The cast iron pan is a misunderstood piece of cookware. Many view it as fussy, heavy, and unglamorous, used only for campfire cooking or fat-streaked steaks. This narrow view is something Lisa Odegard wants to shift with her cookbook Cast Iron Desserts.
“It’s the ultimate utilitarian pan,” Odegard begins. “There is a great piece of cast iron at every price point.” cast iron milk pan
Although cast iron may automatically conjure images of rusty and oily black pans, the material is used in much more diverse ways. There are the colorful enameled cast iron Dutch ovens of Le Creuset and Staub, lusted after by every cooking enthusiast. There are cast iron griddles that will provide perfect grill marks for burgers, pork chops, and even peaches. And of course, there are the raw cast iron pans that are recognizable and can be made non-stick without the use of chemicals.
In Cast Iron Desserts, Odegard addresses the differences between raw and enameled cast iron and finds uses for all formats through her dessert recipes. “I just realized there’s not actually a dessert cookbook [for cast iron],” she says. “It’s always at the back part of a book with standard crisps and crumbles and Dutch babies.”
So instead of finding a perfect cast iron dessert recipe that did not exist, Odegard decided to develop it herself. Odegard has been interested in cooking her whole life. Her mom, a second-generation immigrant, poured love into her meals and introduced her to new dishes—baklava, fish sauce-laced dishes from Vietnam, homemade pizza and cannoli. This delicious childhood translated into a degree in nutrition and eventually culinary school, where Odegard delved deep into the technicalities of gastronomy.
“I’ve always loved recipe testing and as far as desserts go, I was trying to explore what I can make well and what can’t I make with cast iron,” Odegard explains.
It turns out, you can make much more than cobblers and Dutch pancakes using cast iron. Odegard pens recipes for scones, cinnamon rolls, cakes, yuzu thyme cookies, and more—approaching baking with curiosity and experimentation of flavors. “As much as I love creme brulee, it does not work well with cast iron because I can’t really get that ambient texture,” Odegard laughs. “Somebody prove me wrong, because I could not do it.”
What does work surprisingly well is souffle. The delicate cake contrasts the sturdiness of cast iron. Odegard, inspired by homemade hot chocolate she prepares for her sons, amps up her Mexican hot chocolate souffle with the addition of cayenne pepper and cinnamon.
“I think it would be easier for most people to use an enamel-coated cast iron, but it actually worked really well with raw cast iron as well,” Odegard says. “Because cast iron takes so long to heat up, it allows the souffle to push up and cook properly.”
Souffles—which, like cast iron, are misconstrued as difficult—are made possible through cast iron cookware and Odegard’s careful instruction (following multiple rounds of recipe testing with friends and family possessing a wide range of cooking abilities). For those nervous about the intricacies of the recipe, Odegard has woven QR codes throughout her cookbook that contain video instructions.
“I think everyone has the ability to be proficient in the kitchen,” Odegard says encouragingly. “All you need is curiosity, time, and experience.”
Prep cast iron • 1 tablespoon soft butter • 2 tablespoons sugar, granulated
1. Thoroughly butter the inside of your 1-quart cast iron pot then sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar all over the interior. Swirl the sugar around so it coats every part of the inside of the pot. Set aside.
Soufflé • ⅓ cup butter • 5 tablespoons sugar, granulated • 3 ounces chocolate (65%), chopped • 3 egg whites • ⅓ large egg yolks • 3 teaspoons coffee liqueur or vanilla extract • 2 teaspoons cinnamon • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper • 8 teaspoons cream of tartar
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Melt butter and bring to a simmer. Take pot off heat, add 3 tablespoons sugar and stir until incorporated. Then add chocolate to butter mixture and whisk until smooth. 2. Mix egg whites with cream of tartar in a stand mixer bowl, fitted with a wire whisk. Whip on high until whites are at soft peak. Then sprinkle egg whites with 2 tablespoons of sugar and whip whites until firm but not dry. 3. In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks. Then, slowly add the chocolate mixture into the egg yolks while whisking vigorously. Once the eggs are incorporated, add coffee liqueur, cinnamon, cayenne then whisk until combined. 4. Gently place the light and airy egg whites on top of the chocolate mixture. Do not stir. Take a wide, flexible silicone spatula and cut through the egg white all the way down through the chocolate to the bottom, then make a scooping motion and turn the chocolate onto the whites (this is called folding). Spin the bowl and continue folding while intermittently scraping down the sides. All of the whites must be incorporated into the chocolate base without white streaks, but the mixture should still be light and airy. 5. Pour gently into the prepared 1-quart Dutch oven and bake for 20–25 minutes. Serve immediately.
Notes: Do not open the oven door to check on your souffle, the cold air rushing in will deflate it. Instead, use the light in your oven and look through the oven window.
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