Chocolate Soufflé

This is the first time in many months that I have participated in a Daring Kitchen Challenge. 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 souffle recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.

The only other time I had prepared a soufflé was after the IWC French cooking demo. It was a cheese soufflé and didn’t turn out quite as I imagined.  I had a hard time folding in the egg mixture to the cheese mixture.  I assumed that I did something wrong, maybe the cheese wasn’t cheesy enough or the eggs were to stiff and dense, what ever the reason, I wasn’t happy with my results.  When I read about the DK Souffle challenge, I thought this was my chance to redeem myself.

Of the types of soufflés that were suggested, the chocolate soufflé was easiest option to procure ingredients, and I had extra 70% dark chocolate bars, so there was nothing I didn’t have available, except; equipment wise. I didn’t have on hand the 8oz (240ml) ramekins, which the recipe called for, so I had to make due with 3 larger vessels, there was a 4th which had miraculously disappeared.

This recipe also provided me with another opportunity to try out one of Martha Stewart’s November Good Things, a powdered sugar shaker made with a Ball jar and cheesecloth.  

Here is Gordon Ramsey’s Chocolate Soufflé recipe, which is also found on the BBC Good Food

For the Dishes

2 tbsp (30 ml) 1 oz (30 g) unsalted butter, for greasing
Cocoa powder or finely grated chocolate

For the Creme Patisserie

2 tbsp (30 ml) (18 g) (2/3 oz) all-purpose flour
2 tsp (10 gm) (.35 oz) caster (superfine) sugar (regular sugar is OK)
1/2 tsp (4 1/2 g) (.15 oz) corn starch (aka corn flour)
1 md egg yolk
1 md whole egg
4 tbsp (60 ml) milk
5 tbsp (75 ml) heavy cream (or double cream)
3 oz (90 g) good-quality dark chocolate 70% cocoa solids, broken in pieces
2 tbsp (30 ml) (15 g) (1/2 oz) unsweetened cocoa powder

For the Egg White

6 md egg whites
6 1/2 tbsp (95 ml) 3 oz (90 g) superfine/caster sugar


1. Heat the oven to moderate 375F (190 C)
2. Take four 1 cups/ 240 ml soufflé dishes and brush then completely with softened butter.  Tip a little cocoa or grated chocolate into each dish, roll the dish around tiliting it as you do so it is evenly lined all around.
3. For the creme patisserie, mix the flour, sugar and corn starch intoa small bowl.  Put egg yolk and whole egg into a medium siced bowl, lightly beat, then beat in half of the flour mixture to give a smooth paste.  Tip in the rest of the flour mixture and cocoa powder and mix well.
4. To make ganache, pour mild and cream into a pan and bring just to a boil.  Remove from the heat.  Add the chocalte and beat until it is melted and smooth with no lumps.
5. Gradually stir hot chocolate ganacu into the paste from step 3.
6. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks with an electric whisk.  Sprinkle in the sugar as you ar mixing.  Keep whisking to give stiff, firm peask to give volume to the soufflé.

7. Stir about 2 tbsp (30 ml) of the beaten egg whites into the creme patisserie.  Carefully fold in a third of the rest, cutting through the mixture.  Fold in another third (take care not to lose the volume), then fold in the rest.
8. Spoon the mixture into the dishes.  Run a spoon across the top of each dish so the mixture is completely flat.  Take a little time to wipe any splashes off the outside of each dish, or they will burn on while cooking.
9. Bake the soufflés for 15 – 17 minutes.
10. The soufflés should have risen about two thirds of their original height and jiggle when moved, but be set on top.
The consensus in the family was not very positive towards the soufflé.  My girls thought the chocolate flavor was too bitter and not sweet enough and my husband wasn’t too jazzed about them either.  I think I had the same problem as I did with the cheese soufflé, which was I didn’t get the two mixtures to incorporate correctly.  Also, since I didn’t have the correct size ramekin, I might have over cooked them a bit.  
Have you ever made a soufflé?  What are some tips that you can offer or what are some of your hesitations about making a soufflé?

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Herbes de Provence Crusted Roast Pork: IIP

After a long pause, I am back partying with the International Incident Party (IIP) crew with Penny of Jeroxie at the helm. This month we are rocking out with one of my favorite ingredients Lavender! 

The plant that I am most proud of in my garden is my lavender. My pride comes not from the exoticness of the flora, but the fact that I grew it from seed. Lavender, like rosemary is difficult to germinate. Now before I wow you with my horticultural aptitude, I must confess it was an accident.  I totally neglected the seeds for a few months and when I went to check on them I discovered two True Lavender seedlings.

Culinarily, lavender lends itself quite easily to confectionary treats, but I wanted to explore the savory side of thing with a Provençal pork roast. The idea to use floral essences with meat came from last years Food and Wine November issue. They suggested a homage to the flavors of the South of France with a Thanksgiving menu created to highlight these delights. To accompany the roast, I could have served some braised or roasted fennel and topped the roast with lovely sauce with a hint of Pernod, but fennel is hard to find outside of Sofia and the meat was juicy, plus the family was hungry.

