Thursday, January 7, 2010

Souffle` A` La Disaster

For the past two or three years I have really been working up the courage to tackle the souffle`, a recipe that has been so intimidating I have simply avoided it for fear of utter and complete disaster. I can't really explain the intrigue, I mean for one thing I have never even actually tasted a souffle`; neither a sweet chocolate souffle` nor a savory cheese souffle` has ever passed my lips. I suppose my obsession can be attributed about 40% to the incredible pillowy, mile-high appearance the souffle` takes on when prepared properly, and 60% to the idea that nearly every well-established chef says that making a souffle` is an extremely difficult undertaking.

After much pondering, I set out to purchase the perfect souffle` dish, a task that once completed would leave me with no other choice than to attempt to make a souffle`, because after all, a souffle` dish seems like the ultimate uni-tasker. I settled on the 1 1/2 quart, #7 porcelain souffle` dish from Williams-Sonoma which I am embarrassed to say I dropped $38 and change don't take this the wrong way, I am not the slightest bit fancy. This type of souffle` dish was the only one available at Williams-Sonoma, in both a 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 quart size.

Anyway, I purchased the dish and headed home to create a masterpiece. I had chosen a recipe for Apple Cheddar Souffle` from one of vegetarian guru Mollie Katzen's cookbooks...this was mistake number 1. Not to say that Mollie Katzen doesn't make a wonderful souffle`, because I'm certain she does. However as I mentioned in the previous post, I now own a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking which has an entire section devoted to the souffle`-an important fact I did not know until after the said souffle` a` la disaster occurred. I'm getting a bit off track here, back to my actual cooking attempt - the roux of butter, flour, and milk I created was beautiful, the egg whites I whipped formed perfect, stiff peaks that stood on their own as high as Mt. Everest, and the souffle` looked incredible as it baked...

After I took the souffle` out of the oven is where the real trouble began. The top half of the souffle` was pillowy and cake-like, while the bottom half was runny and had not solidified at all. Likely, my oven is not actually 375 degrees F, even though I set it to preheat to that temperature - but since I do not have a thermometer inside the oven to monitor the actual temp, the souffle` was still raw...if either Tristan or I had eaten a souffle` before, we probably would have realized this, but since neither of us have we just started eating it! About 1/3 of the way through, we both looked at each other and admitted it tasted funny. I tried to put it back in the oven, but once you take a souffle` out of the oven, it will apparently never puff back up again.

Needless to say, my first souffle` experience was an utter disaster, ending not with a tasty dinner to savor, but instead with a raw egg induced stomachache and some left over mac n' cheese for dinner. Luckily (or stubbornly, depending on your point of view), I'm not one to give up easily which means I will tackle the souffle` again until I succeed, but not first without studying Julia's souffle` advice section, obtaining a proper oven thermometer and another half dozen eggs!

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