Daring Cooks | Chocolate Soufflé

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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.

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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.

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Chocolate Souffle (High Altitude Domination)

Adapted from Mark Bittman
Makes one 4-cup soufflé or two 2-cup soufflés

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Gather:
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
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
powdered sugar for serving (optional)

Prepare:
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.

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Air Waves / Shine On

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October Daring Cooks | Grape Leaves Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Figs

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Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

So, I’m all for the Daring Cooks, because it forces you to try things that you’re not familiar with. Sometimes it’s a hit, sometimes it’s a miss… but you try it anyways.

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This month was stuffed grape leaves. I wasn’t really feeling the idea of stuffing them with pork or beef, so instead I opted for something simple and easy to make. This recipe is great because it’s mostly assembly-only, other than a bit of prep. These are great tapas for a party — which reminds me, it’s almost time for holiday parties! You could even make these a day in advance, and just heat them up in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, to melt the goat cheese.

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Grape Leaves Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Figs

Adapted from Honest Fare
Makes about 48

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Gather:
1 jar grape leaves (about 48 leaves)
8 oz goat cheese
1/2 cup dried figs, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup walnut halves, coarsely chopped
2 cups cooked white rice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
fresh cracked pepper

Prepare:
Unroll the grape leaves, and separate carefully. Lay lightly on top of one another in a large shallow bowl. Pour boiling water over the leaves, gently shake the bowl to make sure the water gets in between the grape leaves. Let soak for about 20 minutes. Drain grape leaves, then repeat with 2-3 changes of cold, fresh water. Lay on kitchen towels.

Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Make sure they do not burn.

In the bottom of a mixing bowl, combine the goat cheese, figs, and walnuts. Stir to combine. Add the rice and stir gently to combine. Add red wine vinegar and cracked black pepper. Feel free to adjust seasoning to taste.

Place 1 tablespoon filling in the middle of each grape leaf. Fold in the sides, then roll up (like you would a burrito.) If you need further instruction, see this video, at about minute 3:30.

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Au Revoir Simone / Another Likely Story (Aeroplane Remix)

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Butternut Squash and Poblano Enchiladas

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So, I had a little issue with Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers – I forgot to do it… for like 6 months. That’s what happens when you don’t have a reminder set up in Google Calendars (I have one now)… and can we talk about how awesome Google Calendars is? It’s like porn for those who love to organize. I have at LEAST eight different calendars (and this is not one of those instances where I exaggerate a number for the purposes of sarcasm.) Here is an ode to Google Calendars that I wrote to express my undying devotion:

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Such pretty colors

Woot. You help me organize

What I don’t need to.

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Yes, I know I ended that with a preposition. That’s how I roll. (Hardcore, if you’re new around here.)

Anyways… onward!

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on www.finecooking.com and written by Robb Walsh.

When I saw this challenge earlier this month, I have to admit, I was really REALLY excited. I love Latin American food. MexicanTex-Mex, New Mexican, Venezuelan, El Salvadoran… bring it. Bring it ALL. I think I might have been Mexican in a former life (I hope I looked like Catherine Zeta Jones circa her “Zorro” days). And I want to learn Spanish so that I can apprentice myself to an aging Mexican grandmother in order to learn her secrets to soft tortillas and perfectly-cooked tamales. Why are you looking at me funny? It’s normal… I think.

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But I saw the stated recipe required the use of both tomatillos AND chiles… both of which are soooo not in season right now (damn that Colorado winter). But you know what IS in season?

Anything that was grown last fall… and hasn’t rotted yet.

SWEET. Oh, the choices, they abound.

I have no idea where this idea came from (other than I had one butternut squash sitting out on my counter; totally unrelated, obviously). Then, miracle of all miracles, Abbondanza Farm had some frozen poblano chiles from the 2009 chile harvest at the Boulder Farmer’s Market a few weeks ago. One can mix squash and chiles… right? … I’m sure it will taste fine. No, really… I’m 100% 70% positive it will taste great be edible.

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Other issues to address…

Filling: I used some shredded chicken leftover from making chicken stock a la the Barefoot Contessa. (I reduce the recipe by a third, because, um, my pot only fits ONE whole chicken, Ina. Not like your super stock pot, apparently.)

