Episode 72 – “Egg Files 5: Souffle-Quantum Foam”

Posted: January 18, 2017 in Season 6
Tags: , , , , ,

Do you ever have memories from childhood that seem incredibly prominent, such that you feel like they occurred with regular frequency? For some reason, I have a very strong memory of my mom making cheese souffle when I was little; the odd thing is that my memory makes me feel that this happened regularly, when, in fact, it may have only happened once or twice. I think I will have to call my mom later and have her set the record straight about her cheese souffle routine. Whether it happened once or many times, I remember sitting at the dining room table with my dad and brother, eagerly anticipating my mom’s arrival from the kitchen with her hot souffle dish. Would her souffle successfully rise and puff above the top of the dish? I recall a beautiful orange souffle, golden on top, with a perfect puffy “top hat.”

Cheese Souffle

Though I had consumed cheese souffle when I was young, I had never made one before I set out to prepare Alton’s souffle for our Saturday breakfast. Per Alton’s instructions, I preheated my oven to 375, which is his temperature rule for any souffle. For a souffle vessel, he recommends a 1.5-quart round souffle dish, preferably with an unglazed bottom (for heat penetration) and fluted sides to increase surface area; it just so happens that we have a dish just like this. First, I greased my souffle dish with cold butter.

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Souffle dish, greased with cold butter.

Next, I added 1 T of grated Parmesan to the dish, covering it with plastic wrap and shaking to coat the inside of the dish. I found that I actually needed a little more Parmesan to coat my dish, so I added some extra and shook again. Lining the dish with Parmesan gives the souffle something to “hold onto” as it climbs the walls. The souffle dish goes into the freezer while you prep everything else.

Alton’s recipe then calls for making a roux by melting 1 1/2 ounces of butter over medium heat, allowing the butter to cook until it stops bubbling, which means most of the water has been cooked out.

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Butter, cooking until it stops bubbling.

While the butter cooks, in a lidded container combine 3/4 ounce flour, 1 t dry mustard, 1/2 t garlic powder, and a heavy pinch of Kosher salt, shaking to combine.

You will also want to separate 4 egg yolks (you will need 5 egg whites later, so save the whites here), grate 6 ounces of sharp Cheddar cheese, and heat 1 1/3 C milk in the microwave.

When the butter has ceased bubbling, add the dry ingredients to the pan, whisking over low heat until you have a nutty aroma. To the roux, add the hot milk, whisking and increasing the heat.

Beat your egg yolks until light in color and turn the heat off under the roux. Temper the egg yolks by gradually adding small amounts of the hot roux, whisking. Once you have added about half of your roux, you can whisk the egg yolks into the roux pan.

Keeping the pan off of the heat, whisk in the grated Cheddar until you have a smooth mixture, which will take a few minutes. Set the base aside to cool.

Note:  To cut down on preparation time the day you are making your souffle, you can make the souffle base to this point and refrigerate it for up to a week; just be sure to press a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface to avoid having a “skin” form. If you do this, you will need to bring the base to room temperature before using. While your base cools to room temperature (or warms to room temperature if you prepared it in advance), beat 5 egg whites in a metal bowl, along with 1 T water and 1/8 t cream of tartar until you have stiff peaks.

Stir 1/4 of your egg whites into your room temperature base, as this will lighten the base.

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Stirring 1/4 of the egg whites into the souffle base.

Gently fold the remaining whites into the base in three installments, avoiding deflating the foam by over-mixing.

Pour the souffle into the prepared dish and use your thumb to make an indentation all around the edge of the souffle, as this will help to form a nice “top hat.” Place your souffle dish in a pie pan (for ease of removal from the oven), and bake it for 35 minutes.

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Souffle in prepared dish.

After 35 minutes, use a sharp paring knife to peek into the middle of the souffle – if there is a lot of liquid, place it back in the oven for 5 more minutes. My souffle seemed to be done after 35 minutes.

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Souffle after baking for 35 minutes.

Serve your souffle promptly. The nice thing about a cheese souffle is that you could eat it for any meal, but we had ours for breakfast before an 11-mile run.

Honestly, I was worried that my souffle was going to flop, as I felt that I had over-beaten my egg whites, but it actually turned out quite nicely. I do wish my souffle would have had a better rise above the top of the dish, but it still was nice and airy, and had a light crust on the outside. The cheese flavor was really prominent in this souffle and it had the texture of super light scrambled eggs. Souffles can be intimidating, but they are really not difficult, and Alton’s recipe seems to be one that works.

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