Thursday, November 25, 2010

Winning Hearts and Minds Cake

I first read about this cake in Molly Wizenberg's book "A Homemade Life" (highly recommend!!!!) and I knew I had to try it. She baked dozens of this cake in advance, froze it, and served it at her wedding, so I figured there must be something special to this one! I was dying to try it! It looked pretty simple, so I prepared it on a crazy busy day for a friend's housewarming party. (the recipe looked pretty easy) I used Valhrona chocolate and fancy Irish butter, which the recipe called for.

Unfortunately, the cake was a fail. :( I ended up cooking it for longer than the recipe called for, but the cake still seemed too gooey and butter seemed to drip out of it. I ended up asking Tinger for a picture of her cake (same one), and hers looked much more well done. So, I think I just didn't cook it enough, and perhaps something I did increased the required baking time. I guess this chocolate cake warrants another shot.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

First Daring Cook's Challenge: Souffle

I usually try to time my monthly challenges with an event or gathering, just so I won't be eating dozens of doughnuts and souffles on my own. Luckily, my roommate's birthday tea coincided with the souffle challenge. I was so excited to try my hand at souffles! Given that many guests were bringing sweets, I decided to experiment with a savory souffle. After searching, I came across Ina Garten's cheddar and spinach souffle, which sounded easy and yummy!

Of course, we all held our breath for the big question...Did it rise?! Unfortunately, it didn't get the height that I wanted; however, it was tasty and totally hit the spot. Maybe next time I'll try putting parchment on the inside of the dish. It did encourage me that chefs on Top Chef: Just desserts were commenting on how hard souffles are to me. So, I am not the only one. I did love the concept, so this won't be the last time for souffles!

Spinach and Cheddar Souffle (from Ina Garten)

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup scalded milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 extra-large egg yolks, at room-temperature
  • 1/2 cup grated aged Cheddar cheese, lightly packed
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 5 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter the inside of a 6 to 8-cup souffle dish (6 1/2 to 7 1/2 inches in diameter by 3 1/2 inches deep) and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, the nutmeg, cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until smooth and thick.

Off the heat, while still hot, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the Cheddar, 1/4 cup of Parmesan and the spinach and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 1 minute, on medium speed for 1 minute, then finally on high speed until they form firm, glossy peaks.

Whisk one quarter of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten and then fold in the rest. Pour into the souffle dish, then smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help the souffle rise evenly, and place in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (don't peek!) until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.