Baking gingerbread cookies and souffles

A recent purchase at Playground’s design and arts bookstore was The Best Make-Ahead Recipe Cookbook from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine.  I’m a big fan of CI magazine and the companion show on US public television, America’s Test Kitchen, because the editors are detailed and yet no-nonsense and they talk about technique, mechanics, and the science behind what’s happening in the recipes.

The premise behind the cookbook is the idea that modern-day cooks haven’t the time to prepare full meals from scratch each and every time the clock strikes breakfast, lunch or dinner.  So they tested their recipes to determine how to create ones that could be prepared in advance and come out of a few days in the refrigerator or even a few weeks in the freezer, looking and tasting as good as (or better than) their freshly-made counterparts.

Individual chocolate souffles was one recipe that piqued my interest as I think souffles are a fantastic dessert but am hampered by what I perceived to be the amount of last-minute time needed in the kitchen.  I’d rather be out enjoying my guests’ company than whipping up egg whites.

On Friday evening I prepared the recipe and put the individual souffles, tightly wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil, in the freezer.  Trying something different and playful, I used a combination of Illy Caffe cappuccino cups along with traditional ramekins.

Starting at the top left and working across and down: Whip the egg yolks and sugar to create a pale, frothy mixture.  Melt the chocolate over a bain-marie, a water bathFold the eggs into the chocolate mixture.  Stir to combine.  Spoon into prepared ramekins.  The finished product, ready to wrap and freeze.

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But how would they turn out after two nights in the freezer?  Roka came over on Sunday to help me make gingerbread cookies and Tawn had two friends over to listen to one’s relationship troubles, so I had a ready audience of guinea pigs.

Fifteen minutes in a 180-degree C oven was enough to bring the souffles to modest heights, hampered by their lack of paper collars to help the climb.  But they were evenly cooked and very tasty.  Plus, they look cute in the cups!

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Below, Tawn, Pim and Prince enjoy their “cups” of souffle.

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P1020810 Roka (left)makes for an excellent co-chef.  She is knowledgable and passionate about cooking, is able to provide good insights and helpful suggestions, and it very willing to pitch in above and beyond the “just tell me what to do” level.

What was originally just an evening making gingerbread cookies turned into a whole lot more.  I had some recipes I was meaning to try and since the cookie dough needs to chill in the refrigerator, we had some time on our hands. 

The additional menu items included an Ecuadorean potato soup called locro de papas which is flavored with anatto seed oil (easy to make at home) and fish cakes with paprika-lemon mayonnaise made from cod.

The gingerbread was a new thing for both of us, so we used a Martha Stewart recipe for “easy” gingerbread.  It was fairly easy but for the life of me it seemed really dry.  Also, we had not found a person-shaped cookie cutter so we used biscuit cutters and a hand-made template for the profile of a house. 

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Above: fish cakes with paprika-lemon mayonnaise.  Below: Decorating the cookies with our makeshift pastry bag.

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Below: Our finished cookies.  Can you spot the Wat Phra Gaew cookie – the Temple of the Emerald Buddha?  This may not be the most appropriate image to put on a cookie, but it seemed to go with the theme of gingerbread houses. 

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