Cheese: I used my trusty copy of the Flavor Bible to check out which cheeses would compliment butternut squash. Fontina, Gruyere, goat cheese… they are all suggestions. I went with Fontina, because I knew it would melt well over the top. I would also suggest trying a goat cheese feta… I think the tanginess would go really well with the squash.

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I ended up pretty happen with the ending results of this recipe. It was the first try on this one… so it’s not perfect. It’s definitely not a massive fail, and something I want to try again… but, I can’t for the life of me figure out what we’re missing. Give it a try if you want, and let me know what you think!

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Butternut Squash and Poblano Enchiladas

From The Kitchenette

Serves 6

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Gather:
1 butternut squash, about 2 pounds
1 yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 head garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 roasted poblano peppers, seeds and skin removed
12 flour tortillas
4 cups shredded chicken (white and/or dark meat)
4 oz chorizo, minced
8 oz fontina cheese, shredded or sliced thinly

Prepare:
To prepare enchilada sauce: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the butternut squash in half and place cut-side down onto a baking sheet. Cut off the top of the head of garlic, and place in a small piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil onto the garlic, and then gently crush the foil around the garlic (you don’t want to “seal” the foil around the garlic, but instead ensure air can escape a little bit.) Place foil packet of garlic on baking sheet. Add quartered onions to pan. Brush onions and squash with remaining tablespoon of garlic and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or until squash is soft. Remove seeds from squash and discard. Scrape softened squash into a food processor. Add roasted onions, half of the roasted garlic, and the 2 poblanos to food processor, and pulse until the sauce is a smooth consistency (add water if necessary). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To assemble enchiladas: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add approximately 1/3 cup of shredded chicken and 1 tablespoon of minced chorizo to the middle of each tortilla, then roll into a cigar-shape. Place seam-side down in a baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Spread butternut squash sauce on top of tortillas, and sprinkle fontina on top of sauce. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, or until heated through. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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Now Playing: Led Zeppelin / I Can’t Quit You Baby

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Daring Cooks September 2009: Dosas with a Savory Chickpea Filling

Dosas with a Savory Chickpea Filling

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This month’s Daring Cooks Challenge was hosted by Debyi of Healthy Vegan Kitchen. She chose Indian Dosas from the reFresh: Contemporary Vegan Recipes from Award Winning Fresh Restaurants cookbook.

Let it be known – I generally don’t like Indian food. I think my dislike stems from not a lot of exposure to true Indian cuisine. So I made these dosas as sort of a “I need to try this” dish. I really like to try new things, so I was excited to try this, even if I wasn’t sure whether I would like it or not.

I’m really glad I only made 1/2 the recipe… because surprise, surprise – it wasn’t my thing.  I really wish it was, honestly.

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Dosas with a Savory Chickpea Filling - Soaking Dried Beans

Soaking dried chickpeas

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Because right after I made this, I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain where he visits the five boroughs of New York City. (Have I mentioned how much I heart the Bourdain? No? I heart him. I love his dirty say-whatever-I-want attitude. Hot. Sorry… tangent.) In the episode, he visits the Ganesh Temple at the Hindu Temple Society of North America, which serves classic South Indian food in its cafeteria. And guess what? Dosas were on the menu! But they looked nothing like the dosas I made here, unfortunately. They were much thinner (thinner than a crepe – I wasn’t aware that was even possible) but they looked really tasty. A lot of things looked really tasty on that episode.

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Dosas with a Savory Chickpea Filling - the filling

The filling – this was actually really tasty. I’m imagining it on a sandwich, or as a dip for chips, mixed in with some tahini…

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After tasting the filling (two thumbs up – sort of a tomato-ey deconstructed hummus with extra veggies?) I determined that I was not a fan of the coconut curry sauce that was served on top of the dosas. So I’m not writing off all Indian food. In fact, if you have any good recipes, I’d love to try them out. Please leave me a link!

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Playing in the Kitchenette: Starfucker – Isabella of Castille Seriously. My love for this band knows no bounds.

