Kitchen Experiments: Chocolate Souffle

Souffles always seemed like a mythical dessert to me. I’ve heard so many good and bad things about them, mostly about how finicky and difficult they are to pull off. The only time I’ve seen them is on TV, being made by professionals who know the ins and outs of this show stopping and fantastical dessert. My sister had been nagging me to make these but I kept putting off because I only thought about their supposed difficulty, and because I was afraid of failure. She was so adamant about me making them, she even bought me the set of ramekins. Even then, I put them off for as long as possible. I decided to look them up to see what all the fuss was about and realized that souffles are nothing I haven’t tackled before! Since I’m not one to decline a challenge, I finally went for it.

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Souffles are actually a pretty simple dish. In this case, it’s basically just melted chocolate and whipped egg whites; both of which I have tons of experience in. With that in mind, here’s how I did it.

Using this recipe as my guide, I started out by prepping my ingredients earlier in the day. For this, we need the whites separate from the yolks. Both will be used but at different steps in the process. The best way to separate an egg is cold out of the fridge; they separate a lot easier than if the whole egg was room temp. Egg whites are best whipped at room temp, so store the yolks and whites in separate containers and leave them out. In a rush? Place the lidded containers in a little bit of warm water for several minutes until they’re no longer cold. I also took out the butter, and went about my day. I didn’t make these until after dinner, which meant that the separated eggs and butter had plenty of time to reach temp.

When I was ready, I started out by preheating my oven to 375F. Once that was done, I buttered and sugared my ramekins. These were four 4oz ramekins, meaning they are tiny. I reckon this recipe could possibly work with a muffin tin if these sized ramekins are unavailable. The easiest way to coat them is with a brush, if you have it. If not, feel free to use a napkin or your hands. Once buttered, spoon in some sugar into a ramekin and slowly move it around the ramekin to evenly coat. I like to rotate the ramekin over another one so that the excess sugar can fall into the next one. Continue until all ramekins are coated.

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Place the buttered ramekins to the side because it’s chocolate time! Grab three ounces of semi sweet chocolate chips. I used my scale to weigh mine out for accuracy’s sake. I’m not sure how much that is by volume; my guess is almost a cup or so. Throw the chips into a heat proof bowl, along with the room temp butter. Place the bowl over a small pot with simmering water. This setup is called a double boiler. I don’t know why it’s called that, considering that nothing besides the water in the bottom pot could be boiling but okay. This process helps melt the chocolate gently, without burning it. While we’re on the subject of messing chocolate up, take care to not get any water from the double boiler inside of your melting chocolate; it will seize and it just won’t work or be a pretty sight.

Once melted, take off the double boiler and add the vanilla or other flavoring. I took advantage of this part and threw in a little cognac for good measure ;). Start adding the egg yolks, one at a time, and stir it into the chocolate. This is another reason why things are better at room temp. Had the yolks been cold, it would have seized the chocolate and things would’ve gotten real messy, real quick.

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After incorporating both yolks, put the bowl off to the side; it’s time for step three: the meringue. In my last Kitchen Experiments installment, I made meringues and walked through the process of how to get stiff peaks. This is the same method/technique/principle here. It may also be where a lot of people tend to screw up, perpetuating the myth that souffles are intimidating and difficult. Since we already know how to handle meringues, this wasn’t that difficult. Place your room temp whites, sugar, salt, and instant peak security (the cream of tartar) in the bowl, and begin to whip with an electric mixer. Make sure the bowl and beaters are grease free, as that will also ensure the creation of the meringues. Keep going till they’re voluminous, fluffy, shiny, and leave a trail in the bowl. Stop the mixer, dip the beaters and lift them up. If the peaks stay standing without flopping over, the whites are ready. If not, keep on trucking till they are.

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Now that the meringue is done, it’s time to fold it into the chocolate. Do this in two installments with a rubber spatula. Gently fold it it, taking care not to deflate the whites. Rotating the bowl helps for even folding. Don’t fret if you get some streaks, it’s all good!

Once all the whites are folded, pour into the prepared ramekins. I used an ice cream scoop for easy portioning but feel free to spoon or pour; whatever works best for you. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan and pop into the oven for 15-20 minutes. At around the 10 minute mark, turn your oven light on and surprise yourself with the sights. I know I did!

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After about 15-18 minutes in the oven, I took mine out. I was so excited to see they worked! I quickly plated one and began photographing. The one thing that was a fact about the souffle myth is that they do fall fairly quickly; which is why this is such a fancy and last minute dessert. As they cool, the tops deflate. Not pretty but still delicious. Speaking of which, these things were so good! It was like eating a slightly underbaked, cloud like brownie. The insides were very fluffy (thanks, meringue!) and super chocolatey. Yeah, it was piping hot but it really was amazing. It exceeded my expectations and is making me wonder what took me so long to make these!

