I was given a new souffle dish for Christmas, so of course I had to use it...I chose to make a savoury souffle for dinner, and looking through the fridge found some perfect ingredients: 4 artichoke hearts, some Boursin cheese, some caramelized onions and 2 egg whites in the freezer.
The basis of a savoury souffle is a thick Basic White Sauce (Bechamel), with other ingredients such as meat, vegetables and / or cheese. The egg yolks are whisked into the hot bechamel, and then the whipped egg whites are folded in. The air in the whipped egg whites is what causes the souffle to rise during baking.
A souffle is a nice light meal, for lunch or dinner, but despite the fluffy, airy texture it is also rich, thanks to the eggs and cheese. I like to serve it with a salad, to counteract the richness.
Grease a 2 quart souffle dish with soft butter.
Coat the inside of the dish with a mixture of:
1 tablespoon bread crumbs
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
Set aside until needed.
4 artichoke hearts, minced
1/4 cup caramelized onions, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
Set aside while you make the Basic White Sauce (Bechamel)
In a saucepan, melt:
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes
3/4 cup milk
Cook, whisking, until the bechamel boils and thickens.
Remove from the heat.
1/4 cup Boursin cheese
Whisk in, one at a time:
4 egg yolks
Add the sauce to the artichokes and onions, stir to combine.
Set aside while you whip the egg whites.
Turn the oven on to heat to 400F, and place the souffle dish on a baking sheet.
Whip to firm peaks:
6 egg whites
Add a third of the whipped egg whites to the souffle base, and gently stir and fold them in, to loosen the base.
Gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the base, being careful no to overmix or deflate the whites.
Pour the souffle into the prepared dish.
Place the souffle into the pre-heated oven and bake for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375F and bake until the souffle is puffed, golden and set...it will not jiggle when the dish is tapped, and a skewer should come out clean. This should take around 45 - 50 minutes altogether. Avoid opening the oven for at least the first half hour, to maintain the heat while the souffle is starting to rise and set.
When the souffle is done, remove from the oven, and serve immediately.
- Once you have made the bechamel for your souffle base, get creative with your flavours. Any type of cheese is a good start....cheddar, blue cheese, goat cheese, Swiss cheese....add in vegetables such as cooked, chopped spinach; roasted red peppers; sundried tomatoes; cooked leeks; roasted garlic; roasted and mashed butternut squash and for extra flavour add in chopped fresh herbs.
- Meat or fish can also be included...diced ham or cooked bacon; smoked salmon; cooked crab or lobster meat are some suggestions.
- When adding the egg yolks to the hot bechamel, make sure that you add the yolks one at a time, whisking constantly to prevent the yolks from scrambling as they meet the hot bechamel.
- The egg whites and the air that is whipped into them, are what makes your souffle rise. Be careful not to deflate them by overmixing them when folding them into the base. Gentle!
- The main reason for not opening the oven during cooking is that the hot air will escape, dropping the temperature, and a constant temperature is important for the souffle to rise and set without deflating. Another reason is that if the door closes too hard it can knock some of the air out of the souffle before it has finished setting. If you wait at least 30 minutes, you can risk a really quick peek, but using the oven light and keeping the door closed is your best bet.
- As long as your dish has straight sides, shape is not too big of a deal...even though souffles are often baked in round dishes with tall sides. You can always add height to the sides of your dish by wrapping foil around the outside, and tying it with string to hold it in place. This is called a collar.
- Sweet souffles are based on the same principle as savoury souffles, but your base is a sweet pastry cream (thick custard made with egg yolks and cornstarch).
- The only 'negative' thing about souffles is that they don't keep, deflating after a few minutes, so serving them right away is key. If you have extra, you can use it to make a breakfast sandwhich or burrito the next day.