30 June 2012

Easy Herb-Cheese Souffle

AKA Fluff in our house!

I realize that most everyone is in the middle of a heat wave at the moment, so this may not be the thing to make just now. But when you have a cooler night, give it a try!

So I'm sure some of you are thinking....Cheese Soufflé...this is what she considers easy? Yes, it is easy. If you have never made a soufflé, don't fret. If you have tried in the past and it didn't quite work, this will do it. This is also an easy recipe to play around with, adding different ingredients as you go. The biggest thing, if you have never made a soufflé, is to not be afraid. It will rise beautifully in the oven, come out big and fluffy and then settle as it cools. Do not be afraid of the fall!

If you have a Fannie Farmer cookbook then you might have seen the recipe, just didn't realize it was a soufflé, as it is called Cheese Fondue in the book. There is a Cheese Soufflé recipe that is also quite tasty. We just keep coming back to the Fondue one.  For those of you who might want the details, the book I have is The Original Boston Cooking School 1896, by Fannie Merritt Farmer, and is located on page 320. This book is different than the classic Fannie Farmer. It was printed with her notes in the margins on many recipes, and there are no actual temperatures given, just suggestions like slow oven or moderate hot oven, which can leave you flustered if you do not know what those equal.

If you don't already have one, get an oven thermometer. If you don't do a lot of baking in your oven, it will really help. If your oven is spot on for temp, then have it as backup, because ovens seem to change over time. Mine used to be perfect, now not quite as much, which means every now and then I put the thermometer in to double check.

Pictures do not due this justice. It is difficult to get the shot before it relaxes when coming from the oven, and some photos just don't look as appetizing as in real life! But everyone always raves for this, so you will just have to trust that!

Couple of notes:
You don't need to go out and buy a soufflé dish. If you have a 2.5 or 3 quart saucepan that can go in the oven use that. The dish or pan just needs to have high sides for the soufflé to rise.
When it comes to cheese, let your taste buds choose. Mild white & yellow cheddars are nice, as is Monterey jack. If you want more kick use a pepper jack. I have used many different kinds, depending on what is the cheese drawer. A favorite is an Irish cheddar, or Dubliner which gives a slight nuttiness to the flavor. We have even done a mix of cheeses; just make sure they all melt about the same.

Now for my other changes and additions.
•If we are doing only cheese, I always add some fresh grated nutmeg, roughly 1/4 teaspoon, and a couple of shakes of Tabasco sauce.
 •A favorite to add is diced smoked salmon, about 4 oz., added before the egg whites.
 •We have also cooked up mushrooms and onions to add, and done one with diced, sautéed summer squashes and onion. Make sure to let the water cook out before adding in to the egg mixture.

Keep in mind that when you add other ingredients, it makes the egg mixture heavier, which may be slower to rise and take a few more minutes to cook.

Herb-Cheese Soufflé

Herb-Cheese Soufflé (AKA Cheese Fondue)
Adapted from The Original Boston Cooking School 1896, by Fannie Merritt Farmer

1 cup scalded milk
1 cup soft breadcrumbs (about 1 1/2 to 2 pieces lightly toasted and run in a processor)
1/4 lb mild cheese cut in small pieces (roughly 1 cup)
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
2 or 3 egg yolks, beaten thick
2 or 3 egg whites, beaten stiff
2-3 tbsp. fresh chopped herbs, your choice (this one has lemon thyme, sage and flat leaf parsley)
1-2 tsp. Herbs Provence
pinch red pepper flakes

Oven 350*
Cook over low heat milk and butter until just starting a soft boil, being careful not to scorch the milk or have it start to separate. Add in the cheese and stir until smooth before adding breadcrumbs and herbs. Turn off heat, and using constant stirring, either with spoon, fork, or whisk (your preference), very gradually, with a slow, steady poor, mix in egg yolks. Keep the motion going as you don't want to end up with scrambled eggs.

Take 1/3 of the stiff egg whites and gently MIX it in to the cheese mixture. Take the other 2/3 and gently FOLD in.

Pour into a prepared dish (butter or spray). Bake 20 - 25 mins, until puffy and golden. If you like it firmer go 30 - 35 minutes.

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