Posted in Prose

A Soufflé Day

            Tonight, a little culinary therapy is in order. As luck would have it, you have just enough energy and all of the supplies at home to make some magic happen. It’s much easier to whip up a dessert soufflé than most people realize. After all it can be made with so few ingredients, one of which has a dual purpose and extraordinary properties that makes air edible.

            Inside your pantry there’s a bag of Valrhona’s Manjari baking chocolate. You know that this particular flavor, being 64% cocoa, is actually sweeter than one would think. Perhaps it’s the fruity undertones or the slight smokiness that creates vast complexities not seen in the standard Hershey’s bar. Of course, Hershey’s has its place—s’mores aren’t quite s’mores without it—but not for tonight’s creation. You pour eight ounces of the oval discs into a bain-marie and let the bubbling water melt this Food of the Gods into a pool of velvet.

            Now it’s time for the eggs and it’s not a soufflé without the eggs. It would be sacrilege to say otherwise. You separate seven large, humanely raised eggs. Oh, look how orange those yolks are and how proud they wobble. That’s how you know they’re free range and farm fresh. Take care not to leave any of the sunny centers in the pale, yellowy whites. You won’t be able to get the right volume into the meringue if there’s any fat present. Or that little chip of brown eggshell. If a little shell does get away from you, you know that you can dip one of the broken haves into the bowl and the fragment will be attracted to it like a magnet.

            Start your hand mixer to initiate the true magic of the soufflé. With an eighth of a teaspoon of lemon juice added in, you know that the acid will help the proteins in the egg whites expand, to let the air in between the molecules more efficiently. After the initial froth, you add in some sugar and turn up the speed and take care not to over beat. The result should be stiff, like a masquerade of whipped cream.

            Now that the whites are aerated, and the chocolate is melted, it is time to bring the egg yolks back into the party. To avoid scrambling them, you have to temper them. You start to beat the orange pods while at the same time adding a few swirls of melted chocolate. You cannot add too much or else they will scramble with from the heat. Once the yolks are suddenly more brown than sunny, you know it is time to mix in the rest of the chocolate.

            Now you delicately fold the whites in to the chocolate-egg yolk base. The tried and true recipe says to be gentle, but there has to be some moxie. You must strive to ensure that no streaks of white are left behind, but if you overwork the batter too much, the soufflé won’t rise. Balance sustains the magic.

            In a round ceramic dish smeared with unsalted Irish butter and dusted with sugar, pour the batter in and smooth the top out. You slide your finger along the rim of the dish; this will help the soufflé to rise better. And you get a taste of your creation. It only takes thirty minutes in the oven, but your stomach and woes seem to think it’s an eternity gone by. The chocolate cloud slowly—millimeter by millimeter—forms a pillow in the heat that you know is pure sin captured from above.

            You remove the hot dish from the rack as slowly and carefully as your hunger allows and set it on a trivet on your counter. But it’s inevitable. Even before you pierce the dome, it starts to fall, to disappoint. The regret evaporates when you scoop out the stuff that looks like cake turned into clouds. Spooning it on to a plate you then add fresh, juicy raspberries and a scoop of creamy, Madagascar vanilla gelato. Why not go all out?

            This is not the taste of heaven or sin though, you realize, although, you’ve known that all along. The combination of melting ice cream, berries, and chocolate (the magic of the eggs) is the stuff of life. Singularities brought together in delicious harmony.

            There is no greater truth—food, really is, life.

©Ginger Lee Thomason and gingerleethomason.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ginger Lee Thomason and gingerleethomason.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Header image was taken with an iPhone 8 by Ginger Lee Thomason in Paris in March 2018.

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