Friday, May 21, 2010

How long has it been since you have baked a Soufflé?
Soufflés have scared the living daylights out of people for decades. They are supposed to be difficult if not impossible. They need to be treated delicately, eaten immediately. I don’t know about you, but when I plan a dinner party, I very rarely get it cooked and on the table on schedule. My invitations usually say “dinner at 7-ish”. If I have a souffle in the oven, I try to get my guests to the table, salads served, wine glasses filled, etc, so when I pull that gorgeous golden brown soufflé out of the oven, it is on the table before it deflates.

A Souffle can either be a sweet or savory mixture that is made of custard and whipped egg whites. You want to use the the freshest eggs you can find. Known to be one of the more intimidating baking dishes because of its propensity to "fall" or collapse during or after baking, every souffle has two basic components, a cream or puree base and egg whites. The base is known to provide the flavor and the egg whites provide the rise.

Do you know what “souffle” means in English? …to blow up!

Now if you are preparing a chocolate soufflé for dessert….wow, that presents even bigger problems. Timing is everything. My kitchen is not far from the dining room and I don’t want my guests trying to talk over the noise of the electric mixer! You can’t mix it up ahead of time, the egg whites deflate if they are held very long. Of course, if you are a purest and actually own a beautiful big copper bowl and a giant balloon whip, you can excuse yourself from the table, go in a whip up those egg whites, gently fold them into the best chocolate you can buy, and voila! You have made a perfect chocolate soufflé! So, I have learned to live with the fact I am not a purest….actually, I am no where near it.

Chocolate soufflés have not been served at my dinner parties for years. I have also discovered that my favorite cheese soufflé is fabulous for brunch. And they are perfect any time of the year.

Hope you enjoy my favorite souffle recipes.
Somerset Ridge Cheese Soufflé
4 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
grated nutmeg,
6 large eggs, separated
8 ounces grated Comte or Gruyere cheese
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 400F. Brush the inside of a large soufflé dish with 2 tablespoons of softened butter. Sprinkle the Parmesan onto the buttered surface of the dish and gently shake the dish to spread the cheese evenly up the sides.
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter. Whisk the flour into the melted butter, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly stir the milk into the butter mixture, and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens.
Remove the milk from the heat and stir in the salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg yolks, and cheese. In a separate clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until the egg white form stiff peaks. Stir a few spoons of the egg whites into the cheese mixture and then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the soufflé batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared soufflé dish and bake it for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the soufflé is puffed and deep golden brown. Serve the cheese soufflé immediately.
This cheese soufflé recipe makes 6 to 8 servings.

Okay, now here is my very favorite Chocolate Souffle recipe….trust me, the chocolate/orange combination makes it iworth the pressure, but try it a few times before you prepare it for a dinner party.

Chocolate Soufflés
1 pint Orange juice
8 Egg yolks
4 ounces Granulated sugar
3 ounces All-purpose flour
8 ounces Bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
2 fluid ounces Orange liqueur
16 Egg whites
Butter, melted, as needed

Granulated sugar, as needed
To prepare the base, heat the orange juice to lukewarm in a heavy saucepan.
Whisk the egg yolks with 3 ounces (90 grams) of the sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the flour and warm orange juice, then return the mixture to the saucepan.
Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard is thick. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the chocolate until completely melted. Stir in the liqueur. Cover this base mixture with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Hold for use at room temperature. (Unused base can be kept overnight in the refrigerator; it should be brought to room temperature before mixing with the egg whites.)
To prepare the soufflés, brush 4-fluid-ounce sized ramekins with melted butter and dust with granulated sugar.
Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Place a sheet pan in the oven, onto which you will place the soufflés for baking. (This makes it easier to remove the hot soufflé cups from the oven.)
Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks with the remaining 1 ounce (30 grams) of sugar. Fold the whites into the chocolate base and spoon the mixture into the prepared ramekins. The ramekins should be filled to within 1/4 inch (6 millimeters) of the rim. Smooth the top of each soufflé with a spatula and bake immediately.
The soufflés are done when well risen and golden brown on top and the edges appear dry, approximately 12 minutes. Do not touch a soufflé to test doneness or it will fall flatter than a pancake!
Sprinkle the soufflés with powdered sugar if desired and serve immediately.

One last bit of soufflé trivia for you…..the first printed recipe for a soufflé is dated 1742.
Louis XV was the King of France way back then. I bet he could eat the whole thing!

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