by Tom Stieber, CEO —
It’s hard to believe, but as much as I’ve cooked over the past twenty years, and as long as I’ve managed a team of professional chefs that are basically living, breathing culinary encyclopediae, I had never made a souffle until a week ago. I can’t really blame any lack of motivation for this egregious oversight, but rather a simple lack of souffle dishes in the cupboard. It might seem surprising that I never bought them, but in my house, I have to fight for every culinary purchase, and there’s good reason for that.
For years, I’ve been giving my husband, David, small heart attacks. Every time we walk into a cookware shop, I start piling a shopping cart full of culinary gadgets — tongs, pot holders, sieves, serving ware — you name it, and I must have it. Only his panicked promises of doing the dishes for a week straight can convince me to forego paying the mortgage in favor of coming home with four Vitamix blenders that I’ll only use once. So after much coaxing, crying, and physical restraint (maybe I exaggerate), I calmly put everything back on the shelf and leave empty handed, knowing that at least we’ll have a place to live for another month, which I understand is supposed to be some sort of small consolation.
Frighteningly, there are moments that find me all alone in the presence of culinary merchandise, without my better half’s wisdom. This means I could, in theory, buy out the store, ruin my credit and my marriage, and even stump Suze Orman. In those moments, tempted by the possibility of giving in to my addicitions, I teeter precariously between ruinous self-indulgence and sanity. Fortunately, David’s voice lingers in my ears even in his absence, and I limit myself to one purchase that I feel is absolutely necessary to continue living.
So recently, I came home with six nice classic white souffle dishes. After a fabulously perfected eye roll, David predicted I would never make a souffle in my life, and that these dishes were no different than our old, tiny ramekins. But I promised him big, beautiful souffles that would take our marriage to the next level, and goshdarnit, I keep my promises.
It was a dinner party last weekend that prompted me to inaugurate the new Souffle Era, and while souffles come in all sorts of flavors, we opted for a classic vanilla recipe that we could dress up with flavored creme anglaise (we opted for two varieties: cardamom and rosehip). And who could be a better recipe source that the one and only Julia Child? I found this recipe incredibly simple and quick, and it yields a perfect souffle. In fact, given souffles’ fickle reputation and restaurant price tags, I was shocked just how little time goes into making a souffle. Also, compared to many desserts, there is very little sugar in each serving (just a few tablespoons). Really, it’s mostly egg, which means you could practically call it health food and serve it for breakfast (work with me here).
This souffle came up so perfectly, that in the past week, we’ve made the same recipe again and again. Dare I say I am becoming addicted to souffle making? If so, then judging by David’s empty souffle dishes, this is an addictive behavior that he may grow to support.
Please enjoy this recipe and share your own variations with us!
Classic Vanilla Souffle
from Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook”
For a 6-cup dish, serving 4 (or split into 4 individual souffle ramekins)
A little soft butter and granulated sugar for the dish
The bouillie sauce base
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons soft butter, optional
5 egg whites, beaten to soft peaks
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar in a fine-meshed sieve
Special Equipment Suggested:
A 6-cup baking dish such as a charlotte mold 3 1/2 inches deep;
aluminum foil; a 2 1/2-quart stainless saucepan; a whisk, a wooden
spoon, and a rubber spatula; egg-white beating equipment
Preliminaries: Butter the baking dish, roll the sugar around in it to cover
the bottom and sides, and pin on an aluminum foil collar (I omit this step and still get a wonderful result). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and set the rack in the lower third level. Measure out all the ingredients listed.
The bouillie sauce base. Whisk the flour and half of the milk in the sauce-pan to blend; beat in the rest of the milk and the sugar. Stir with a wooden spoon over moderately high heat until the sauce thickens, then whisk as the sauce comes to the boil; continue boiling and whisking for 30 seconds. The sauce will be very thick; let cool for a moment, then beat the egg yolks one by one into the warm sauce. Beat in the optional butter.
The egg whites. In a clean separate bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites until foaming; add the salt and beat to soft peaks. Sprinkle in the sugar, and beat to stiff shining peaks.
Finishing the soufflé. Whisk the vanilla into the sauce base, and stir in a quarter of the egg whites to lighten it. Delicately and rapidly fold in the rest of the egg whites and turn the soufflé into the prepared mold.
Ahead-of-time note: The soufflé may be completed to this point 1/2 hour or more ahead; cover loosely with a sheet of foil and set away from drafts.
Baking – After preheating at 400F, set in the lower third of the preheated oven, turn the thermostat down to 375 degrees F, and bake until the soufflé has begun to puff and brown – about 20 minutes. (but the best test is to turn on the oven light and watch it)
The confectioners sugar, and finish. Slide the rack out gently; quickly dust the top of the soufflé with sifted confectioners sugar, and continue baking until the soufflé has puffed 2 to 3 inches over the rim of the
baking dish into the collar, and the top has browned nicely under the sugar coating
Serving. As soon as it is done, bring the soufflé to the table. To keep the puff standing, hold your serving spoon and fork upright and back to back; plunge them into the crust and tear it apart.