remaining egg whites.

Fill soufflé cups 3/4 full. If not baking immediately, cover and refrigerate until ready to bake. Soufflés can be baked the next day.

Bake soufflés on cookie sheet for 15 minutes. The center should be moist, but not runny. The soufflés will puff and crack before they are done. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately with whipped cream if desired.

Friday, April 5, 2013

I Would Rather Be In Paris

At any given moment, on any given day, it is pretty safe to say, "I'd rather be in Paris." I have been in love with Paris my whole life. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was reading Madeline books when I was a child. Or my love of French food and pastry. Or the iconic Eiffel Tower. Who knows? I just am.

I was raised in the Midwest, before there were personal computers or mobile phones. We had one telephone in the kitchen tethered to the wall by a curly cord. It stretched all the way into the garage from over-use to allow for private phone conversations.

I remember when we got our first color television set to replace the one with the black and white picture. There were only a few channels. It did not really matter, since my sister and I were not allowed to watch much. Instead, we read everything we could get our hands on. We would visit the library and bring home as many books as we were allowed.

My sister was a big fan of mysteries like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. She still is. I was drawn to adventure stories about far off places, especially Paris. I always dreamed of where I would go while swinging on our swing set in the backyard watching the Monarch butterflies flutter between milkweed plants and the dandelion seeds float on the breeze in the field behind our home. Lost in my thoughts, I would swing higher and higher until the swing set frame would start thumping out of the ground.

When my children were young we spent hours reading together. They, too, often chose books about grand adventures. They inherited the travel bug. Longing to take them abroad, five years ago we went to Europe for their first visit. We had a wonderful time exploring France, Italy, and England. We have been chomping at the bit to return ever since.

In February Addison left for Poland to begin his European journey studying architecture, (which I am getting tired of reading is the worst major to be currently pursuing). In any case, he is enjoying the whole experience - the people, the country, the food and, oh yes, school.

Off to Poland

Maddie and I are going to meet him this summer.  We are so excited! Together we will visit Warsaw, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Venice,  Porec, (Croatia) and, of course, Paris. Dear readers I need your help. If you have thoughts or suggestions on these locations or any places you enjoy in Europe please do tell. Thanks!

One last look...