Getting Artsy: Plated Desserts (and chocolate souffle recipe)

In fine dining, a beautiful plate comes second only to tasty food.  Talented chefs transform every plate into elaborate works of edible art.  When the patron is torn between devouring a plate because it looks and smells so delicious and regretting the first bite because it ruins the gorgeous aesthetic, the chef knows he’s done a good job.  The pastry chef is especially tasked with pushing the envelope to create stunning yet delectable desserts.  In Le Cordon Bleu’s bakeshop, we spent 2 days learning basic plating techniques.  Not nearly enough time but it’s a start.

Vanilla bean ice cream

Now I’m a bit clumsy, and a bit impatient, and really not so artistic (despite being left-handed).  So plating can be a challenge for a girl like me with two right thumbs.  But I gave it my best shot.  We made 5 plated desserts: vanilla ice cream in an edible bowl, creme brulee, cheesecake, chocolate souffle, and the classic Bananas Foster.  To make our plates pretty we also made raspberry coulis (raspberry sauce), chocolate sauce, creme anglaise (aka “the mother sauce” of the bakeshop), and tuile (pronounced “tweel”), which are fortune cookie like confections that can be molded into bowls and other fun shapes for garnish.

Bruleeing the brulee

The vanilla ice cream was a cinch, especially when you have a $6k commercial ice cream maker that goes from liquid to soft-serve in 6 minutes flat.  My edible tuile bowl was lovely and I’m starting to get the hang of writing in cursive in chocolate.  The artful “smear” of chocolate sauce didn’t fare too well (though I’ve never been a fan of the smear).

Plating cheesecake

The creme brulee (French for “burnt cream”) was easy.  All you really need to do is make a custard (we used fresh vanilla bean for extra fanciness), strain it, bake it, add a generous coat of sugar and set that baby aflame.

Next up, cheesecake.  Here’s where we were supposed to get imaginative.  I came up with a whimsical butterfly design, which I made by squirting the chocolate outline, then chilling until it hardened to form my border.  I filled that in with creme anglaise, and for accents I used cut-outs of kiwi and raspberry coulis.  I topped the cheesecake with a tuile twist.  Pretty, yes? It only took me two tries (my raspberry squirt out too fast the first time and made my butterfly bleed).

Plated cheesecake

The souffle was a first for me.  I always thought souffles were complicated, delicate, and required tiptoeing around the kitchen to avoid making the souffle fall.  I was delighted to be wrong about that one as they were surprisingly easy to make.  Mine puffed up just like it was supposed to.  For service we poured creme anglaise right in the middle.  Oh-my-stars was it good!  I think the souffle was a personal highlight of baking for me.  I can’t wait to impress my next dinner party guests!  Fun stuff.  You should definitely try it- you’ll be surprised how fun they are to make.  I’ll even give you the recipe I adapted from Le Cordon Bleu to get you started.  Chocolate Souffle with Creme Anglaise recipe, below.  [Note- your extra creme anglaise makes the most spectacular cream for your coffee.  A little trick I learned when we ran out of creamer yesterday].

Plating chocolate souffle

Finally, the Bananas Foster.  Fun to light liquour (rum and Grand Marnier) on fire and yell “Flambe!,” but kind of a hot mess on the plate. [See pics in gallery, above]. Our instructor said it’s supposed to look that way.  This wasn’t my favorite.  Way too sweet.  If I do it again I’d add orange segments to cut that sweetness.

Now that I have the basics, I need to get practicing.  I wish I paid more attention in grammar school when they taught cursive.

Chocolate Souffle with Creme Anglaise

Serves 4-6
Prep time 1 hour
Cook time 20 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 20 minutes
Meal type Dessert

Ingredients

Souffle base

  • 1 1/2oz Bread flour
  • 1 1/2oz Unsalted Butter
  • 8oz Whole milk
  • 2oz Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Egg yolks
  • 3oz Semi-sweet chocolate

Meringue

  • 5 Egg Whites
  • 1oz Granulated sugar

Creme Anglaise

  • 8oz Whole milk
  • 4oz Heavy cream
  • 3 Egg yolks
  • 3 1/2oz Granulated sugar
  • 1/2 Vanilla bean (seeds scraped, or 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract))

Note

Adapted from Le Cordon Bleu's recipe

Directions

1. First make the creme anglaise. Put the milk, cream, and about half of the sugar in a sauce pan. Split the vanilla bean in half. Using the back of your knife, scrape out the tiny brown seeds and add the seeds and the leftover bean to your pan. Heat the milk mixture until it scalds (tiny bubbles on the sides of the pan, not a rolling boil).
2. Whisk the yolks and the remaining sugar in a mixing bowl until yellow and frothy. Temper the yolks by pouring in a tiny bit of hot milk mixture to the yolk mixture while whisking, then add a tiny bit more, continue to whisk, keep doing this until you’ve added about half of the milk mixture. Tempering prevents you from cooking the egg yolks, that’s bad.
3. Pour the tempered yolk mixture back in the sauce pan with your milk mixture so now everything is together. Place back on low to medium heat and stir constantly. You’re creme anglaise is done when the mixture thickens to “nappe” consistency (it coats the back of a wooden spoon), about 5 minutes.
4. Place a clean bowl over some ice, and strain your creme anglaise through a fine mesh sieve into the clean bowl. The ice will help it cool.
5. Next make the souffle base. Melt butter in a sauce pan on medium heat and add the flour. Make a roux by stirring the flour until it forms a smoothe thick paste. Continue to stir for about 2 minutes over medium heat so the starchiness cooks out. You don’t want your roux to start browining. Remove roux from pan and set aside.
6. In the pan, add 2 oz sugar and the milk and cook over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and milk scalds (small bubbles form on sides of pan. Not a rolling boil). Remove from heat and add the roux back in. Stir with whisk until a thick creamy paste forms and there are no lumps. Taste to make sure it doesn’t taste starchy, like raw flour. If it does, cook on low heat until the starchiness goes away.
7. Make a French meringue. Add egg whites to mixing bowl. Mix on high for about 30 seconds to get the eggs started. Add 1 oz sugar to egg whites and mix until medium stiff peaks form. (Remove whisk attachments and invert. If the whites left on the end just start to crest over like a wave, you’re done. If they drip off, mix some more. If they stand up straight you’ve gone too far).
8. Carefully fold the meringue into the souffle base 1/3 at a time. Do not over mix and be gentle. Stop when egg whites are incorporated.
9. Prepare 6 3-inch ramekins by coating bottom and sides with butter. Then add a little sugar and roll around until sugar adheres to egg. Wipe tops and sides of ramekins clean.
10. Pour souffle batter into prepared ramekins almost to the top of the ramekins. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes until souffle is set in the center. Souffle will puff up a lot.
11. Remove from oven and dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately. If you wait too long your souffle will deflate again, not pretty. When it’s in front of your guest, split the souffle in the middle with a spoon and pour in 1 oz of creme anglaise directly in the center.

Comments

  1. Laura Crosby says:

    this was very helpful, i have a patisserie exam coming up and i needed a way of serving up a souffle and that looked so pretty :)

    thank you!!

  2. Good luck on your exam!

  3. chef kartik says:

    love souffle

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