11 – Not-So-Perfect Vanilla Soufflé

souflees 001
Clearly I filled these a little bit too much

“When the hell am I ever going to use these?” – that’s what I said when I received them for Christmas. And then, of course, came the added, “I mean, thank you very much, sweetheart – they’re wonderful!”

But seriously, being as this was before I even started my cooking challenge, I wondered (near audibly, but thankfully not) as to what sort of a wife would buy her husband these…these…things? Maybe the wife of a man who already owns a mini-blowtorch and loves home-made crème brûlée? Possibly? Or perhaps a woman whose husband has such a debilitating ice cream addiction that he needs extreme portion control?

Maybe it makes sense for the wives of those husbands to purchase these items…but why my wife? Did she actually think they’d get any use with me as their owner?

If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m talking about ramekins – at least, that’s what I’m told they are. Though I’ve never made anything requiring a ramekin in the past, I apparently needed a set. Now, if you anglicise the term “crème brûlée”, it’s technically “burnt cream”. Though I’ve technically “burned cream” before, but it was neither intentional nor appetizing.

The reason my wife bought me these ramekins was simple – she has a bit of an addiction to Le Creuset, and they were the smallest, cheapest things she could buy to increase our collection. Actually, to be fair, we both salivate when we go into any sort of kitchen store and they carry the colourful French cookware. First, we got a red Le Creuset braiser for our wedding, along with some purple baking dishes; later, my wife bought me a blue gravy boat in celebration of it being a regular uneventful weekday; finally, the worst kept secret in the lead-up to Christmas was the red teapot I was “hiding” from her in the guest room. Adding four small blue ramekins nearly doubled our collection instantly.

Now, my wife is a smart woman, truth be told. She must have known these new baking pieces would cause a sort of W. P. Kinsella “If you build it, he will come” sort of situation: “if you buy him ramekins, he will bake with them”. Tricky, tricky woman.

So, hosting my parents the other night, but making a once-tried and true recipe (the pork vinadaloo I’ve posted about), I wanted to add in something new. Stuffed on dinner, with nobody pressing for dessert, I get to mixing. The phrase “my son James made us soufflé” isn’t one I’d imagine my mom’s planned on using before, so – using that randomness as motivation – that’s what I decided on making.

Honestly, I don’t recall ever eating a soufflé before that night, but I think it worked out okay. I searched a bit online and pulled up a page titled “Perfect Vanilla Soufflé“, realized I had all the required ingredients in my possession, and made a quick decision to go for it.

souflees 004
So much hope; so much promise. This was the second batch, before deflating like a Patriots football

From the experience, I learned a few things that will help make for a more successful second attempt, namely:

  • overfilling the ramekins ruins the shape and the cook of the soufflé (see picture at beginning of post)
  • how full actually is too full (important to know once you know the dangers of overfilling)
  • not all ramekins are created equal (mine are smaller than average, I assume)
  • serving a first round of soufflés, then washing the ramekins, then baking a second batch – though impressive in industriousness and effort – takes too long and leads to a sunken, deflated second round of dessert (see picture below)
souflees 005
Trust me – they looked light and fluffy two minutes earlier

For a first effort, however, they were pretty good. I’m not sure what the Platonic ideal of a soufflé is exactly, but I don’t think I was too far off the mark. I tried to decorate the second batch with powdered sugar hearts, but once they deflated the hearts were unidentifiable. Oh well – I guess I should have taken a picture faster.

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