I really felt like naming this post THE ALMIGHTY HIGH-ALTITUDE DOMINATION OF CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE. It sounds a lot more exciting, right? Like Jean-Claude Van Damme might show up in a frilly apron any second, whisking egg whites at high speeds unknown to man until now.
Obviously, I’m dealing with high altitude here in Denver. We live at almost 5300 feet above sea level, which means there’s a lot that can happen to baked goods up here. (Add to that, I don’t bake a lot in general – Brad won’t eat lots of baked goods, and so I try not to churn out multiple dozens of cookies every week, lest every cookie make it’s way to my ass.)
There’s a rumor that baked goods fall at high altitudes, including but not limited to, cakes and soufflés. For a long time (read: before I moved here) I thought it was because there was more pressure in the air up here. It’s actually the reverse – there’s much less oxygen at high altitudes, which means there is much LESS air pressure than at sea level. When there is less air pressure, air bubbles in the batter of baked goods expands much more quickly (because hot air expands, remember?) If the air bubbles expand too much before the cake’s structure (in the flour, usually) has had time to bake and therefore set up properly, then the cake/soufflé will fall once it’s removed from the hot air of the oven.
This is doubly so for soufflés, since there is little to no flour in most soufflé recipes to provide a good structure to hold up. Also, soufflés are underbaked usually, so that the center is creamy. Any souffle, at any altitude, will fall when it’s removed from the oven; it’s just a matter of how much time.
After google-searching “high altitude soufflé,” I came across this Mark Bittman recipe from the New York Times. I made only one adjustment – instead of whipping the egg whites to stiff peaks, I only whipped them to soft peaks. The purpose of holding back on whipping the egg whites, was to prevent the cake from rising too quickly. If I didn’t whip the egg whites as much as called for, then I hoped that the soufflé wouldn’t rise too quickly before it was baked
Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge! Dave and Linda provided many of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.
Chocolate Souffle (High Altitude Domination)
Adapted from Mark Bittman
Makes one 4-cup soufflé or two 2-cup soufflés
1 tablespoon butter, softened
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup sugar, divided, plus extra for dish
3 eggs, room temperature, separated into yolks and whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
powdered sugar for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the inside(s) of two 2-cup or one 4-cup soufflé or other deep baking dish(es). Dust the inside with granulated sugar and tap out any excess.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (i.e. a glass bowl over a small pot of simmering water).
Whisk the egg yolks with all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar, until the mixture is very light yellow, and falls in a ribbon from the beater blade. Meanwhile, whisk egg whites in a medium bowl with cream of tartar until frothy. Gradually add remaining tablespoon sugar, until the egg whites have soft peaks (i.e., when you pull out the beaters, small little peaks appear in the egg whites, and they flop over at the top rather than standing straight on their own.) Temper the egg yolk mixture by adding in about a tablespoon of melted chocolate; stir to combine. Add the rest of the melted chocolate, and stir until combined. Then add a large spoonful of egg whites to the chocolate mixture, and gently fold in the egg whites with a plastic spatula. Fold in the remaining egg whites gently. Transfer batter to prepared soufflé dish(es). (Make ahead: cover and store in the fridge until ready to bake.)
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes for individual soufflés or 25 to 35 minutes for a single large soufflé. Do not open the oven whatsoever while baking. When the outside looks done but the center still looks creamy, remove from oven and serve immediately. Sprinkle powdered sugar over top, if desired.
Air Waves / Shine On