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Welcome to my blog. I created this blog with the intention of sharing my views on travel, food, books & movies which are among my top interests. From time to time it may include some ramblings as well!

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Baker's Corner: Cheese Soufflé

The oh-so-fancy soufflé makes its debut appearance on my blog!

A soufflé is a French inspired dish that is a lightly baked cake made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or a sweet dessert. The word soufflé is derived from French and means "to blow up" or more loosely "puff up" which is an apt description of what happens to this combination of custard and egg whites in this dish.

It is no secret that the soufflé has a bad reputation. It is notorious for making even the most accomplished cooks break into a cold sweat. Whenever I see a soufflé being made on television, I always hear the ominous predictions of all that could go wrong. Temperamental people are my least favorite kind of people so it is no surprise that even fussy dishes make me weary. That being said, I think it is good to accept cooking challenges and attempt dishes that are considered difficult. In the past, I have tried out the Chocolate Fondant which is another popular kitchen nightmare and although it didn't turn out perfect, I'm glad that I at least attempted it :)

To be very honest, I'm not a huge fan of a savory soufflé. I consider it to be a fancy replacement to a simple plain omelette! I prefer the sweet variety any day. Making a soufflé has always been on my cooking radar. The reason I attempted the savory soufflé first is because I wanted to limit it to an audience of just me and hubby so I could comfortably learn all the basic tips and tricks for making a good soufflé before I attempted the sweet kind for future dinner parties. Now that I have overcome my initial fear of soufflés, you can expect to see a chocolate soufflé soon on my blog!

This recipe is from Alton Brown, one of the people I admire the most on Food Network. I thought who better to follow for a recipe that is challenging than a person who delves so deeply into food science. This recipe has a few ingredients and is relatively simple. I made sure I followed the instructions very precisely. If you plan to make this dish I would advise you to keep all the ingredients ready, familiarize yourself with the recipe beforehand and have a plan in your mind as to how you are going to proceed. Scrambling around the kitchen like a headless chicken is not something you want to be doing especially with a fiddly dish like this! Anyway, coming to the outcome of my soufflé experiment, the resultant soufflé was light and airy with the subtle flavor of cheese coming through. It was a little bland though and next time I might consider adding in some cayenne pepper. I was anxious whether the soufflé would rise or not so I was glancing at it nervously every few minutes as it was baking in the oven. Much to my delight, the soufflé rose a very impressive 3-4 inches above the edge of the ramekin. Unfortunately, it didn't stay that way and slowly started to collapse after a few minutes. I just managed to take some pictures as it began to sink!

Time: 1 hr (Prep: 25 min; Cook: 35 min)
Serves: 3-4
Recipe level: Moderate 
Source: Adapted from here

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Butter at room temperature, for greasing the soufflé moulds
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 3-4 fresh garlic pods, grated
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups milk, hot
4 large egg yolks 
5 egg whites plus 1 tablespoon water 
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
170gm/6 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (I used vintage aged sharp Cheddar)



Method:

1. Very carefully separate the eggs into whites and yolks (I used an egg separator for this). It is easier to separate the eggs when they are cold. Make sure that there is no yolk or egg shell fragments in the egg white. Set the bowls aside so the separated egg whites and yolks come to room temperature. 


2. Use room temperature butter to grease an 8-inch soufflé mold (I used two smaller moulds and did two batches). Add the grated Parmesan cheese and roll around the mold to cover the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place into the fridge until required.


3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 deg C).
4. In a small saucepan, heat the butter. Allow all of the water to cook out. If you are using fresh garlic, add it to the butter and cook for a few seconds until the raw smell disappears. Add the flour, dry mustard, nutmeg and salt into the melted butter. If you are using garlic powder, add it along with these dry ingredients. Whisk all the ingredients well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
5. Whisk in the hot milk and turn the heat to high. Once the mixture reaches a boil, remove from the heat. At this stage, the mixture will have thickened and it should be smooth and free of lumps. 
6. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks to a creamy consistency. Temper the yolks into the milk mixture, constantly whisking. Add the cheese and whisk until incorporated. Keep aside to cool to room temperature. 


7. In a separate bowl (first ensure that it is completely clean and dry), using a hand or stand mixer, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until glossy and stiff. It should form firm and stiff peaks. You need to make sure that you do not over whip the egg whites. 


8. Add 1/4 of the mixture to the base using a rubber/silicone spatula. Continue to add the whites by thirds, folding very gently. Avoid using a circular motion while mixing and take care not to over mix. It is fine to see streaks of the egg white in the mixture. 



9. Gently pour the mixture into the soufflé mould. Fill the soufflé to 1/2-inch from the top. Don't let the mixture get onto the edge of the moulds. Place on a tray and keep the tray in the lower third of the oven. Bake for 35 minutes.


10. Serve immediately fresh out of the oven as the soufflés have a tendency to collapse after a few minutes. A fresh crisp salad would go perfectly with this light, airy and cheesy soufflé. 


Notes:
  • The kind of cheese you use in this dish is critical since it is one of the main ingredients. The better the quality of the cheese, the better your soufflé will taste. I don't have a very high opinion of the the generic pre-shredded cheddar that you get at supermarkets. 
  • If you want to spruce up the flavor, you can add scallions and cayenne pepper to the soufflé mixture before baking
  • The left over mixture can be added to the moulds, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. You can bake it later on.  
  • If you don't have cream of tartar, you can substitute with lemon juice or white vinegar
  • To help your soufflé to rise evenly, run your thumb along the outer edge of the dish, about a half inch deep or so, before you bake
  • A trick I would like to try next time is to add a collar to the soufflé to make it rise neatly and evenly. To do this you have to take a piece of parchment paper long enough to wrap all the way around your dish, fold it in half lengthwise so it is stiffer, and tie it around the outside of the dish with twine so it rises about two inches above the rim.

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