The herbes de Provence came entirely from the herbs in my garden, with the exception of the fennel seed. When researching the different blend rations I discovered a few hints and tips for making a successful blend. The first being, that the primary flavors of the blend are thyme and summer savory.  For those of you who do not live in Bulgaria, summer savory (aka chubritza/чубрица) is the most important seasoning after salt. When you see condiments on a table, often in place of the black pepper you will see summer savory. The second point is that dried herbs work better if you are cooking for longer than 20 minutes. Fresh herbs will lose their flavor. I am not 100 percent sure that that is true, but I dried some of my fresh herbs in the oven on low heat.

Herbes de Provence:

1 1/2 tsp summer savory
1 1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp lavender
1/4 tsp sage


Combine all of the dried spices, place in a food processor, spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Grind till you reach your desired texture. Be sure to break down the fennel seeds.

Herbes de Provence Crusted Roast Pork:

1 kg (2.2 lb) pork loin
5 – 6 tsp herbes de provence
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
fresh cracked pepper
2 tbsp olive oil


Combine the herbs, mustard, salt and pepper.  Evenly coat the entire pork loin with the herb mixture.  Wrap with plastic and refrigerate at least 4 hours or over night.

Removed the pork from the fridge about 2 hours before cooking and let come to room temperature.

Pre-heat oven to 155C (300F)

Sear meat on all sides, them roast in oven for about 40 minutes till internal temperature hits 55C (130F).  Remove from oven and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes, the temperature should raise resulting in a perfect, juicy medium rare.

Saint Jean de Luz, France – Farmers Market

Hendaya, France

My family and I spent two weeks traipsing across the European continent from Bulgaria to France’s Côte Basque region on the Atlantic Coast. I set out to procure two things from our family vacation; one, I wanted to find a true French Tarragon plant for my garden and two, buy some french pink garlic for myself and my friend Sally. As the shopping habits of the French seem to have morphed from small markets and individual shops to the American-style shopping centers or hypermarchés, so I found my search for garlic and tarragon becoming more difficult. But, thanks to a guide book that I acquired a few years back, I knew that St. Jean de Luz held a bi-weekly farmers market, which due to the age of my book is now daily.
Like a kid waiting for Christmas, I woke up around 7 am, while my husband snored in the tent, lying beside me. I started tossing, turning and yawning hoping my subtle clues would rouse him, but he just grumbled and handed me my book and glasses from his side of the inflatable mattress. I got the hint.

Getting more use out of our WWOOF-ing tent!

I was worried that the information in my book wasn’t accurate, plus there was no time frame mentioned.  Maybe it started early and would be done before lunch… I had no idea. Angel kindly informed me that this was France and he doubted it started before 10am, as the french go. He was right, but I was still anxious. I love wandering around markets and I go to any length to incorporate them in to my vacations, like in Fremantle, WA, Australia.

After struggling to find a parking spot, I used my “unagi” to guide us to the correct location and there it was… a vision of delectable bounty. If I hadn’t been with my husband I could have spent time at every table sampling meats and cheese, absorbing the intoxications smells and visions, but I was on a time crunch to make the most of this experience and not waste a good beach day!
Beautiful Paella!

My garlic mission was accomplished. I found garlic and as an added bonus, some huge shallots, which are by far my favorite cooking ingredient, I only wish my garden had produced such beauties, but I did get enough to plant this fall and hopefully have a better harvest next Spring/Summer! I also, eventually found my tarragon plant, which was covered with rust spots. I was sure I could salvage it, but as luck would have it I left it at the campsite and only remembered that I left it when we passed Toulouse on our return to Bulgaria. My husband suggested going back, but I knew it just wasn’t meant to be…

Les Halles at St. Jean de Luz is a huge and wonderful market. If you are in the area worth checking out. For more information on the market (in French) please click here.

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Chocolate Eclairs, Cheese Soufflé and other French culinary masterpieces!

On Wednesday, I had the privilege of attending a French cooking demo at the home of Madame Caroline de Poncins, wife of the French Ambassador to Bulgaria.  She was kind enough to give us the afternoon with the Yannis Richard chef to the French residence, who taught us how to prepare an amazing lunch! 

I didn’t know what to expect from this demonstration and was surprised that we would have a chance to cook as well.  We were lead down to the kitchen in the French residence and there were three stations set up for us.  We were a group of 15, so 5 per group.

The calm before the storm!
The storm!
Chocolate Eclair mise en place
Blanquette De Volaille A l’Ancienne (Old Chicken Stew)
The first recipe that we started to prepare was Eclair au Chocolat (Chocolate Eclair), which was something completely new for me baking wise.  The dough was Pâte à chou and I have never prepared anything like this before, so I was quite enthusiastic.  We were given all the recipes, but they were in French, so I will translate a few of them for you, but keeping the measurements in metrics, because translating sucks and metrics are more reliable!!!
Eclair au Chocolat

25 cl Water
125g Flour
60g Butter
20g Sugar
3 Eggs
Pastry Cream:
50cl Milk
100g Sugar
50g Flour
20g Cocoa Powder
3 Egg Yolks
200g Dark Chocolate, broken into small pieces
40g Butter
160g Vegetable Cream
Dough: Bring a pot with the water, salt and sugar to a boil.  
Add the all the flour to the boiling water mixture.  Using a spatula, continuously stir the mixture for a few minutes, until most of the water has evaporated.  Remove the pot from the heat and add the eggs, one at a time and mix nonstop till completely incorporated and forms a moist ball. (You will really need some arm muscles for this, so don’t be discouraged, keep at it.  When it is ready the ball of dough will make a slapping sound when you shake the pot.)
Once you have the right consistency, place the dough in a pastry bag with a wide tip or opening.  You can pipe the dough on to a baking sheet, buttered and floured or on a silicone baking mat.
Make sure to pre-heat the oven to 170C, then bake for 25 – 30 minutes.

