Friday, April 20, 2012

Nigel Slater's REAL FAST DESSERTS and a Recipe

by Theresa Collier, Publicity
In case you have not followed along from Wednesday’s post, Overlook is publishing Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food and Real Fast Desserts in paperback next week.  I’ve sliced, mixed, braised, and baked my way through four simple recipes starting with “Chicken with Olives and Oranges” and “Bulgur Wheat with Mango and Mint.”  Real Fast Desserts, a follow-up spawned by eager fans of Real Fast Food left bereft by the abbreviated sweets section, is smartly divided by season rather than ingredient.  Tucking into an apple crisp as crocuses are popping up? Spooning up strawberry fools as snow is falling down? Pure foodie blasphemy.

I passed on the springtime Syllabubs (always wondered what one was!), custards, and bowls of liquored fruit to settle on a dessert that really has no one particular seasonal slot, a confection with which I have a not-so-pleasant history.  Sure, the name sounds innocent enough, but anyone who has battled with a cloud of whipped egg whites, a little fluted dish, and a blistering oven knows the fear-induced panic that one little word can instill: soufflé. Have you ever eaten at a fancy restaurant where you must order the soufflé with your meal, a good 40 minutes or so before you plan to tuck into it?  There is good reason for that.  And in my opinion, it’s because for every one perfectly puffed effort, there must be at least five lop-sided, deflated, or otherwise inedible lumps of gooey chocolate sitting in the trash.

I like to think I have a decent handle on pastries.  I conquered the brulee torch before I hit high school, constructed more than one 3-tiered layer cake, and even achieved the ever-elusive “foot” on a perfect French macaron, a feat for which I am embarrassingly proud.  But soufflé? Forget it—it’s my Achilles heel.  We had one passionate battle several years ago that left me as deflated as the sad little volcano of batter that emerged from the oven and I haven’t looked back since.  But then Mr. Slater came along, and I had hope that things might be different between us.

The ingredient list is oh-so-simple: a few eggs, some good quality chocolate, a fistful of sugar, and a little butter to grease the dishes.  You probably have all of these things in your pantry right now.  With a stand or hand mixer, the process becomes a snap, whizzing together egg yolks and sugar, whipping up egg whites until they are foamy and peaked.  This all gets folded together—very, very carefully—with some melted chocolate and divided between 4 small ramekins that have been greased and sugared. The process was simple, but somewhere, somehow things went awry for me yet again.  The soufflés weren’t as high as I had hoped and I let them bake a bit longer—too long it turns out—in hopes they might still rise. This was my fatal mistake.  The desserts, normally custardy, rich, and cloud-like in the center, morphed into four little solid cakes.  Forget the fact that they still tasted delicious; that old rage was about to return until I looked to the recipe one last time. Did I do something wrong? Had I forgotten an ingredient?  And then I noticed Slater’s last footnote:

“Don’t worry if your soufflés don’t rise perfectly all the way around like some whiz kid chef’s.  Yours may rise more on side than the other.  They may even crack a little on the top.  Yours will be better than the chef’s perfect version.  Yours will have charm. And, anyway, no one likes a smart alec.”

So there you have it.  I got what I deserved trying for the most ambitious dessert in the lot.  I promise you the book is abundant with recipes that come together with much less drama: quick chocolate cake, rice pudding and preserves, gingered ricotta, and little pots of lemon cream.  It also comes with a lesson to not take dessert so seriously. Following Slater’s advice, I made one last dish, “instant raspberry sorbet,” by blitzing frozen raspberries in the food processor.  One splash of crème de cassis (I didn’t have any framboise) and I called it a night with hot chocolate soufflé cake and a scoop of sorbet on the side.

Now, how about that giveaway? We are offering up one copy of Real Fast Food and one copy of Real Fast Desserts to two lucky readers!  Leave a comment below to enter for a chance to win.  Winners will be chosen at random on Monday.  Good Luck! 

Hot Chocolate Soufflé
For 2 large individual Soufflés (or four small ramekins)

4 ounces fine chocolate*
a little butter
¼ cup sugar
3 large eggs, separated
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

Set the oven to 400 degrees.  Break the chocolate into bits and melt in a bowl over hot water.**
            While the oven is heating and the chocolate is melting, rub a little butter around the inside of each of two soufflé dishes.  They should be the large individual size, the ones that hold 1 ½ cups.  Or you could make four smaller soufflés if your dishes are tiny.  Sprinkle a little of the sugar around the buttered dishes, then shake the excess back into the rest of the sugar. 
            Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until creamy; the mixture doesn’t have to be thick.  A matter of seconds with an electric mixer.  Wash the beaters and dry carefully, then beat the egg whites till they stand in stiff peaks,  Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and stir in into the egg yolks and sugar.  Do this thoroughly but gently.
            Working quickly, scoop half of the egg whites in the chocolate, mix gently but thoroughly, and then scrape the mixture back into the egg whites. Mix carefully.  A metal spoon, as large as you have, is best for this. What you want to end up with is a rich, chocolatey mixture without lumps of egg white but mixed tenderly enough that it is still light and full of air. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the mixture into the soufflé dishes.  They should be full within ½ inch or so of the top.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.  They are done when they are risen, slightly spongy around the edges, and creamy in the middle. Dust wit confectioner’s sugar if you feel like it.   

*I used Valhrona chocolate
** I melted in the microwave rather than using the double boiler method.  If you use the microwave, heat in 30-second bursts, stopping to mix the chocolate so as not to scorch it.

Instant Raspberry Sorbet

Whizz a package of frozen raspberries to slush in the food processor.  Divide it quickly among wineglasses.  Upend a measure of framboise over the result and call it raspberry sorbet.


allan kelly said...


traveler said...

What a delectable dessert which is so tempting. Thanks for the lovely giveaway and the photos are great.saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

petite said...

Simply perfect and a wonderful treat. Thanks for the recipe.elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

Carol Dance said...

The computer just asked me to prove that I wasn't a computer by typing in the words sevence ampons. Then it discarded me. All I did was a bit of whinging about how all I had for afters was crushed biscuits and instant custard. Now it wants me to write lededa iskereld: I feel like Tolkein, staring at the ceiling whilst biting on his pencil.
I really wish I was Nigel Slater, or his dog.

Anne M. said...

That looks delicious & decadent. I have never been bold enough to make a souffle..maybe this will inspire me to do so... @anniemos on twitter

Carl said...

Thanks for the reminder, I almost missed the chance to win one of these books. They look like really good ones.