Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Souffle!

My friend Laura gave me the Canadian locavore book "From Earth to Table" as a wedding gift. It has beautiful artsy pictures of carrots popping up from the dirt and other earthy images. The book sits on my bedside table along with a few other food related readings. Before I hit the pillow, I try to look through the images and read some of the recipes and profiles in one of my cookbooks. I highly recommend some foodie reading before bed. It keeps your dreams in a positive place. I have yet to experience a dream where I am chased by angry carrots. Instead, I drift on dreams of cooking and creating and best of all tasting. My tastebuds and cravings are turning toward autumn staples and before we are buried in white this winter, I feel they must be indulged. My bedside reading, "From Earth to Table" breaks the locavore movement into the four seasons. In Montana it may feel like we only have three seasons: summer, winter and mud but I am giving the Canadian writers some pre-sleep book time as who would understand the predicament of working in a Northern climate than the Canucks. They are definitely more understanding of our 3 season situation than say a book on seasonal eating based in California. The Canadian chefs of "From Earth to Table" roast, stew and bake in the fall and this October I am focusing on baking. This really means I have to learn to bake. (ps: I have no baking skills. Or, I should say they are very very minimum. Our waffle cones are as close to baking as I have been in quite a while and even that involved countless test batches and a whole lot of swearing and burning.)

But...
I am determined this fall. Seriously, my determination knows no bounds.

I will run farther, faster and longer to burn off the taste testing that I will have to put myself through just to successfully accomplish the one thing that screams baking prowess. French baking prowess. Souffle. Souffle'! (That is an accent - people. How do I make that tilde over the "e" again? Anyone?)

Sweet, molten, fluffy, puffy - Chocolate Souffle.

Then pumpkin souffle , white chocolate souffle, caramel souffle, toffee souffle and maybe something crazy like Guinness souffle. You just watch and wait. Sweet Peaks is getting something warm and gooey and delicious. Consider it a new friend to our creamy scoops of addicting ice cream. Hello friends! Let me present a vehicle for a scoop of chilled loveliness. A partner through which ice cream will float to creme anglaise and delight your wildest fall fancy.

Ahhhh... souffle!

Let's go back to the basics and straight to the internet for my first dive into chocolate souffle. Epicurious.com provided me with a variety of recipes involving toppings, flavors, bells and whistles. I skimmed and scanned and even watched a YouTube video and read transcripts from Alton Brown's molten chocolate cake episode on the food network. I save Bon Appetite magazines in my kitchen and discovered their milk chocolate souffle recipe from last year complete with a prep school section on the correct folding of egg whites into chocolate. Brilliant! I held my first chocolate experiment and Sam cursed me for making him eat mini chocolate delight after chocolate delight. It is all in the name of Sweet Peaks, I tell him. I actually did alright for my first try.

When you first bake something and it works the next step is to try it again and hope for the same results. This would of course be logical but I am always a little cavalier when it comes to baking and all cooking for that matter. I haven't learned my lesson just ask Sam how I make our Ginger Ice Cream. Actually, don't - it's magic! I like to throw caution to the wind. I tend to say if this amount of milk worked then why not more? or more sugar? or how about we add hot sauce! Any true baker will tell you, "Not going to fly honey, or rise, or turn golden brown or win over any cookie lover".

No. Wait! Not this time. Souffle is serious business. I need serious help in my test kitchen.

Julia.

I need Julia.

I just happen to have "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" on my bed stand. What took me so long? I have read the book "My life in France" and I have seen the movie "Julie and Julia". There is a whole section on souffle in Julia Child's cookbook, two if you count the section on savory souffles. Oh, cheese! I now feel armed with the necessary tools for souffle making. Just don't tell Julia that I plan on making these ahead of time and freezing them for customers to take-and-bake. Shhhh... we don't want to tempt her to roll over in her grave!

Off to the kitchen with melting chocolate and whipping egg whites! Sam...you better run an extra mile at the gym today.


Monday, October 4, 2010

The First Kid of Sweet Peaks: Aria



If Aria was an ice cream flavor she would be milk chocolate with bits of pink cotton candy and purple sprinkles.

She is 5.96 years old and she loves chocolate. Occasionally, she will pick a sorbet but she always adds a pile of mini M&M’s as a topping. As she is the first kid of Sweet Peaks, everyone tends to ask her to name her favorite flavor. In pure Aria 5-going-on-13 attitude she throws her eyes to the sky and her hands to her hips to say, “chocolate”. As if there is any other flavor in the world she would like. I have heard her tell our other shorty customers that she just loves Birthday Cake but only when those same shortys are devouring their Birthday Cake cones with glee. She likes to be part of the pack – sometimes. Most of the time it is chocolate pure creamy and messy on your face chocolate. There is no room for vanilla in this kid’s waffle cone! You would think that she would beg to go to Sweet Peaks to hang out with the kids, eat ice cream cone after cone and be resident queen of the ice cream shop. The truth is that she associates Sweet Peaks with work. I guess as an only child used to undivided attention from her parents and grandparents she finds the ice cream shop to be an obstacle to this attention and the reason we can’t run to the park at a moment’s notice, stay in bed watching movies all day, ride bikes for hours and just go home already. “Do I have to go to Sweet Peaks today?” she whines to us on Saturdays. Yes. She does have to go and yes, she does get to talk with our shorty customers and eat ice cream and visit with the dogs at the Tailwagger’s. She just HAS to. Life is rough. I always laugh at her when she whines about going to Whitefish with us. Aria, do you know that all the kids in Whitefish jump up and down with happiness when they get to go to Sweet Peaks? Do you know that some kids throw tantrums from their car seats when their parents drive down third and they don’t stop in for a cone. Yes. Tantrums! I often tell her that she might be the only kid who groans about having to go to Sweet Peaks. She usually frowns groans as I laugh but I really do understand. I grew up in a restaurant. For 12 years I awoke to the smell of slow roasting duck and warm cheesecake. I went to bed to the sound of high heels gliding across the dance floor, the pop of wine corks and the chiming of clean dishes sliding out of the dish machine. It was wonderful but I also wanted my mom to go to the park on Friday at four o’clock instead of answering phones and writing seating charts. I dreamed of the day when my parents could eat dinner with me instead of ushering other people to their dining tables. I even fantasized about TV dinners! Forget about the steamed clams, fresh baked bread, steaks and fresh red trout that I dined on at the tender age of 3. I wanted a meal where every article was contained in a little pocket on my tray. Mac n’ cheese and chicken nuggets and chocolate pudding! Oh, my! I imagined these mysterious items would comprise the most divine meal of my life. Let’s just say my first week of school lunches during first grade taught me otherwise. Mac ‘n cheese? What was that bright orange color stuck to my tray? Chicken nuggets? They tasted like deep fried croutons. Aria will have her moment too. She tries to get her grandparents to take her to Dairy Queen for ice cream when we are not around. This summer she threw a tantrum at a local market where we were selling ice cream all because she wanted another vendor’s ice cream and I wouldn’t give her money. My mom laughed at my pleas for frozen dinners while in the freezer section of the grocery. Exasperated she would say, “We own a restaurant!” I too laugh at Aria when she asks me why we don’t go to Dairy Queen or buy ice cream at the store. “We own an ice cream shop!”