Chocolate Pastry Cream: Place the milk into a pot and bring to a boil.  Separate the egg yolks and then combine the yolks with the sugar, whisking until the mixture is white and fluffy. 

Then add the flour and the cocoa to the yolk sugar mixture.  Continue mixing till fully incorporated. 

Pour the boiled milk on the mixture and whisk continuously till it is smooth and creamy.
Place the mixture in a clean bowl, and press plastic wrap on to the surface of the pastry cream, so a skin doesn’t for then refrigerate till ready to use.
Glaze: Heat the cream and the butter in a pot, then add the chocolate, mix until melted and incorporated.  The glaze should be shiny and brilliant, set aside in a warm place, so the glaze doesn’t harden.
Finishing the eclairs: Using a pastry bag fitted with a small – medium size tip, fill the eclairs, use your hand the feel the weight.  You should be able to see the chocolate disperse through the eclair.  Fill them slowly to avoid rupturing the eclair.  Once full they should feel heavy. 
Then dip the tops of the eclair in the chocolate glaze and set aside till you are ready to enjoy!
We also had a chance to prepare and Old Chicken Stew, which was our main course, served with Rice Pilaf.  I will not translate this recipe, but I will share the photos of the process.  I also took some videos of the Chef Richard cutting up a chicken, which was really interesting.  I’ve posted the 4 videos on my Facebook fan page.  Please view them here and become a fan if you aren’t already.
The chicken cut into pieces
All the chicken, plus carcass into the pot with Maggi Chicken Cubes (I don’t feel bad now when I cheat and use them, which is infrequently, but the guilt is real!)
Carrots for the stew.
Pouring the broth through a chinois, which will help to remove impurities.
Our lunch served with the Rice Pilaf, on the official French dinnerware.
Where lunch was served!
This was a fantastic demo. I have omitted one dish, which was the Cheese Soufflé because I plan to make this recipe soon and do a separate step-by-step post about it. 
The IWC has again done a wonderful job organizing this wonderful intercultural culinary exploration.  Many thanks to everyone! Your hard work is appreciate.  I look forward to next month!
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Lavender Crème Brûlé

Lavender infused crème brûlée is my absolute favorite dessert.  I first discovered it in a restaurant in Astoria, New York called “La Sans Souci”, which was also one of my favorite restaurants in New York. Six months after being in Bulgaria, I returned to New York and was dying to visit La Sans Souci, to my disappointment it was gone.  I was crushed, not just because it had closed, but because so much had changed in my six month absence.  
I was not going to take this news lying down.  How could a popular restaurant just close down?  Turns out the head chef Eric Le Dily had decided to open his own place in Port Washington, New York, the Bistro du Village, leaving the owner of La Sans Souci high and dry… I actually do not know the story, but can assume.  The new restaurant has been open about as long as I have been in Bulgaria.  My next trip back to the states, I am going to make a pilgrimage and pray that lavender infused crème brûlée is on the menu!

Scouring the web to try and recreate his magic I stumbled upon a few recipes. This one is adapted from Rocco DiSpirito.

1 cup (236ml) whole milk

1 cup (236ml) cream  (I use President’s whipping cream because it is available in Bulgaria)
2 – 4 (30 – 60ml) tablespoons of dried lavender (depending on how strong you want the lavender flavor)
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup (79ml) granulated sugar
plus brown sugar/ raw sugar for the brûlée

Preheat the oven to 275F (135C) Boil milk and cream together in a saucepan, don’t let it boil over.  

Remove from the heat and add the lavender. Let it seep for at least one hour.
Strain the mixture and gently press the to get the remaining liquid.
Transfer to a clean saucepan (or wash the first one) Boil again, remove from heat.
Whisk together yolks and sugar till combined, don’t over mix.
Very slowly incorporate the lavender cream into the egg mixture.
Place ramekins into a baking dish. Divide custard evenly into ramekins.  
I usually get 6, into my oblong ones about 2 – 3 ounces each, but this time I did about 4 oz into 4.
  Add water to the baking dish till the ramekins are covered halfway.
Bake for 25 – 35 minutes.

 During the last 10 minutes, check frequently for doneness.  They should have a little jiggle.
Remove from water, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.

Before serving, sprinkle about 1 tablespoon (15ml) of brown sugar on top of the custard and swirl it around till evenly coated.
Using a kitchen torch, move the slowly till you have a nice brown crust. Enjoy!
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