Saturday, February 5, 2011

Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake

A number of years ago, someone gave me a subscription to Gourmet Magazine. I got tired of tripping over the stack of mags and finally clipped out the recipes that I thought I'd be likely to use within my lifetime. Now that the magazine is defunct, I sometimes wish I'd kept the whole things, until commonsense kicks in and I realize that way lies the path to an appearance on Hoarders.

Instead, I present to you, this cake. I am happy to say that I have no idea which issue this recipe came from. Oh. Haha- there  it is at the bottom of the clipping. February 2004. How serendipitous.

12 oz bittersweet chocolate. I used most of one of those Pound Plus dark chocolate bars from TJ's.
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, although I ignored the 'unsalted' part as usual, and used salted.
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar- That's 12 tablespoons, which becomes relevant during the instructions.
5 large eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup AP flour

Pre-heat oven to 350. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. The instructions say to line the bottom of the pan with a circle of buttered wax or parchment paper, but I think that's silly. I just dusted the buttered pan with cocoa powder, since the bottom of the pan comes out and makes a perfectly good thing to serve with.

Melt the chocolate & butter in a double boiler over barely simmering water. You could do this in a microwave, but you risk over-heating the chocolate and curdling the batter. I like the double boiler method, because it is a bit slow, but more controlled.

While the chocolate is melting, separate the eggs. Put the whites and the salt into a fairly big mixing bowl and whisk the bejebus out of them until they make soft mounds around the whisk. Add 6 Tablespoons of sugar, whisking between each one to prevent the eggs from deflating. Continue whisking violently until the whites form stiff shiny peaks and there is no separate liquid left in the bowl.

Keep an eye on the chocolate. Stir it a bit every once in a while. As soon as the chocolate is melted, take it off the heat. If you stick your finger in it, it should be pleasantly warm, that way you know it isn't too hot for the eggs.

Whisk the egg yolks, sugar & vanilla together, then drizzle into the chocolate. Then whisk in the flour.  Once the chocolate & yolks are combined, give the whites one last beating to take up any liquid that has separated out. Mix about a third of the whites into the chocolate to lighten the texture, then gently fold the chocolate mix into the rest of the egg whites.

The instructions say to bake it for 35 to 45 minutes, but I am suspicious of my oven's functionality. I actually raised the temperature to almost 375, and went for about 40 minutes. Since it is a souffle related thing, I can't keep opening the door to look at it, and I felt little anxious about it. I guess I should get a new bulb for my oven light. Sigh. As you can see, the point of the thing is that it poofs up quite a bit in the oven, then falls down as it cools and forms a macaroon-like crust. Let it cool for a good 10 or 15 minutes before you take the sides of the pan off.

It looks pretty good, but it came out a little dry. 5 minutes less in the oven, I think. The topping definitely is a plus.

Strueberry Glue

a cup each of frozen strawberries & blueberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

Put the berries & sugar in a little saucepan on medium. As soon as it begins simmering, mix the starch with a teaspoon of water and stir it in. Wait til it thickens, and remove from heat.

I liked a number things about this recipe right off the bat. It uses the entire egg, for one thing. I am not totally against recipes that use uneven quantities of whites & yolks, but I'd rather not have leftover bits and parts in the fridge. Also, it allows you to adjust the degree of sweetness quite a bit. I didn't add quite the full amount of sugar called for. I prefer more chocolate and less sweet, the older I get. The recipe does not call for anything exotic or expensive, which is unusual for a Gourmet Mag recipe, neither does it require an unusual investment of time, technique or bizarre equipment. An electric mixer would be a nice thing to have for the egg whites, but it took me very little time to do it by hand and I got a good upper-body workout at the same time.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Plum Buns!

Pardon the not so great pictures. This post is a result of impulse behaviors. The first was buying the steamer at goodwill, the second was deciding yesterday morning that I had to make mantoh rightnow!

Mantoh are steamed buns. There are oodles of recipes out there, but it's just bread cooked in a steamer. Dad made them all the time when I was a kid. I never really liked them except when they were fresh out of the cooker, because they develop a very stiff texture once they cool. But, nostalgia is a strange thing, and I was all antsy to use the steamer for something.

I took the first plain white bread recipe I found online:

1 cup water
3 cups flour
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

and I put it in the dough cycle on my bread machine before I ran out the door to go to work.

When I got home, I punched all the air out of the dough and kneaded it down some. I wanted to work as many of the large bubbles out of the dough as possible. I divided the dough into 8 pieces, and put about 1 1/2 tablespoons of plum jam in each one. I oiled the steamer trays a bit, set the buns in them, then let them proof for about 20 minutes, which was just enough time to get the water boiling really hard in the reservoir pan. 30 minutes of steaming seems to be the right amount of time.

Some notes for next time:

1. Less salt, unless I'm using a savory filling. I want a char siu recipe.
2. The ones that broke open were the ones I put in the trays with the part of the dough where I had pinched the bun shut facing up. Obviously they needed to be sitting on their seals in order not to explode.
3. I think I made the dough a little too soft. When dad made filled buns they were bao dze. He had some method of pinching them closed that created a little swirly pattern on top like a nut had been screwed into 'em.
4. Possibly, I over-proofed the dough. They might hold their shape better if I made the buns as soon as the dough was ready to use.
5. The plum jam was the same as I used last year for making tang yuan. I almost never want it, but it sure is nice to have in the freezer when I do, because it is an almighty nuisance to make.
6. Lastly, another of the miracles of modern technology: microwave ovens. To overcome the rubbery texture these things acquire after cooling, re-heat them on the defrost setting for about a minute. The low power will help avoid the phenomenon of leathery microwaved bread.