Sunday, January 23, 2011

What's Baking? January: a new technique

Jen, the Beantown Baker picked our theme for January, which was something new: a technique or ingredient you've never used before.
I love this idea. When I heard about the theme, I immediately set out to hunt for something new. I eventually got a pretty big list: laminated dough (croissants), boiling before baking (like pretzels or bagels), grains other than wheat flour (like spelt, or possibly teff, which I've never baked with or had success with), or the one dish that's been on my "I must try this" list for years now, a souffle.

Everything was tempting to make, but I decided I had to go with the souffle. My mom's been after me to make a souffle probably ever since she bought me a stand mixer for Christmas 2002, when I first moved into my own place. I made the souffle for when my parents came to visit- they had to be able to enjoy the souffle when mom was the reason I was baking it.

I learned a few things: souffles are kind of fun! It's not hard at all. Souffles are... kind of interesting. It was a little wet- apparently this is normal? It had great flavor. Finally, one very important lesson, that I must remember for all cooking endeavors: mise en place. Get everything ready before you start cooking- get it out on the counter, measure, chop, get all the utensils out, etc, before you turn on the burner. It makes it SO much easier.

I used Alton Brown's cheese souffle recipe. For finicky cooking that involves a lot of science, I trust him more than anyone.

Cheese Souffle
from Alton Brown

butter, room temperature but not softened, for greasing the souffle dish
2T grated parmesan

in a medium saucepan:
3T butter (to be melted)

in a small bowl:
3T flour
1/4-1/2 t garlic powder
1t dry mustard
1/8t salt

in a small saucepan:
1 and 1/3 cup milk

in a medium bowl:
4 large egg yolks

to later add to the yolks:

6oz grated sharp cheddar

in the bowl of your stand mixer:
5 egg whites
1T water
1t cream of tartar

Because my organization helped me so much, I'll walk you through exactly what I did.

Preheat your oven to 375F, with a rack placed slightly lower than right in the middle.

1. grease the souffle dish with butter (an 8 inch in diameter, straight sided ramekin-style dish). Sprinkle in the parmesan and press the cheese to the butter so the sides and bottom are evenly coated with cheese. Chill in the freezer for about 15 min (or if you live in the north and it's winter, stick it outside. I love my auxiliary freezer!)

2. Whisk together the flour, mustard, garlic and salt. Set aside.

3. Vigorously whisk the egg yolks. Grate the cheese and set the cheese aside- later you'll add it to the egg yolks.

4. Start the egg whites: in the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the whites, water and cream of tartar. With your whisk attachment, beat on medium-high to high until they're glossy and stiff. (this takes about the amount of time steps 5-7 need)

5. Place the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat until it just starts to bubble, then turn off.

6. Meanwhile, put the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and let it melt and start bubbling. Once the bubbling subsides (that's the water boiling off), whisk in the flour mixture and stir until it's thick- this is a roux. Cook for 2 minutes, and keep stirring. Whisk in the scalded milk. Turn the heat to high, and cook until it starts bubbling (which was almost immediately for me). Now turn off the heat.

7. Temper the egg yolks with the milk mixture: whisking the yolks constantly, pour about 1/3-1/2 of the milk mixture, one ladleful at a time, into the yolks. Then pour the yolks/egg mixture back into the milk saucepan (the burner is still off). Stir in the cheese, keep stirring until everything's combined.

8. Now your egg whites should be nice and stiff. Fold in 1/4 of the egg whites to the yolk/milk/cheese mixture, very gently. Fold in another 1/4 of the whites, folding til well combined, and continue until all the whites are in. Be gentle! It'll be a little tedious but you want to be nice to the fluffy whites.

9. Transfer the mixture to your prepared souffle dish (which I placed on the counter just before step 7- I was worried about putting a cold pan in a hot oven.) Place the souffle dish inside a metal pan (I have no idea why) and pop it in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes (I baked for more like 50), until the souffle is nice and golden on the top. Don't open the oven until it's done- I hope you have a glass window on your oven door!

Serve warm. Souffles are very funny: mine puffed up beautifully in the oven, and then it took about 15 minutes to completely fall, as it cooled. It was a little wet (maybe I should have cooked it more? This is actually the first souffle I've ever eaten, so I'm not sure) but it had a lovely flavor. It's even good reheated in the oven- I cut a slice and wrap it in foil, and heat for about 10 min at 350F.
Fresh from the oven
After 5 minutes of cooling
After 10 minutes

15 minutes after taking it out of the oven, it went to the table... completely flat! ha.

I really loved making this souffle- I forgot how much making something completely new can be (especially when it turns out to be delicious). I plan to bake/cook something new like this throughout this year. Stay tuned for a delicious fougasse recipe, and Clint voted for pretzels next. I also plan to try out a chocolate souffle- maybe even modify a recipe to make a nutella souffle!

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