Eli Kirshtein

Eli gives us the skinny on soufflés and modeling chocolate.

on Oct 14, 20100

Soufflés are a total culinary enigma. With the literal translation of the word meaning "blown," they are whimsical and feared. There are several types of soufflés, but the basics of them are that a flavorful mixture or puree is combined with whipped egg whites. The three main types are cooked, iced, and chilled. The cooked type is baked until the soufflé starts to rise from the tiny air bubbles in the whipped egg whites beginning to expand from the steam heat. This is the one that usually presents the most problems with deflating and collapsing. When they cool too rapidly or are disrupted, the bubbles pop and the soufflé falls. Iced soufflés, or Soufflé Glacé, are whipped up and put into a mold that has a removable collar, typically in the form of parchment paper. Once it is filled, it is frozen, and then the collar is removed to have the effect of a risen product. The last type is set soufflés. They are done in much the same way as a frozen soufflé, but they have the addition of gelatin in the mixture and are refrigerated and served cold but not frozen. All of them are light, airy, but still very fragile and delicate.

There was a request for me to elaborate and explain a bit about an ingredient that was used in Yigit's elimination challenge dish from last week. It was in the form of ice cream as the flavor of Tonka Beans. Tonka Beans are the very aromatic seeds from the legume family tree Dipteryx Odorata, commonly known as Cumaru, which is indigenous to the Orinoco area of South America. It has a strong scent of vanilla and coffee and it is widely used in the perfume industry as well as in some circles of witchcraft. In Europe it is used in the food service industry, and prior to 1954 it was used in America as well. In 1954 the FDA banned Tonka Beans for human consumption because they contain Coumarin. Tonka Beans don't meet the food safety requirements of the FDA. With many people still enjoying the flavor of Tonka Beans there has now been the development of an artificial Tonka Bean flavor called Tonkaroma flavor extract without Coumarin. This is the ingredient that was used in the challenge.

One thing that really showed up a lot this week was modeling chocolate or plastic chocolate. It is used really in high end chocolate sculpting and cake decorating in much the same way rolled fondant is. The main advantage of using modeling chocolate is that it drapes better and is somewhat less brittle than rolled fondant. It is made by combining melted chocolate with corn syrup and stirring it until it's homogeneous. It is left to rest for a few hours and then rolled out and formed as needed. While it is edible, it isn't necessarily very tasty.

Something a few chefs used this week was Gianduja. It is a chocolate mixture that has about one-third hazelnut paste added to it. It has a nutty rich texture and flavor to it and can be used in a lot of basic as well as advanced applications. It has even made an appearance in a more common place as the main component of Nutella paste. The chocolate maker Caffarel originally made it in 1852 in the Italian city of Turin, which is now part of the Lindt Chocolate Empire.

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