Halloween. I’m not sure what to say about Halloween without offending a large number of people. But I think its safe to say that it is a holiday I could do without.
I don’t particularly like wearing costumes. People in costumes (i.e. Ronald McDonald) were the objects of terror to me as a child and I cried and hid whenever I saw them. This fear kind of stuck around as I aged and even now I run away from costumed people. I don’t like not being able to see their faces. I’m not fond of the idea of wearing a barely-there costume outside in 40-degree weather. I know I should be celebrating but on a cold night I’d rather stay cuddled with my hot chocolate indoors. To me, Halloween is just another one of our “made in China holidays where we are forced to eat disgusting candy that tasked like amoxicillin.
That is why I liked Halloween so much last year, when I was in London. There, the holiday was treated as an excuse to celebrate the season’s bounty and spend time with each other, enjoying good food and fun, fall activities. Last Halloween I walked amongst changing leaves, bought a purple and turquoise hydrangea from the flower market, visited the peter pan statue in Hyde Park, ate the most delicious lavender and honey ice cream cone, and attended and festive Bompas and Parr jelly-making session at Fortnum and Mason. I had butternut squash for dinner with a cup of warm tea and called it the best Halloween ever. So this year I want to celebrate similarly despite the cheap and typically American craziness that will occur around me. And I will most definitely treat myself to this dish again.
This is a Halloween Soufflé. I made it two weeks ago…for lunch on a Monday…at 3:00 in the afternoon. It is a recipe I’ve had marked for a while in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. The recipe note says, “try something scary today, by scary I mean soufflé.” So that Monday afternoon, on the brink of a serious case of the hunger shakes, I decided on a spur of the moment decision to forgo eating for another two hours and try something scary: my first soufflé.
It’s called a Halloween soufflé because the lovely mixture of eggs, butter, and flour is combined with a large dose of creamy pumpkin puree. It turned the dish a deep golden color and added a subtle hint of earthy sweetness. And despite the time-consuming aspect, the soufflé was much less scary than I’ve always thought. I created my rue without any lumping problems. I mixed it with my egg yolk and pumpkin and miraculously avoided a curdling disaster. And finally, I folded this with my perfectly whipped egg whites. It went into the oven and for a frightening 20 minutes I waited, hoping for a successful outcome.
What I pulled from the oven was a beautiful thing; it had done exactly what it was supposed to. The top rose in a crackly golden mound above the lip of the bowl. It jiggled slightly as I quickly transferred it to the table, letting me know of the fluffy, airy surprise waiting inside. And within minutes I watched as the soufflé slowly started deflating and with that, I knew it was time to eat. It was warm and silky, and flowed like cream on my tongue. The tangy goat cheese offset the pumpkin’s sweetness and a nice smoky flavor and crunchiness came from the ground hazelnuts that coated the inside of my cooking bowl. A seemingly horror story with a happy ending…and it sure beats the hell out of candy corn!
Halloween Soufflé for One
adapted from Plenty
The ingredient amounts are a little guessed and wonky for this recipe because I cut the original in half and was also trying to convert from the metric system without a kitchen scale. But what I ended up doing worked fine so that’s all that mattered to me. Since I made it for just myself, I cooked it in a large, oven-proof soup bowl. Enjoy this with a nice green salad and a glass of white wine. Trust me, if you have this for Halloween, you won’t even miss out on the candy.
2/3 cup pumpkin puree (I used fresh roasted and pureed pumpkin but I’m sure canned would work. Refer to here for roasting instructions)
a handful of hazelnuts
15 grams melted butter for greasing
15 grams unsalted butter
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. flour
125 ml milk
2 egg whites
1 egg yolk
pinch of chili powder
1 tsp. chopped thyme
35 g strong goat cheese
sour cream, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put a baking sheet on the top shelf. Chill your cooking bowl in the fridge. Pulverize the hazelnuts in a food processor until you have a powder. Brush your chilled bowl with the melted butter and coat the entire inside with the ground hazelnuts. Tip out the remaining hazelnuts and set aside.
Melt the remaining 15 grams of butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook while stirring for about a minute. Slowly add in the milk and stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce is thick and free of lumps. Set aside. In a bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, egg yolk, chili powder, thyme, goat cheese, and ½ tsp salt. Add the milk sauce and stir until smooth
Whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks but they are not dry. Gently incorporate them into the pumpkin mixture, being careful to retain as much of the air as possible. Fill up your prepared bowl and place on the preheated baking sheet for 22-24 minutes until the soufflé is puffed, the top is golden brown and the center just slightly moves when jiggled. Eat immediately with sour cream on the side.