Pretty in Pink …


            …at least it was until I baked it. This light and fluffy soufflé is from Sherry Yard’s soon-to-be released book, Desserts by the Yard. I was so excited when I found out from Anita that the lady who introduced me to the concepts of baking via her book, The Secrets of Baking,had a follow up to that classic.

            “Desserts by the Yard” is a compendium of recipes Sherry had perfected throughout her years as a pastry chef. It begins with her childhood memories growing up in Brooklyn. Inspirations like her mom’s no-bake cheesecake or the Brooklyn Black Out Cake from the neighborhood bakery provides insight into the early years of a budding pastry chef. Then it continues with her stint in various New York city establishments as she finished her studies at the Culinary Institute of America’s Pastry program. In this chapter, she shares recipes like Baked Alaska and the grand-domed creation known as the Chocolate Velvet Cake.

              But it was in California where she finally blossomed in her craft. Armed with just $500, she headed west to San Francisco. There, she found a job at the Campton Place Hotel where she would soon develop her own style of pastry, drawing inspiration from the bounty of San Francisco Farmer’s markets. After four years at Campton Place she moved to Catahoula in Calistoga, Napa Valley where she learned to pair food and wine and develop comfort desserts like the buttermilk pie that I can’t wait to make!

It was after one long day at Catahoula that she received that fateful phone call from Wolfgang Puck of Spago fame. She was flown down to LA for a leisurely afternoon interview with the great man himself – and they hit it off immediately. And the rest, as they say, is history! This is where you start to see the sophistication start to evolve in Sherry’s desserts: raspberry soufflé, upside-down cheesecake flan, and final baos (chocolate-filled beignets).

Also included in the book is a carefully developed recipe for Sachertorte (which Wolfgang initially called nothing but a dry chocolate cake until he had a taste of Sherry’s version) and the most popular dessert at the new Spago Beverly Hills menu, the Kaiserschmarren (soufflé crème fraiche pancakes with strawberry sauce – can’t wait to try this too). All these were based from her inspired recollection stemming from her trip to Vienna – a trip that came about at Wolfgang’s prodding. And yes, there is a recipe for Apple Strudel.

From there, her journey continued to different Wolfgang Puck-owned establishments.  There is even a chapter on her Academy Awards – read Oscar- desserts like the Chocolate Truffle Tarts with Chocolate Crème Brulee Diamonds and Seventy-Five Bean Vanilla Ice Cream (what a mouthful – and no it didn’t look like she used 75 vanilla beans, it was more like 7).

            This book simply had a dessert for everyone. Want chocolate, try the Twelve-Layer Flourless Chocolate Dobos Torte.  If you are a cheesecake fan, try the Passion Fruit Cheesecake. Now, if you want something as homey as muffins, pancakes, cookies and ice cream, there’s an assortment of that too. She also has a section of the basics where she includes the recipe of what she calls her 10-year chocolate sauce (because it took her 10 years to perfect it).

            I can’t make a comment about the photography at the present time since this is an advance reading copy with no colored photographs yet. Heck, it does not even have the index (all it says in the back of the book is “Index goes here”)!

            I will not list the recipe for the soufflé because my source is an uncorrected proof – even some desserts I mentioned above might not be included in the final copy. I’ll just give you a rough idea of what I did for the soufflé.


Cooking Notes

            I halved the recipe because the hubby and I didn’t fancy finishing all 8 souffles by ourselves and they were not something I would try for the first time in front of guests either. So I used around 8 ounces of raspberries. To ¾ cup of these raspberries I added 1/8 cup sugar,1.5 tsp lemon juice and about 1 tbs. Grand Marnier (the recipe called for Chambord but I did not have any) and boiled it down to a jammy consistency. I whipped 4 egg whites with ¼ cup sugar to stiff peaks and then folded it into ½ cup of the cooled raspberry mixture. I divided the rest of the jammy mixture and fresh raspberries among 4 “buttered and sugared” ramekins. The recipe specified to spoon the soufflé base onto the dishes but I decided a piping bag would be easier to achieve that swirly form reminiscent of cotton candy. I baked the soufflé in a pre-heated 425 °F oven for 12 minutes (recipe said 15 -20 minutes but my ramekins were smaller than the required 8-ounce dishes)

            This soufflé was a fluffy delight! Starting from it’s browned crusty surface, to its silken interior, to the pudding like consistency of its warm raspberry filling. If you love raspberries like I do, you are sure to love this!

            Beating egg whites. There are different methods for beating egg whites. For the longest time, I would beat the egg whites at the highest speed on my mixer while streaming in the sugar. My egg whites never broke (okay, maybe sometimes), but I had a suspicion I was not producing the optimal foam.

Then I had recently learned from Harold Mc Gee that you should add the cream of tartar right away – not to wait for the egg white to foam as I always did. Alice Medrich also did this in her class and she produced an impeccable meringue each time. I also observed her technique of adding sugar to the egg whites and the speed at which she beat them.

Sugar hinders and aids the making of the foam. Added too early it will interfere with the bonding of the protein strands that trap your air bubbles, which will then result in reduced volume.

So when do you add sugar?

Add the sugar when the egg whites have started to foam and the lines of the whisk are starting to hold. Here, sugar adds stability to the bubble walls preventing the deflation of your foam. In Alice’s class she added the sugar slowly – and I mean SLOWLY – at medium speed for a long time. Her resulting foam was perfectly shiny and moist and made the creamiest soufflé.

            The first experiments I did when I got home were to beat egg whites with different amounts of sugar, with different whisks at different speeds. After going through two dozen eggs, I have come up with an interesting conclusion: you can beat the egg whites indefinitely at medium speed as long as you’ve added the sugar very slowly – they never broke – at least not for the 15 minutes I  beat them. For my last experiment, I used my new 11-wire whisk, which was notorious for breaking my egg white foams. At medium speed, I could beat my egg whites for a long agonizing time and maintain medium to stiff peaks. Impatient to see them break, I increased my speed to max and even then it took a while for the egg whites to break. In fact, I don’t think I ever broke them, the foam just turned into a really stiff dense mixture hat you could probably sit an egg on.   

            I could probably go on and on about whipping egg whites, but I’ll reserve that for another day. Suffice it to say that for your soufflé, beat the egg whites to stiff glossy peaks. At this stage, there is just enough lubrication for the foam to remain creamy and be easily folded into other ingredients.

            Here is a picture of the soufflé in the oven…see how much it puffed! J