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Walker offers ‘secrets’ for successful soufflé

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | Feb 08, 2018

(Feb. 9, 2018) Bitter, wintery days have no intentions of leaving the popular resort.

The vacant beaches are beautiful in their own right and embrace a time of simple truth. The only impressions in the sand are those by Mother Nature.

Acceptance is a variable of many degrees. I decide this is the perfect opportunity to rekindle the passion that consumes me day and night. My repertoire of culinary knowledge needs replenishing for the sake of advancement. I must make time or I will never have the occasion.

The kitchen and I have become best friends; my trusty pen records the findings of the day. Some do not understand this level of commitment. Solitude should not be confused with isolation, for it is in this state that progression simmers in delight.

I recently learned that Paul Bocuse passed on Jan. 20, at the age of 91. The field of gastronomy has lost an icon but his legacy will continue on. Remember, history must be revered for it is the epitome of the future.

Bocuse was the most celebrated French chef of the postwar era and a leading figure in the pioneering culinary movement known as nouvelle cuisine. In addition, in 1987 he created the renowned Bocuse d’ Or cooking contest.

It is a biennial competition for the world’s best chefs that takes place near the end of January in Lyon, France. It is often referred to as the culinary equivalent of the Olympic Games. If you have the opportunity to watch this event, I highly suggest it.

With that in mind, I thought a discussion about soufflés would be appropriate since they are the quintessence of French cuisine. A soufflé is a baked dish made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory dish or sweetened dessert.

Soufflés have a reputation for being challenging. In reality, it is just the opposite, but there are a few secrets to ensure a successful soufflé.

First and foremost, make the soufflé base before you start beating the egg whites. Once the egg whites are whipped, they must be incorporated into the base mixture immediately. Otherwise, the egg whites will start to lose air.

The whisking of the egg whites is the next phase and is the most crucial aspect of soufflés. The egg whites should be at room temperature. Whether you are whisking by hand or with a whisk attachment on the electric mixer, start whisking slowly and gradually increase speed as the volume of the egg whites grow, until they tighten to a dense foam that forms short peaks when the whisk is lifted up.

Under no circumstances should any egg yolk get into the egg whites. The egg yolk has fat and some protein but the egg white is all protein and has no fat.

When you beat egg whites, you are incorporating air into them. The protein in the egg whites forms a skin around the bubbles of air. But if there is any fat present, athe skin cannot form and the air leaks out. Even the slightest trace of fat will ruin your egg whites.

It is important to prepare your soufflé ramekins properly. Using a pastry brush, coat the interior of the dish with softened (not melted) butter. Always use upward strokes.

Lightly dust the coated ramekins with either sugar or flour depending on the type of soufflé you are serving. This gives the soufflé something to grab onto as the batter rises up the sides of the ramekins.

Do not open the oven door until you are ready to remove the soufflé. Check it through the window of the stove. Opening the door creates temperature fluctuation, which can cause the soufflé to fall.

The “living” time for a soufflé is very short. In other words, serve the soufflé as soon as it is removed from the oven. When the temperature of the batter starts to cool, it will deflate and ruin your presentation.

If you have never had a soufflé, you must try one. Following is a butternut squash soufflé recipe with a pecan, vanilla wafer crumble. Technically speaking, this recipe is not a soufflé but the texture is similar and you get a taste of what a soufflé is all about. Starting out on a basic level gives one the confidence to cook on a more intricate level.

I served this particular dish at Thanksgiving and Christmas and it was a huge hit not only with the adults but also with the children. It can be presented as a side dish or a dessert. It pairs particularly well with ham and pork roasts. It is also an ideal dish for vegetarians. Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Soufflé

Filling

2 large butternut squashes, yielding 4 cups flesh

1 cup white sugar

1 ½ cups half-and-half

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 pinch of salt

2 pinches each ground cinnamon,

ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and

ground allspice

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 eggs

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted

Toppings

2/3 cups chopped pecans

1/3 cup crushed vanilla wafers

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup unsalted, melted

1. Slice squash lengthwise and remove seeds. Place in a steamer and cook until squash is fork-tender. Remove all tough skin.

2. Place cooked squash in a mesh strainer, then place in a bowl. Put a saucer on top of the cooked squash and press down. Then, top with something of substantial weight (such as a 28-ounce can of tomatoes) to drain any excess liquid. Allow squash to drain for 2 hours.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

4. Spray a (8-by 8-inch) baking dish with non-flavored cooking spray.

5. In a large bowl, combine squash, sugar, half-and-half, vanilla, salt, spices, flour, eggs and butter with a handheld mixer until fully blended. A handheld mixer will also incorporate air into the mixture which will add to its lightness. Pour mixture into baking dish.

6. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until it sets.

7. In a medium bowl, combine pecans, wafers, brown sugar and butter. Spread crumble over top of the cooked casserole and return to oven to brown. Serve immediately.

* The recipe calls for half-and-half but whole milk can be used as a substitute.

Secret Ingredient – Dessert. “I love dessert. I can’t be guilty about it because I have to taste everything. I experiment.”

— Martha Stewart

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