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Kitchen Challenge: Make a Souffle

Sunday, June 30, 2013 6:31 PM

I'm a pretty good home cook, and I try to push myself to do new things. I got it in my head that I should tackle a souffle, which is sort of a dreaded dish. I found, however, that it was easier than its reputation led me to believe. 

I think the reason souffles are supposed to be difficult is timing. If you're going to make one for a holiday gathering or a dinner party, you need to finish it at just the right time so you can serve it before it falls. But I made this sweet potato souffle for just J and myself, so there was no pressure to the presentation. And the souffle never rose all that high to begin with, in part because the sweet potato puree weighed down the batter/mixture/whatever and also because, lacking a proper souffle dish, I used a wide, shallow baking pan.

Here's the recipe, taken from Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone."

Butter and grated Parmesan for the dish
1 1/4 cups milk or cream
Aromatics: 1 bay leaf, several thyme sprigs, 2 thin onion slices (I used shallot because we were out of onion)
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
Salt and freshly milled pepper
Pinch cayenne
4 egg yolks
1 cup grated Fontina or Gruyère
1-2 cups pureed sweet potato or winter squash
6 egg whites
Fried sage leaves (optional)

When pureeing my baked sweet potatoes, I added a little milk to make them smoother.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a baking dish and dust it with grated parmesan. This got nice and brown in the oven and may have been the tastiest part.

Heat the milk gently until it boils, then remove it from the heat and add the aromatics to steep for 15 minutes. We only had dried thyme leaves rather than intact sprigs of thyme, so I wrapped them up in cheesecloth to make them easy to remove. If your aromatics are loose, strain the milk after it's finished steeping.

Melt the 3 Tbsp butter, stir in the flour and then whisk in the milk until smooth. Keep stirring for a minute or two until it thickens.

Remove from heat and mix in the egg yolks one at a time. Add the salt, pepper, cayenne, sweet potato puree and cheese, and mix well.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form.

Stir one-quarter of the egg whites into the base, then fold the rest in gently. It's OK if there are a few lumps remaining; you don't want to stir all the air out.

Pour/scoop/spread the mixture into your baking dish. I forgot to take a picture until I'd put this in the oven, so you also get to see the inside of my oven.

While the souffle is baking, fry some sage leaves in butter.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden-brown and just a little wobbly in the center. Crumble the sage leaves and sprinkle them on top.

I don't care so much about how food looks, only how it tastes, but I apologize if this looks less than appetizing. I can tell you that it was really delicious. I'd never eaten a souffle before, and I was a little worried about the texture because I generally don't like spongy things, but this was like a lighter version of quiche. It also reheated much better than I expected, given the involvement of eggs and cheese. Just reheat gently, and don't expect the top or the burned butter-and-Parmesan to be as crusty. Bon Appetite!

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