Greetings from Paris, mon cheri! I’m thoroughly immersed in the city of love where the most breathtakingly ornate architecture surrounds me.
You know what else surrounds me? Why, the most spectacular pastries and desserts, of course. I simply cannot escape from them.
Here is just a petite teaser…
more to come in a later post…
Back to subject of romance, I’ve had a longtime crush on Mallory’s blog, Salty Cod. Her lively and warm photography exhibits an incredible array of pastries, desserts, and baked goods. A well-travelled pastry chef (from “Seattle, Paris, Spokane, São Paulo–and one day Tibet”) with a smittened romantic voice… she is the perfect guest writer while I’m in Paris.
I’m honoured to feature her Chocolate Hazelnut Soufflé recipe.
Pretty stunning, n’est-ce pas? Merci mille fois.
When I think about autumn in Paris, I think about nuts. I lived a full year in Paris, and was therefore given the gift to experience the full spectrum of seasonal change. As September turned to October, turned to November, I noticed very few leaves, no pumpkins or bitingly cold mornings. I was grown in the Pacific Northwest, and for we the northwesterners, autumn is truly the only seasonal shift of the year. Yes water may fall from the sky at least twice a day, but a northwest autumn is golden. Puget sound winds are the sheep herders of foliage. So in Paris, when Autumn’s ring was much gentler and less pronounced (not that there aren’t trees in Paris, but, you know), I was forced to notice the coming of the season with a bit more creativity.
So what, after all this, do I remember as I sit here nearly two years removed? I remember hot street corners. Yes the corners themselves. You see, a few years back the city installed heated pavement in all of the districts up to the thirteenth, so all you have to do is take off your shoe for a slight reprieve. Don’t believe me? Good. The streets of Paris are warm due to the presence of the corner boulangerie. Even if you are passing by in a rush, just one door swing will send a whiff of hot buttery air in and under your scarf to the extent that you feel you’ve been hugged. This is a continual feeling, corner to corner. Mmm oui c’est completement vrai. And as the autumnal season progresses, the streets begin to warm not only on the corners, but all along the avenues as vendors appear selling – I hope you guessed it – nuts.
Chestnuts, cooked on garbage can lids. Hmmm, a bit dodgy I always thought. Did anyone ever buy? Someone must. I loved them there anyways, they became the season for me. I look back on Autumn and winter in Paris and I see them there, in the rain, the wind, the calm – selling nuts that seem to never move. Their presence always inspired within me a great desire for nuts. Even if only grocery market nuts, albeit in mousse or jarred butter form. Nuts none the less.
When Mel told me she would be in Paris for the fall, obviously I thought of nuts. “Mousse a la crème de marrons,” I told her, “is the best nut dessert you will find in all of Paris. Get it. Love it. I am jealous of you.” After pate d’amande, after macarons, yes after it all, I will not budge on this, it is the best. Marrons are chestnuts, and when their paste is whipped into a mousse, orgasm is achieved (can I say that?). Ah, but I have written and posted on the delight already, what could I do instead? What other dessert (and nut) is as drippingly French as a baguette and a oui? How about a soufflé and a hazelnut. Done.
Soufflés, Paris, Love. I remember a while back Aran (pastry chef, author and photographer of Canelle et Vanille) wrote an ode to the soufflé as a symbol of romance, and I have yet to drop the connection. A soufflé for two is a romantic whisper, a fleeting “spur of the moment” as you have mere minutes to catch the high before deflation. The soufflé climax, and as love is a product of chance, one fleeting moment stuck among three hundred million other chanced possibilities, a soufflé is a mirror image. You are given a chance with every soufflé to marvel it before falls, if you miss it you miss it, love is the same way – your chance is as short as a peaked soufflé, if you don’t take it when it rises, you will miss it, and if you miss it , it is gone perhaps forever. The word soufflé comes from the French verb souffler; the breath (gently), to whisper or to blow (ehem, as in a candle). A gentle whisper, perhaps a soft sigh, oh how romantic, how so very soufflé.
Chocolate Hazelnut Soufflé (sounds very Nutella does it not?)
- 3 egg white
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp hazelnut flavored liqueur (like Frangelico)
- 1 ¼ cup water
- ½ cup sugar (plus more for dusting the ramekins)
- Butter for greasing the ramekins
- ¼ cup grated dark chocolate
Butter (using either your fingers or a pastry brush) 6 small ramekins (or more or less depending on the size/shape dish you use) with vertical strokes, cover in sugar (that is, roll the sugar around the butter like dusting a pan with flour) and then refrigerate until ready to use.
In a small sauce pan, bring water to a boil, and add the cocoa powder. Whisk until it is thick and creamy and remove from heat. With a spatula, stir in the liqueur, and transfer to a larger bowl and stir in the grated chocolate. Let cool slightly.
Meanwhile, bring your egg whites to stiff peaks adding the sugar half way through (your egg whites are ready when you can tip the bowl upside down and it doesn’t fall out on your face). Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and incorporate until homogeneous in color (no white streaks please).
Fill the ramekins to the top with the mixture and bake at 350 F until they rise. Watch them (yes with your eyes) you will know when they are done.
Serve them immediately – here immediately means immediately.
A soufflé for two…what is more romantic than sharing a whisper. Paris is clichéd as the city of love – but is it clichéd? Could it not be true? Perhaps for some Paris can catch you that one in a million. And then? And then win him over with chocolate and nuts and he is yours forever. Does food always have a metaphor for life? Yes, yes it does. Photographing a soufflé relies very little on a photographer’s skill, instead it sits on their impulse. Shut up and click, you have two minutes, no time to think, just feel it, press it, capture it. It is now or never. Therefore life and love are your soufflé. Take for your own the moment you want.
Written by Mallory Elise