Vanilla Souffles

Sometime in the past few months, I realized that I have been living in Washington for more than three years. I actually had the day marked in my head: September 17th, your three-year anniversary of moving to DC. But the day came and went and I had completely forgotten about that day’s significance for at least a few days.

I’m generally pretty bad at remembering important dates — even though I spent a decent amount of time thinking about my three-year mark in the days and weeks leading up to it.

I often find myself thinking about the moment when I knew I had to do something about my life. It was absurdly iconic, looking back. Rachel had given me a gracious tour of the National Mall, which, up until that day, I had thought was a shopping mall (this new knowledge brought new meaning to my favorite Decemberists song). After a good deal of walking, admiring handsome passers by, and talking about the possibilities that we had ahead of us, I realized that I was ready to do something with my life.

With our feet in the fountain amidst the National Sculpture Garden, under the National Archives, I told her that I wanted to move here. And before she could even roll her eyes, I retracted the statement, and declared that I would most definitely move there.

Three weeks later, I packed a new suitcase that, to this day, has only been used three times. Because there is only so much you can do with a suitcase so large that you could smuggle yourself in — and that is to pack your life in it and take it someplace new.

My friends will back me when I say that I’m a light packer — even the slightest of hangovers will keep me from packing an actual suitcase to go anywhere. And all I really need is that brown, corduroy Jansport backpack that has been serving its purpose since my high school days, back in the Chaminade parking lot. Back then, it hauled student newspaper mock ups and AP study guides. These days, it’s usually stuffed with my running clothes and the latest samurai sudoku.

My first winter, ever, was here in DC. Before I left California, when I told my family how excited I was to experience something different, something I had never really felt before (winter). My stepmom’s immediate reaction was “I don’t know how you are going to survive out there.”

And so goes the California mindset.

The funny (maybe not so funny… perhaps, just factual) thing is that most of the country actually lives in a place that experiences some sorts of seasons. And most of them are just fine.

On a regular basis, I’m reminded by both Californians and non-West-Coasters of how wonderful that place really is.

I’ve had my December trip to California on my mind — a few nights of salsa dancing, a day trip to Santa Barbara, and having coffee on my patio with my parents, brothers, and Cody, our yellow labrador. Can’t wait.

Vanilla Souffles

Makes 4

Butter, at room temperature, to coat 4 ramekins
3/4 cup skim milk
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
4 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Icing sugar, to dust


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a pastry brush, coat four ramekins with a layer of butter. Set aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan, combine your milk and cream, and heat on medium for a few minutes. Once the solution starts to bubble, remove from heat.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk your egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar until evenly mixed. Add cornstarch to the mixture and continue whisking — the batter should thicken.

Like we’ve done with ice cream, we’re going to temper the egg mixture with a few tablespoons of the hot milk and cream. Spoonful by spoonful, add the cream mixture to the eggs, whisking vigorously to ensure that the eggs do not cook. As you add the cream mixture, you can add a larger amount with each batch. Once the eggs are liquidy, you can go ahead and combine the whole thing. Continue whisking, and then transfer back to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 1 to 2 minutes, and the custard should thicken to a pudding-like consistency.

Beat your egg whites in a stand mixer on high speed. After one minute, gradually add the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, and beat the eggs until stiff peaks form. Transfer the custard base to a large mixing bowl, and combine half of the egg whites into that bowl, incorporating with a whisk. Then, gently fold in the remaining egg whites with a rubber spatula.

Fill each of the ramekins with the soufflé batter, and gently tap each ramekin on the counter to make sure there aren’t any air bubbles. Place the ramekins in a cake pan, and fill the pan about 1/3 full with water.

Bake the soufflés for about 30 minutes, or until the tops rise and are a golden color. Turn the oven off when the timer goes off, and let the soufflés rest for 5 minutes before opening the oven door. Remove soufflés from the oven, dust with powdered sugar, and serve immediately.