Soufflés Rise to the Occasion

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My mother equated canned food with haute cuisine. Because reheating was the extent of her culinary skills, I taught myself to cook. I started with salads and moved on to briskets and roasting chickens. Once I aced soups and side dishes, I mastered layer cakes and flaky pie crusts.

Because soufflés are tricky, I saved them for last. But I yearned to puff up food like balloons the way the French do. No doubt, soufflés are a marvel of engineering.
The first time I attempted a soufflé, I panicked, fearing my creation would wither, never rising to great heights. After madly trying many recipes, both savory and sweet, I realized it takes four to six beaten eggs and some flour to get a soufflé airborne.
After trial and error, I found soufflés are not as intimidating as their reputation. Even a beginner can inflate a soufflé. The trick is to handle with care and understand these miracle confections.
Soufflés don’t sustain their loft for long. They may start to deflate as soon as they leave the oven, so I suggest consuming them without delay. They also shrink as they’re spooned onto a plate. But this temperamental behavior does not diminish their divine texture, as frothy as clouds — or my pride whenever I bring to the table a steaming dome bursting from a fluted soufflé dish. I feel very French.
Carrot Soufflé with Orange Liqueur
(Dairy)
Equipment: 1½-quart soufflé dish and a food processor
1 bunch of carrots
Unsalted butter for coating soufflé dish, plus 8 Tbsps. (one stick) at room temperature
1 cup 2% milk
4 Tbsps. flour
½ cup sugar
⅛ tsp. cardamom
⅛ tsp. ground ginger
4 eggs
¼ cup orange liqueur
Scrape the carrots and cut them into sticks. Place in a vegetable steamer, adding water to the bottom. Steam for 10-15 minutes, or until soft when pierced with a fork. Drain in a colander. Cool to warm.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350˚. Coat the soufflé dish with butter.
Fit a food processor with the metal blade. Move the carrots and the remaining ingredients to the bowl of the food processor. Process until the carrots are puréed and the ingredients are well blended.
Pour the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish. Bake for 45 minutes, or until soufflé rises and is firm in the center. Serve immediately.
Serves 4-6
Pumpkin Soufflés
(Dairy)
Equipment: Two 1½-quart soufflé dishes and a food processor
Unsalted butter for coating 2 soufflé dishes, plus 12 Tbsps. (1½ sticks) at room temperature
1 (15-ounce) can of pumpkin
1½ cups 2% milk
5 Tbsps. flour
¾ cup sugar
⅔ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
6 eggs
Preheat oven to 350˚. Coat the soufflé dishes with butter.
Fit a food processor with the metal blade. Place half of the ingredients in the bowl of the food processor. Process until the ingredients are well blended. Pour the pumpkin mixture into one of the prepared soufflé dishes.
Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
Place both soufflé dishes in the oven. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the soufflés rise and are firm in the center. Serve immediately.
Each soufflé serves 4-6
Potato Soufflé
(Dairy)
Equipment: 1½-quart soufflé dish and a food processor
2 large potatoes
Dash of salt, plus 1/8 tsp.
Unsalted butter for coating, plus 8 Tbsps. (one stick) at room temperature
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup 2% milk
4 Tbsps. flour
⅛ tsp. white pepper
4 eggs
Peel and dice potatoes into 1-inch chunks. Place potatoes in a medium-size saucepan with a dash of salt. Cover pot and boil potatoes until tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Drain and cool to warm.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350˚. Coat the soufflé dish with butter.
Fit a food processor with the metal blade. Place all of the ingredients into the bowl of the food processor and process until the potatoes are puréed and the ingredients are well blended.
Pour the ingredients into the prepared soufflé dish. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the soufflé rises and is firm in the center. Serve immediately.
Serves 4-6
Chocolate Soufflé
(Dairy)
Equipment: Double boiler or substitute with a pot for the bottom part of the double boiler, a heat proof bowl for the upper part, and aluminum foil as the lid
1½-quart soufflé dish
Roasting pan with a flat bottom
1 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate morsels
2 Tbsps. unsalted butter, plus Butter for coating soufflé dish
1 Tbsp. warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar, plus 1/3 cup
6 large egg whites
3 large egg yolks
⅛ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. cinnamon
Optional accompaniment: vanilla ice cream
Fill the bottom of a double boiler with 2 inches of water. Put chocolate morsels, 2 Tbsps. butter and Tbsp. water in the upper part and fit over the bottom. Cover the chocolate mixture and turn the flame to medium high until water comes to a boil. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate and butter melt entirely. Chocolate will look shiny. Remove the upper part from the boiling water in the bottom and bring to room temperature.
Meanwhile, coat the soufflé dish with butter. Place 1 Tbsp. of sugar in the soufflé dish. Roll around the soufflé dish until the bottom and sides are dusted with sugar. Discard excess sugar, if any remains.
Separate the eggs, placing three yolks in a small bowl and the six whites in a large mixing bowl. Reserve the egg yolks in the bowl and discard the other three.
Add salt to the egg whites. Beat on medium until the whites turn shiny, about 3 minutes. Turn off the beater and lift the whisk. The egg whites should form soft peaks. If not, beat and repeat in 30-second intervals, until the egg whites gently peak.
With the beater running, gradually add 1/3 cup sugar to the egg whites, until stiff peaks form, for about an additional 3 minutes. Reserve egg whites but keep them away from the oven or any heat.
Preheat the oven to 350˚.
Mix the egg yolks with a fork. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture in the double boiler, along with vanilla and cinnamon. Mix with a fork until well combined.
Add about 1 cup of whipped egg whites to the chocolate mixture. With a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Then move that mixture to the bowl with the remaining egg whites. Gently stir with the spatula until well combined. Do not over stir.
Move the chocolate-egg white mixture to the prepared soufflé dish.
Pour 1/2- to 3/4-inch of hot water into a roasting pan with a flat bottom. Carefully place the soufflé dish into the roasting pan. Then move to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes without opening the oven door. The soufflé is ready when its dome is set, about another 5 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately with vanilla ice cream, if desired.
Serves 6
Linda Morel is a writer based in New York City. Email her at: [email protected]

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