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Despite all myth surrounding this heavenly dessert, I’m glad I conquered it and hope that anyone else out there afraid of souffles does too. It really is a simple process that with a little bit of care and good technique, it can definitely turn out successful.

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Mini Chocolate Souffles – adapted from Tablespoon

Makes four 4oz ramekins

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3oz semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons rum (optional)
  • 2 eggs, separated and room temp.
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for ramekins
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Use the 1/2 tbsp butter to thoroughly coat the insides of four 4-oz. ramekins. Fill the ramekins with sugar and dump out, tapping out the excess. The insides of the ramekins should be completely coated with sugar.
  2. Over medium-high heat, bring a small pot with a couple inches of water to a simmer. Place a heatproof bowl on the pot, making sure the water is NOT touching the bowl.  Add the chocolate chips and butter to the bowl, and stir until completely melted. 
  3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, rum if using, and egg yolks, one at a time. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine egg whites, sugar, salt and cream of tartar. Using an electric hand mixer, whisk the egg white mixture until stiff peaks form. 
  5. Gently fold the egg white mixture in two batches into the chocolate mixture. Spoon into the ramekins, filling them 3/4 full and bake souffles for about 15-20 minutes or until puffed and set. Sprinkle tops with powdered sugar if desired and serve immediately.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Don’t skip the powdered sugar at the end! Sift some on top before serving. Just make sure there aren’t any fans around
  • Feeling extra? Serve with ice cream on the side.
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Pineapple Upside Down Cornmeal Cake

These past two weeks have been so hectic! I started working for my cousins at their grocery store and what was supposed to be a light and easy gig turned into a full time bout of responsibility in a matter of minutes. They needed someone to cashier for them a couple times a week and since I was available, they asked me to do it. I’ve never been a cashier before, so it has been a learning experience. Trust me though, I picked up VERY quickly. Like a week in, my cousin’s wife (who also works there) had to take an emergency leave at the same time the other cousin was taking his two weeks off. I had to maneuver my post by myself every single day since then. My shifts range anywhere from eight to nine hours, which are doing a number on my feet and legs. It’s super tiring and sometimes boring but it’s okay. My cousin is super grateful that I’m there and I’m always happy to help. The only caveat is that I don’t have time to bake anymore! Unfortunately, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to rest and get in the kitchen.

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I got home a little early last Sunday and was inspired to bake, tiredness be damned. For some reason, I had upside down cake on the brain. Before this blog’s existence, I once made a pineapple upside down cake. I used my mom’s casserole dish and was super psyched about it. It was good and my folks loved it, except most of it stayed in the pan. I knew I wanted to do it again but with a twist. You already know my dad is a corn fanatic, so I thought why not work that in? A quick search led me to this pineapple upside down cornmeal cake.

I had been working all morning and was sort if disheveled by the time I made it home, so I kinda maybe screwed up in parts. Firstly, I went with blinders on into the supermarket for ingredients. I was too focused on speeding up the trip than on what I needed, and ended up with pineapple chunks instead of rings. Then, I had the brilliant idea of making this in a spring form pan to ensure its removal in one piece. Good idea — in theory. The caramel and pineapple juice started oozing out from the bottom, leaving me with trails of sugar all over my kitchen and kitchen table. Not only that, but I forgot to put a sheet pan under it in the oven until 5 minutes in. Some of that caramel fell on the oven floor; causing it to burn and smoke while the cake baked.

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Despite all this, the cake came out great. Nothing stuck to the pan and I made everything work. I didn’t have maraschino cherries, so I used real ones. I cut the chunks in half and lined the whole pan because the more pineapple, the better right? Then I swapped the whole milk for coconut, to add a little richness and extra flavor (although it was undetectable). The best part is that this recipe uses coarse cornmeal, which adds a lot of texture to the cake. I have to say, for all those screw ups and the long wait, it was definitely worth it. It was like a corn muffin turned up a notch. The fruit got all nice, sweet and tender. Then the caramel. Oh goodness, the caramel! Some of it came up the sides of the cake while baking, which hardened after it got cold. So good! I have to say, for a last minute thing, it came out pretty darn good. I just hope I have more time to get back in the kitchen soon!