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Daring Cooks August 2009: Rice with Squid and Artichokes

DC August 2009

Hello, my darlings. I apologize for being away so long. The past month has been a bit of a whirlwind. I’m starting a new project at work, my father has been in for surgery, and I moved from one apartment to another. Not to mention, my friend Kristin came to visit me for a week of complete debauchery. It’s a wonder we weren’t arrested in the six days she was here. Needless to say, her visit was a delightful distraction from the events of the past month.

Of course, her visit was filled with food adventures as well, as she is an avid cook as well. We made pita bread from scratch, went to many a delicious dinner, and tackled this Daring Cooks challenge for August.

Truthfully, after my first challenge and the rigors of turning various moisture-filled foods into powder, and then serving those powders with bananas and fish, I thought I could take on anything. I mean, honestly… chemical warfare cuisine? I was a pro-freaking-fessional now. But then I read of this month’s challenge, and my mouth may or may not have dropped to the floor.

Because let’s face it, who really cooks with squid all that often? Nobody I know. But I was determined. Since the original recipe called for cuttlefish, I morphed into my normal high-maintenance self (own it!) and called up my local Whole Foods, and proceeded to ask them to special-order some cuttlefish for me. After two weeks of back-and-forth calls with the fish dudes, they came to the conclusion that they couldn’t get me any cuttlefish, because they couldn’t find a vendor that had sustainable fishing practices. Which was fine with me – I think you know where I stand on this issue – if it’s not sustainably fished or farmed, I don’t want it.

Squid was a good replacement, as it is generally sustainably caught. I have no idea what kind I bought, other than I know it was wild-caught. But since all of the kinds are listed as “good alternatives,” I felt okay about what I was using. Also, seafood win! Squid is super freaking cheap. Like $5.99-a-pound-at-Whole-Foods-CHEAP, and everyone has referred to as “Whole Wallet” every once in a while because we know they jack up their prices (but we love them anyways because they try to special-order stuff for us).

Anyhoodle, Kristin and I went to work on this month’s recipe, and I have to say…

… it was a MAJOR WIN. Who knew? I was really quite scared about cooking the squid, as I know that it’s generally cooked quickly (i.e. fried calamari) or low and slow (i.e…. other squid dishes). So the whole time we had the squid in the pan, I was mentally freaking out – OMG, I wonder if the heat is too high? I don’t want it to be the consistency of rubber!” You know, the usual I’m-freaking-because-I-never-cook-this-stuff freak outs. The squid came out tender and not at all rubbery, and the rice was perfectly al dente – just the tiniest bit of chewiness (is that a word? whatever, you know what I mean) without being all baby-food-soft. The aioli was the perfect addition to the dish – a hit of vinegar that you tasted at the beginning and end of each bite. The artichokes weren’t overwhelming, and neither was the saffron… just complements to the tomato-vegetable stew that we created in the first part of the recipe. Overall, I would highly encourage you to try out this dish if you like squid at all. I think I freaked out entirely too much about the cooking of the squid – as long as you follow the directions of the recipe, I think the fish will be cooked just fine.

Oh, and sorry about the lack of pictures this go-round… I wasn’t thinking of the blog at the time that we made this, and we may or may not have been drinking wine straight from the bottle by the time we were halfway into the recipe. I know. We’re classy. Come to your own conclusions.

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Daring Cooks July 2009: Skate with Powdered Traditional Flavors

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Yay! It’s a big day today! It’s the reveal of the July 2009 Daring Cooks Challenge! So exciting!

… Okay maybe I’m the only one who’s that excited, but I am. For those who don’t know, the Daring Cooks is an online group that food bloggers can join. Each month, there is a “challenge” to cook something you’re unfamiliar with. This month’s challenge, from Sketchy over at Sketchy’s Kitchen, was Skate with Powdered Traditional Flavors.

Powdered Flavors, you say? Yes, this dish is big on molecular gastronomy. MG often uses (food-safe) chemicals to manipulate the properties of common food ingredients, and it can result in some pretty cool dishes. (Mine is not one of them.)

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, skate are severely overfished and their population is on the decline since the fish grow slowly and have long lives. Because skate is listed as avoid, I chose to use Pacific cod instead. I also halved the recipe, making about 1 pound of fish instead of two, and halved the butter for the recipe as well.

  

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Read the recipe and see more pictures after the jump!

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