One crème brûlée, two caramel custards and three types of buttercream later, we have officially cooked our way through Lisa's depression. And with temperatures rising and falling all around Manhattan, it's hard to get a beat on anything other than today's lesson and whipping up the perfect chocolate soufflé.
A new lover is a lot like an untested recipe; it takes time and patience to find the right blend of ingredients and the perfect amount of heat to compliment it. And for Lisa, the sex had officially gone from Chinese take-out on a Sunday night to dining at the fancy and French Le Bernardin.
Sadly, she's still marinating over the fact that her young lover hasn't called. And now, perched on my kitchen counter, she is obsessively checking her iPhone for any signs of life. Deep down, I fear her new romance may be pronounced dead on arrival, but as her best friend, I let her wallow in self-denial.
Between girlfriends, the angst often bubbles over. And in class today, all I could do was commit soufflé suicide. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get my chocolate soufflé to rise.
What is the culinary equivalent of Viagra?
I pour a glass of Sancerre and light a candle, watching the flame dance back and forth. I lose myself in the rhythm. I heat the milk and bring it slowly to a boil. I remove it from the burner, slowly adding in the bits of chocolate until it's smooth and shiny. I run my finger through the middle and get lost in its sweetness.
In the words of Dean Jacques Pépin, a dazzling and inspiring Chef and James Beard Award winner, "A soufflé should be delicate, ethereal and deep in taste, with a consistency light to the tongue."
With that thought in mind, I place the egg whites in a stainless steel bowl and beat them into soft peaks. I add the sugar gradually until it begins to stiffen. I remove the insides of a fresh vanilla bean and reach for the rum, noticing my full bottle is now empty and Lisa is comfortably passed out in my living room.
What is about men and dating that when we finally reach our sexual peak of greatness, so often they choose that moment to beat it?
I add my chocolate to the beaten egg whites a quarter at a time. The colors fuse together and I move slowly. For the first time I notice the consistency is still airy and light. Who knew, the key to not committing soufflé suicide is to add the chocolate in a little at a time. By doing so, you don't suck the air out and deprive your soufflé of the essential ingredient it needs to rise up, much like any new relationship. This way, it can start it's own chemical revolution.
Why is it so many of us strong, powerful women get caught up in this singles waiting/dating game? Didn't we once start a revolution? And why, all of sudden, does it seem to lack movement?
I pour the sweet, creamy and decadent batter into the ramekins and transfer them to the middle rack. A few minutes later, as one soufflé starts to rise, Lisa's phone finally starts to ring.
"It's him," she says, waking up in a breathless whisper. "Should I answer it?"
With a sift of confectioner's sugar and a roll of my eyes, I look at her and say, "it's totally up to you but I'd flip or flambé."
Although, the conversation was short and sweet, they had decided to meet at his apartment in the Bowery on Thursday night.
Although embarrassed by her basic lack of culinary skill, Lisa was a romantic/poet at heart. So from uptown to downtown, we would literally stay connected... via headset. Somewhere on the island of Manhattan, while they were performing yet another Shakespearean tragedy, I would be playing Baron Christian to her culinary Cyrano.
Between us, we spun the ultimate plan for seduction: Moules à la Poulette (Mussels in Cream Sauce with Parsley and Spinach), Faux Filets Grillés avec Sauce Choron (Grilled Steak with Choron Sauce) and Pommes Frites.
And of course for dessert, I take a deep breathe in, thankful that my chocolate soufflé has finally risen.
Somewhere between the steak and the Pommes Frite, I'm hopeful Lisa can find her very own happy ending.
Tune in Thursday for the last few posts of the series. For more posts from Heidi Brod on culinary school, click here.
Excerpts inspired by the class, Serious Amateur, French Cooking, Culinary Techniques, Recipes taken from International Culinary Center.
Heidi Brod and Lisa Stolov have a daily newsletter/website DishInOutBeauty.com that focuses on health and beauty from the inside out.
PHOTOS: Chocolate Soufflé
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1 ¼ ounces sugar
1 oz all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
3 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons dark rum
Few drops of vanilla extract
3 to 4 large egg whites
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.
Using about 2 teaspoons of the butter, lightly coat the of the soufflé molds. Using ¾ ounce of the sugar, sprinkle it into the molds and swirl to generously coat the buttered interior, shaking out any excess. Place the molds in the refrigerator until needed.
Make a beurre manié (see website) with the flour and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Set aside.
Place the milk in a Russe, a saucepan with a single long handle that is used for making sauces, over medium heat and bring to a boil. Whisking constantly, beat in the beurre manié and cook for 3 minutes or until very thick. Remove the mixture from the heat and beat in the chocolate.
When the chocolate has been incorporated, begin beating in the egg yolks, one at a time. When both egg yolks are well incorporated, beat in the rum and vanilla.
Place the egg whites in a stainless steel bowl and, using a whisk or an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining ½ ounce sugar until firm peaks hold. Fold one quarter of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate base to lighten it and then fold in the remaining three quarters all at once.
Remove the prepared molds from the refrigerator. Spoon an equal portion of the chocolate batter into each mold. Clean the rims of the ramekins, if necessary.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and transfer the filled molds to the middle rack. Bake for 8 to 15 minutes, depending upon the size of the molds, or until the soufflés have risen and are just barely set in the center.
Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
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