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Pineapple Upside Down Cornmeal Cake – adapted from Food Network

Makes 1 10-inch or 9-inch cake

  • 3/4 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1 cup coarse ground cornmeal
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces dark brown sugar, approximately 1 cup
  • 6 slices canned pineapple in heavy syrup
  • 6 maraschino cherries, or regular cherries
  • 3 tablespoons juice from canned pineapple
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 4 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 1 cup
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 3/4 ounces sugar, approximately 3/4 cup
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Add the cornmeal and stir. Let soak at room temperature for 30 minutes and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in another small saucepan. Once the butter has melted, add the brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and pour into the cake pan. Carefully place 1 slice of pineapple in the center of the pan. Place the other 5 slices around the center slice in a circle. Place the cherries in the centers of the pineapple slices and sprinkle the nuts evenly over the fruit. Drizzle pineapple juice over top.
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
  5. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the sugar to the eggs and whisk to combine. Add the canola oil and whisk. Add the cornmeal and milk mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Add this to the flour and stir just until combined. Pour the batter over the fruit in the skillet and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes in the skillet. Set a platter on top of the skillet and carefully invert the cake. Serve.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • You can use a regular 9 inch cake pan; my spring form is 9 inches and it worked out fine (for the most part)
  • This was great with pineapples but I bet it’d go great with other kinds of fruit; like all cherries or maybe even peaches

1st Blogaversary! – Chocolate Mug Cake

It’s my blog’s birthday! My tiny baby is now one. I can’t even believe its been a year already; it went by so fast! I have to say, I never expected my blog to grow into something like this. Granted, its still a baby and has tons to grow but I feel like we’re onto something. I started this blog when I finished college last year, as a way to keep myself occupied during my job hunt. A year has passed, and I’m still looking. The only constant thing since then has been me in the kitchen. I’m as dedicated as they come, so I knew I had to put in work if this blog was going to actually become something good.

It’s honestly a pleasure to force myself to get in the kitchen every week and make something new for myself, my family, and you. I’m not the most popular food blog but I’m still here and am working to make my presence known. I’m thankful to even be in such great company. There are so many great blogs are leading the way! Things are starting to look up on other ends, so expect some change in the coming months. I’m so happy I stuck with this and hope to expand and grow as much as I can in the food blog community. Til then, join me in my celebration for one with a simple microwave chocolate cake. I love this recipe because it’s so simple and really hits the spot when craving something fast and chocolatey. It’s also good when you really need some cake but don’t want to bake a whole one (and then eat it alone). So many other great things about this little cake; it’s fast, serves one, and is delicious! Mix and make the cake in the same mug, which is awesome because it’s an easy clean up. Another bonus? No eggs! Could totally eat the batter straight up if inclined (I won’t tell).

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Thanks to everyone that has stopped by and left me likes and comments. I read and appreciate every single one and get excited when I get new notifications. I’m really looking forward to continuing this journey, expanding and growing in the coming months and years to come. Here’s to the first year, and many more!

Chocolate Mug Cake – adapted from Chocolate Covered Katie

Makes 1 mug cake

  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon agave or sugar
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2-3 tsp coconut oil, vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Combine dry ingredients in the mug and mix very, very well. Add liquid, and stir until completely incorporated. Microwave 30-40 seconds.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Mix ins go great with this recipe; peanut butter chips, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc
  • Microwave times may vary. Start with 30s and go up in 5-10s increments until done

Coconut Popsicles

It has gotten too hot to bake. I never thought I’d type those words! I mean, even in this sweltering heat, I am still planning on firing up the oven at least once a week. It’s still too hot to bake but I’m still planning on it! As a sort of apology to my folks for the extra heat, I made popsicles.

We already know about my family’s love for coconut, so this flavor was a no brainer. Another reason why I chose coconut? I’m supposed to be in the Dominican Republic right now and I really miss it. My family and I used to go every two years for a whole month. The last time we went was July 2012, so technically we should be there right now. Things have changed so much that it wasn’t possible this year. It breaks my heart that I wasn’t able to go, and to keep up with tradition (because y’all already know how I am about that) but I will return one day.

As I mentioned in previous coconut themed posts, we get to eat a lot of them during our stays in D.R. It’s one of the top five things I love to do when I’m there, besides actually being there. When we’re not eating fresh coconut or drinking its water, we like buying popsicles. If you think New York City summers are hot, you are wrong. Summers in D.R. are at least five times hotter. It sounds strange but I swear the sun over there is closer than it is here in the city. It gets so hot and humid during the day but the advantage is that it cools down at night; unlike nights in NYC.

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In that humid heat, a popsicle is like a godsend. We don’t make them ourselves because the electricity over there is so ridiculously unstable. Instead, we buy them off fellow Dominicans who are trying to make an honest living. Any flavor popsicle is refreshing in that heat but the popular flavor is obviously coconut. I tried my best to recreate the fresh flavors we’re used to when we go visit my mom’s house but it wasn’t exactly easy. I don’t have access to fresh coconut to make my own shreddies or coconut milk but the canned stuff seemed to work just fine. I don’t know if you have noticed but popsicles are ridiculously hard to photograph! I haven’t figured out how to make them photogenic or how to capture that essence behind a pop, and am planning on figuring it out. Until then, enjoy these gifs of the process!

