Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cheese Soufflé

I can’t help but start this with a warning. Not because it’s hard, but precisely because it’s not. I’m not sure when or why soufflé got a reputation for being so difficult. Then again, when I was taking my class at l’Académie culinaire, I was surprised at how many people not only had never made soufflé, but at how many people had actually never eaten it – and at the misconceptions they had about it. One woman thought that when you take a soufflé out of the oven, you must have absolute silence, otherwise the soufflé will collapse. I mean, can you imagine what would happen in restaurant kitchens when diners order a soufflé, if that were true? I can just picture the head chef going, “Alright everybody, SSHHHHH!!!” before opening the oven door. That would never work! Anyway, my point is that you really should not be intimidated by a soufflé, because making one is really quite easy.

Note that even though I used butter for this dish, I did not need Lactaid and did not get sick from eating the soufflé. That’s why I used the lactose-free tag here. I recently read an interesting article (two, actually) about the fact that there is very little lactose in butter, and yet some lactose-intolerant people still get quite sick from it. More funding needed. ;)

Once again, I got this version of the recipe from Orangette.

2 Tbsp finely grated parmesan or other hard cheese (which are usually lactose-free)
2 ½ Tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for buttering dish
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup milk, hot
½ tsp paprika
a pinch of nutmeg
½ tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
4 egg yolks (from large eggs)
5 egg whites (from large eggs)
1 cup (3 ½ oz) coarsely grated cheese, such as gruyère or sharp cheddar (again, usually lactose-free)

Generously butter a 7 ½- to 8-inch diameter soufflé dish. Roll the grated parmesan in the buttered baking dish to cover the bottom and side.

Set the oven rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat to 400 °F.

To make the béchamel:
Over moderate heat, melt 2 ½ Tbsp butter in a 2 ½-quart saucepan; then blend in the flour with a wooden spoon to make a smooth but somewhat loose paste. Stir until the butter and flour foam together for two minutes without coloring to more than a buttery yellow. (In the picture, you’ll notice that my mixture is darker than a buttery yellow. It looks like I ended up making a roux. It’s possible that there was a bit too much heat. But I also want to point out that I normally use Nutri flour, which is a whole-wheat flour that tastes like white flour. It is blonde in color, not brown, so in most cakes, you can’t tell the difference, but here, you can.)

Remove from heat. When the bubbling stops, pour in the hot milk all at once, whisking vigorously to blend. Place the saucepan over moderately high heat, whisking rather slowly, reaching all over the bottom and sides of the pan, until the sauce comes to the simmer. Simmer two to three minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the sauce is very thick and coats a spoon nicely.

Whisk in the seasonings, and remove from heat.

Whisk the egg yolks into the hot sauce one by one, and set it aside.

To finish:
In a clean bowl and with clean beaters, beat the egg whites to stiff shining peaks. Scoop a quarter of the egg whites into the sauce, and stir together with a wooden spoon. Turn the rest of the egg whites on top; rapidly and delicately, fold them in with a rubber spatula, alternating scoops of the spatula with sprinkles of the coarsely grated cheese.

Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, and use your spatula to trace a circle in the top of the batter, just inside the rim of the dish. This will help the soufflé to rise freely. (I forgot this step, so my soufflé was a little lopsided, but it still rose. This just goes to show how easy it is to make, really, you can forget a few little things and still make it relatively successfully.)

Place the soufflé in the oven, and turn the oven temperature down to 375 °F. Bake about 25 to 30 minutes (without opening the oven – this is really the golden rule), until the soufflé has puffed 1 to 3 inches over the rim of the baking dish and the top has browned nicely. Serve immediately, because yes, it will deflate within a few minutes (though it is still perfectly edible deflated).

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