The brilliant theme of Souffles was chosen by our host, Kitchen Chick, for this month’s Is My Blog Burning event. Souffles are wonderful things and one of the few dishes that should really only be prepared inside the home, though of course, I would not refuse if the souffle is part of a tasting menu at the French Laundry.
A souffle is a mixture of egg whites and some sort of sauce or custard base. You can really souffle just about anything, though moister, softer things will make better souffles. Would you prefer a cheese souffle or a cracker souffle? Souffles are light and airy creations that get their structure from beaten egg whites. The protein in the egg whites forms pockets of air that, much like rising bread, expand when heated and give the souffle lift. Of course, egg whites are rather more delicate than the gluten in bread, so the temperature difference between the oven and your kitchen will cause the souffle to deflate. Souffles should be served immediately to preserve the look and their soft, fluffy texture.
What are, arguably, the two most common souffles? Cheese and chocolate. I make banana souffles often, too. None of that from me for this event. I wanted to be a little bit different and try out a few souffle ideas I had recently. I ended up with a whole day of souffles.
I started off breakfast with souffled oatmeal, since its creamy consistency made it a good candidate for souffle-ing. I had too high a ratio of egg whites to base here, so it was a bit lighter than I would have liked. The dish tasted fine, but I was left unsatisfied. The sugar topping that I sprinkled on before putting the souffle into the oven crisped wonderfully, though. No photo of this one.
I remembered seeing tiny souffles in egg shells on an old rerun of Iron Chef, so I tried the same trick for lunch. Basically, I made a cross between scrambled eggs and bechamel and souffled it. I whisked together buttermilk, a bit of flour, egg yolks and salt and pepper, then folded in an egg white and piped the mixture into egg shells (On Iron Chef, they had a neat gadget that took the tops off eggs cleanly in a split second. I want one!). The little souffles were extremely tasty and the presentation was gorgeous. Served with a salad, I felt like I was at a little bistro. Perhaps it was a little time consuming for what it was, but I would consider making it again.
The final souffle is more of a side dish, though I ended up having it for dinner. It is a take on sweet potato casserole, though I made it substantially less sweet than most recipes. The texture was almost like a very moist and tender sponge cake and the bourbon gave it an addictive quality. I’m not sure if I loved it, but I couldn’t seem to stop eating it. Perhaps the sugar I sprinkled on top, which caramelised during baking, had something to do with it. This is definately a repeater and I might play around with sweetness and turn it into dessert!
Sweet Potato Souffle
1 lb sweet potatoes, cooked and peeled
2 tbsp brown sugar
Â¼ tsp each cloves, cinnamon
Â½ tsp salt
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup half and half or light cream
1 tbsp brandy
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites, room temperature.
2 tsp sugar, for sprinkling
butter and 2 tbsp breadcrumbs, for coating
Note: If you roast or microwave your potatoes, as opposed to boiling them, you may have less moisture, in which case add 1 tbsp more liquid. You may also substitute milk for the cream. I also used a 3-cup capacity dish for this souffle, but you can put this into individual ramekins and reduce the baking time.
Butter the sides of a 3-cup souffle dish, or an oven-proof dish with high, straight sides. Add breadcrumbs and shake to coat sides. Use a dish towel and remove any butter or crumbs from the top 1/2 inch of the dish, to ensure a straight rise.
In a food processor, blend potatoes, sugar, spices, buttermilk and light cream/half and half, brandy and egg yolk until very smooth.
In a large bowl, beat egg whites until they reach soft peaks. Add potato mixture to egg whites and fold together until the mixture is uniform and well-combined.
Bake for 30-35 minutes at 425F, until souffle is mostly set when you jiggle it.
Serves 4-6 as a side dish.
RaineyOctober 22, 2005
Well, that was a pretty thorough exercise in souffles! The souffled eggs are flat out adorable and I bet they were fun to eat.
Clare EatsOctober 22, 2005
see I am going to look like a slacker again *sigh*
I hope your puss cat will make Kiri’s Bday party next weekend!
MelissaOctober 22, 2005
Gosh! They all rate high, but, those little eggshells are SO cute!
MollyOctober 22, 2005
Nic, those little souffles in eggshells are so beautiful! If you don’t mind, what temperature did you use to bake those lovely things?
NicOctober 22, 2005
Rainey and Melissa – Thanks. They were fun to make *and* eat!
Clare – We’ll be there!