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My parents and I were pleased with these pops. I’m just not sure if they liked them because they were refreshing or because of the taste! These popsicles are super creamy and slightly sweet. The specks of shredded coconut are a lovely textural surprise; adding to that coconut flavor. The pops took me back for a quick second to two summers ago; when we’d sit with my cousins, neighbors, and my grampa on the front porch to eat popsicles. It’s that moment of silence when everyone is just savoring the ice cream and kind of forgets about the fact that they’re melting (both the person and the pop) that I miss so much; that second where everyone is collectively together enjoying a moment of refreshment. I miss my vacation for sure but at least I can have a small piece of it here.

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Coconut Popsicles – adapted from PureWow

Makes 6-8 popsicles

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 3 cups of coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons rum (optional)
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded coconut

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot over medium heat, bring the milk and sugar to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and cool slightly. Stir in the coconut milk, vanilla, rum and shredded coconut.
  3. Carefully pour the mixture into ice-pop molds. Press sticks into the center of the pops and freeze until solid, 3 to 4 hours (overnight is best).

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Use your food processor to finely shred the coconut before stirring into the milk for these pops
  • The original recipe calls for coconut water instead of regular milk
  • Amp up the coconut flavor by using a super small amount of coconut extract; a little bit goes a long way!
  • Run the popsicle mold under cold water for a few seconds before attempting to remove from the mold

 

Blueberry Crumb Bars

Happy Independence Day! Well, not yet but I do like to get ahead of myself sometimes. I know for a fact that there will be cookouts, parties, potlucks, and all other kinds of celebrations going on this weekend. It’s fabulous that people gather to celebrate a common thing, surrounded by patriotism and a ton of food. There’s nothing more American than burgers and hot dogs, potato salad, and pie!

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I think that in my entire lifetime, I’ve only been to one or two 4th of July cookouts. We live in the city, which is not exactly optimal for a barbecue. The few times we did end up going to one (if I remember correctly), we went to a family member’s house in Jersey. It has been a ferociously long time since we went to one of those, and I kinda miss it.

Granted, at a Dominican family’s 4th party, there’s a lot of variations to the kinds of foods served. Yeah, there are burgers and hot dogs, but there are also other kinds of grilled meat, at least three different kinds of rice dishes, potato salad (like the one I had for Christmas and Thanksgiving), and probably cake. I might be missing some items but that’s basically the gist of it. Noticeably absent from this list is the pie. As a culture, we don’t really do pie. I kind of touched on that in my Thanksgiving post, but it’s not something we have or make. Dominicans are cake people; which is why pound cakes are super popular at these things.

In an attempt to at least feel like I’m going to a barbecue, I made these bars. It’s kinda like pie but portable, easier, less messy, and possibly more delicious. While we as a culture don’t really do pie, I try to. I’ve had the trifecta of pie before: apple, cherry, and blueberry; my favorite being the cherry. I may be Dominican by blood but I was born on American soil (somewhere in DR, my uncle is inexplicably angry at this statement haha), and I like partaking in some American traditions. I’m not gonna necessarily go all out this Friday, but at least I’ll have something sort of “on topic” to eat.

These bars are so easy to make, you don’t even need a mixer! It’s basically a mix and dump kind of situation. The most labor intensive part of this recipe is the crust. Actually, it’s the only part of the recipe that requires a process. To try to make things a little simpler, I decided to freeze and grate the butter in. I briefly touched on this in my last post but basically, this is kind of a shortcut to cutting in butter with a fork or pastry cutter. I don’t have one of those and find that forks or using my hands can make the butter too warm and clumpy. So, I froze my sticks of butter for a couple hours and used a box grater to grate it in. Yes, the grating part is a little messy, as the butter starts softening up but I still find it easier than using forks to mash up butter cubes. If you hate cleaning up box graters, this shortcut isn’t for you! After grating, you can just stir it in the dry ingredients to coat and that’s it! The mix looks crumbly, just like if you cut in the butter the usual way.

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I have to say, even if I wasn’t going to a party this weekend; these bars are perfect for the occasion. The crust is buttery and crumbly, with a little freshness from the lemon zest. The blueberries are naturally sweet, and a little tart from the addition of the lemon juice. Besides them being super easy and super delicious, they’re also portable. So if you are partying this weekend and need a one handed dessert, this is it!

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Blueberry Crumb Bars – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) frozen, unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2 pints (4 cups) fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Grate the frozen butter, using the large hole shredder, into the bowl. Add the beaten egg, and mix with a rubber spatula until coated and incorporated. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of the dough into the prepared pan.
  3. In another large bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • This recipe is easily adaptable to whatever fruit you may have on hand; cherries, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, etc.