Dave and Linda from Monkeyshines in the Kitchen chose Soufflés as our November 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge! Dave and Linda provided two of their own delicious recipes plus a sinfully decadent chocolate soufflé recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s recipe found at the BBC Good Food website.
Many people think the process of making soufflés is all about the stress and timing of getting them to come out at that perfect moment. You work out a plan, get your ingredients together, prep your ramekins, fill them up and into the oven they go. Then you watch this glorious symphony happen as they bake. Everything the soufflé was ever meant to be starts with a small puff, growing larger and larger reaching for higher and higher heights until it transforms itself into a vertiable masterpiece of art right before your very eyes.
This is the moment that everyone wants to preserve when they serve them – it’s why after this moment everything is an insane rush to get them out on the table. If you want to get a picture of your perfect soufflé, there’s even more adrenaline flowing throughout the room. I, the photographer, start running all over the place like a lost chicken every time I have to tweak something, unable to turn back the clock as I slowly watch the soufflé tragically fall. Its life work now completed entire minutes ago, the comparatively cool air of the room rushes over the dish as it lets out a long and weary sigh, until it has at last crumpled to a mere shell of its former self.
And that is when the soufflé taught me a lesson.
You see, I thought the point of making the soufflé was to show off its height as it towered above the ramekin doing its best NYC sky scraper impression. I so desperately wanted to caputure that precise moment that I made not one, but three soufflés to get that first picture above, and even then the center had already fallen in considerably. Like any good thing that obeys the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the soufflé is happiest when it gets to relax and take a deep breath, forgetting about all the expectations and structure that were forced upon it only moments before.
And you know what? It’s still beautiful. And it’s still tasty.
Sometimes, we just need a break. I need a break. I forget to take that time for myself during the day, and by the end I can feel like the soufflé in the oven, all tense and worked up. I come home and I don’t shut my brain off, it still rolls around with ideas from work or errands that need to be run. As a result, I’m grumpy and tired and don’t sleep well, a cycle that perpetuates itself the next day, wearing myself down a little more with each passing pink-hued sunrise, with only a push of the button on the espresso machine able to keep my mind focused.
Making soufflé sparked within me this realization, and I plan to do something about it. A 15 minute break. A couple times a day. Where I don’t look at the computer screen, I don’t plan out everything that needs to be done tomorrow, where I don’t do anything. How often can you say you truly did nothing for 15 whole minutes? I think I will spend my 15 minutes going outside for a bit gazing at the mountains across the Lac, and teaching myself to remember what it is like to actually relax, clearing my mind. I’m going to work on cutting back on my caffeine intake, so that I can drink it for enjoyment only and not for recovering from the crash when the last one wears off. But mainly, I just want to allow myself to relax for a few minutes each day, to recharge.
One thing about making soufflés over and over again was that with each subsequent one, the stress associated with making them dissolved. I knew what to expect, I knew how they worked. That certainly made them no longer intimidating. I could add personality to my soufflés now. I chose to use some of the leftover grated mélange from our Swiss moitié-moitié fondue and some chopped sage. Therapeutic really, making soufflés. Maybe cooking can be part of my 15 minutes too.
2 tbs. butter + some for greasing the ramekins
3 1/2 tbs. flour (any regular or gluten free flour mix will do)
1 cup milk
3/4 cup grated cheese, gruyère/vacherin fribourgeois for moitié-moitié style
1/4 cup sage, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs, separated
couple drops lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 350F and butter individual ramekins well.
2. To make the béchémel for the soufflé, melt butter on medium heat in a small saucepan, then stir in the flour. This makes a roux. Let cook for a minute and then add the milk gradually until thickened (about another minute). Add in the cheese and sage, stirring until melted. Remove from heat and add salt/pepper if desired. I didn’t add any salt, cheese is salty enough. Remove the cheesy béchémel from heat.
3. Beat egg whites in a clean metal bowl with a couple drops of lemon juice until you get stiff peaks.
4. Simmer some water on the stove in a small pot, and beat egg yolks in a bowl set just over this water until they are pale and foamy. Don’t let them get too hot, they shouldn’t cook.
5. Add these to the cheesy béchémel.
6. Fold the egg whites into the sauce gently, a quarter of the batch at a time.
7. Pour soufflé batter into ramekins. Tap on the counter to remove any air bubbles, and make sure they are even on top. Wrap a parchment paper collar around the outside of the dish to keep the soufflé rising straight in the oven.
8. Bake 25 minutes and serve immediately.