Molly – I filled the shells about 3/4 full and baked them for about 10 minutes at 400F. I also removed the little films from the inside of the shells.
RaineyOctober 22, 2005
Reading about another one of the wonderful things you do on weekends reminded me that I wanted to try your Cinnamon Pancakes with that apple syrup I told you about. I rushed right out to the farmers’ market to discover that that vendor is still there. They are Ha’s Apple Farm and you can see their syrup on that page. They do the Encino market too so you can look for them there tomorrow if you’re interested.
AliceOctober 22, 2005
Wow, Nic, you’ve totally outdone yourself! And I LOVE the decorative eggshell cups…how perfectly fitting!
BarbaraOctober 22, 2005
I love the idea of the soufflÃ© in the egg shells. It all sounds good Nic.
farmgirlOctober 22, 2005
Speaking as someone who has never had the courage to make a souffled anything, I am way beyond impressed. Nic has done it again! : )
NicOctober 22, 2005
Rainey – Thanks for reminding me! I’m definately going tomorrow morning.
Alice and Barbara – Thanks. It was fiddley trying to even out the very tops of the egg cups, so I eventually just went for “rustic”.
F.G. – I just don’t believe that you’ve never souffled anything. You’re too good a baker. I’m sure that they’ll come out superbly!
NikiOctober 22, 2005
Mmmm..cracker souffle. Go on! I set you a dare! Reckon you could do something to make it happen? 😉
The ones in the eggshells are truly stunning. Quirky but elegant idea! In fact, all of them were really interesting and unusual. Congrats!
bokbaksaOctober 23, 2005
I haven’t eaten any souffles.
So I am goint to make your sweet potato souffles.
(I’m not a fluent English speaker. I wonder if other people can understand my writings.)
CathyOctober 23, 2005
Nic – the egg cups are beautiful – that must have taken forever to prepare the eggshells! The sweet potato souffle sounds wonderful – I love sweet potatoes, but have always preferred them plain rather than done up in a casserole (too sweet). Your recipe sounds perfect though – light and not too sweet.
Niki – a cracker souffle may not be so bizarre… there’s a restaurant in Pennsylvania that has a specialty called cracker pudding (made, believe it or not, with saltines!). It’s delicious – and I imagine it could be transformed into a fantastic souffle by Nic!
Sarah LouOctober 23, 2005
A whole day of souffle. So much fun. I bet you’re souffled out now!
NicOctober 23, 2005
Niki – What a challenge. And with that reassurance from Cathy, I’ll definately give it a shot. No promises as to an exact date, but soon.
bokbaksa – I think we can all understand you fine! I really appreciate your comments. I hope you like the souffle, too.
Sarah lou – I am a bit souffled out, but they’re so much fun I know I’ll be back for more soon.
celia kusineraOctober 23, 2005
Nic, lovely souffles. I think you should change your nickname to the Souffle Goddess. 😉
'guinOctober 23, 2005
the souffles in the egg shells are amazing. absolutely beautiful.
NikiOctober 23, 2005
Hmmm….I read the recipe for that cracker pudding and….hmmmm….coconut, sugar and salty crackers all together? Hmmm…..I dunno….
I would be EXTREMELY interested to know what it’s like, in pudding or souffle form!
MelissaOctober 24, 2005
I love the idea of eggshell souffles! I’ll definitely have to give them a try. The others look great too.
NicOctober 24, 2005
Heh, I’m going to put that in my next souffle post, Celia. Perhaps it will be the one with the crackers, Niki. Though I have to say that when I wrote that, I was trying to envision a crunchy souffle. I bet the pudding turns out like “mock apple pie”, which is made with sugar, spices and saltines in a pie crust. Classy, eh?
chroniclerOctober 25, 2005
What a wonderful trio of souffles! Of course your little eggs filled souffles are a hit! So cute! The others are very enticing also! Very nice!
Kitchen ChickNovember 1, 2005
I really thought about using the egg souffle photo on the IMBB round up because it’s stunning. I’m sure the Clack gadget makes very elegant shells, but your hand broken ones have so much character.
Your sweet potato souffle, which also sounds quite tasty, has me thinking about Thanksgiving Dinner. How well did it hold its air?
NicNovember 1, 2005
Heh, thanks, KC. The sweet potato souffle didn’t hold its air for very long, but it doesn’t rise a tremendous amount so I wouldn’t think it would be a problem. You could always bring it to the table last. It also happens to taste very good both at room temperature and as leftovers, which I though was pretty unusual for a souffle.