Cheese Soufflé – The Agony And The Ecstasy

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A cheese soufflé can be to any chef what the Sistine Chapel was to Michelangelo – it can be either agony or ecstasy, or both.

Agony

     Any time I attempt to make a soufflé, I am well aware of the possibilities. It might end up being a total flop (agony). But there’s a greater likelihood that it will end up a spectacular dish. It will appear all puffed-up high, a light and fluffy concoction, browned on top and flavorful on the inside (ecstasy).

The Magic That Occurs

     It’s helpful to understand the magic that occurs when making a soufflé.  Harold McGee, in his book On Food and Cooking writes, “If you manage to get any air into the mix, an inexorable law of nature will raise it in the oven. All else being equal, the volume occupied by a given weight of gas is proportional to its temperature.”  In other words, as the air heats it will expand, puffing up the mixture, and it will ascend.  And voila, a voluminously beautiful soufflé .

     If this is your first attempt, you probably won’t have all of the proper tools and equipment.  To master the technique, or at least better your chances of success, it will help if you have a 4-cup soufflé mold (ramekin), a 4-quart copper mixing bowl (this can be expensive), and a large whisk.

     You can whip the egg whites using a stand mixer, but you will get better results doing manual whisking in a copper bowl. And yes, the copper bowl does make a difference.  You can use glass or stainless steel, but some strange chemistry happens between the protein in the eggs and the copper ions of the bowl.  The result is a yellowish creamy foam.  Whisk the egg whites to their full volume until stiff peaks form, and then stop.  Be careful not to overbeat, but this is actually hard to do when using a copper bowl.

To Lessen The Agony Have A Whisking Buddy

agony

    It’s also a good idea to have a partner to trade off with when whipping the eggs whites. If not, your arms and shoulders will ache for days (more agony).  Another good idea is to purchase a stand for the copper bowl.  It will lend a firm surface during the long minutes of whisking. 

Timing Is Everything

     When it comes to serving your soufflé, timing is everything.  Don’t start the cooking until you know your guests will be present and seated when the soufflé is taken out of the oven. It will fall fairly quickly, so take it directly to your table. In front of each guest a lightly dressed salad and some French bread should be waiting.  Have each of your guests pass their plates to you, and with a spoon gingerly cut into the soufflé and place a portion on each plate.      

What!?!! It Didn’t Rise? Remember, I Did Mention Agony. Simply Go To Pan B.

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A dinnertime tragedy – the fallen soufflé. Oh, the embarrassment. The shame. What To Do?

    So, your soufflé failed to rise. No problem. Just call it a gruyere cheese bake, and no one will ever know.  That’s why I never announce ahead of time a soufflé will be on the menu.  This way we are all in for a surprise. 

     For the recipe click on cheese soufflé, scroll down through the narrative, and the recipe will appear.

2 Comments
  • Beautiful Souffle`!

    29 November 2017 at 9:32 am

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