Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Souffle success

You know how food is much cuter if you make it in tiny servings? Individual tiny ramekins, small muffin sized pies and all that stuff (the only thing which is not cuter if it's small is cookies. Cookies are supposed to be huge, tiny cookies are just annoying). Well, I have these adorable pink ramekins, which I originally bought for making souffles. And I have used them quite a bit, but never got around to the actual souffle bit.\

And yes, I know I promised when I moved into this apartment that I would not be buying any kitchenware. My kitchen is so tiny I can't even fit a quarter of all my baking and cooking stuff in there. So the rest are just scattered all over my sofa, desk and floor. And I can honestly say that I have been showing great restraint when it comes to buying kitchenware, so it's rather sad how little I can fit into my kitchen. I only got a crock pot, a big Le Creuset dutch oven, a huge box full of various cupcake and cake moulds (most of which I am yet to use) along with loads of mugs, plates and no less than 50 different cookie cutters. When my contract at work is up in August, I have to get a new job that pays more, just so I can afford a place with a decent kitchen.

I don't even have a proper food processor. That's the next thing on my wish list. I want a Kitchen Aid. Along with a new camera. Oh and the new retina display MacBook Pro. Hmmm, to be honest, I don't need a new job, I need to win the lottery or marry rich.

Anyways, pink ramekins. Tiny cute ramekins have 'souffle' written all over them. I have to admit, I have never made souffle in my entire life. All I know is that it is really difficult, the souffle is a temperamental creature with a mind of it's own. It can fail for the most minuscule reason. One wrong move with that spatula and it goes flaccid like... oh well, that was not a good mental image, so I'll keep it to myself.

I went on a crazy souffle hunt all over the interwebs. How did people cook before google and Pinterest? I would have loved to cook a dessert souffle, but alas, no dessert before I reach my first target weight (I make small targets so that my weight loss feels achievable). So it had to be a savoury souffle. Well, all I wanted was to see if I could make a souffle that would be fluffy and rise above the top of the ramekin, so savoury one would do just fine. A cheese souffle would have been my favourite, but I started adding up calories, and realised I had better settle for something else. So I came across this recipe for bacon and asparagus souffle by Furey and the Feast. Strangely enough this recipe didn't include whipping the egg whites into a hard foam and then gently folding them into the batter. So I decided to modify the recipe and actually do that. Also, the recipe used heavy cream, and I just couldn't justify all those empty calories so I switched to full fat milk instead. Anyways, I was convinced that all these modifications, combined with my souffle-making virginity, would lead to a completely disastrous result. Very surprisingly, it didn't. So I'm starting to wonder if all those stories about the difficulty of making souffle are just a bit exaggerated. All I'm saying is, if I can do it, so can you.

Bacon and asparagus souffle (2 or 3 individual souffles):
3-4 rashers of bacon
1 onion
100g asparagus
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
100ml grated parmesan or other cheese
160ml full fat milk (or cream)
black pepper

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Butter two or three ramekins (I used 250 ml ramekins, and this recipe filled three of them to the brim). Cut off the tips of the asparagus, and reserve for garnishing the souffles. Cut the rest of the stalks into coins. Cook the bacon until crispy, and place on a paper towel to cool. In the bacon fat, sautee the onion until translucent, then add the asparagus, and cook for a few minutes. When the bacon has cooled, cut it into small pieces and divide onto the bottom of the ramekins. 
Bacon in the ramekins, whites whipped. Ready for
the most delicate part of the souffle-preparation.
Very gently fold in the whipped whites.
Mix yolks, milk, cheese and pepper, add the onions and asparagus. Whip the egg whites hard, until peaks form and keep their shape. Quickly fold the whites into the yolk batter. Be very gentle and try to use as few strokes as possible, you don't want to beat the air out of the whites. Quickly divide the batter into the buttered ramekins, and add asparagus tips on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes, be sure not to overcook so that the souffles stay soft in the middle.
Ready to go into the oven. Whites still fluffy!
And out of the oven, not perfect but not too shabby.
The verdict:
So my souffles didn't quite reach the extreme heights you see in the impressive pictures usually accompanying souffle recipes. But they did rise above the edge of the ramekins, so this was not a total soufflop. For a first try, and given that I made a lot of changes to the original recipe, I would say I did quite good. Eating the souffle from the cute little ramekin made it so much more fun than making one big souffle and then just scooping a serving onto a plate. The souffle had a good texture, soft and gooey in the middle and firmer around the edges. The flavour was rather mild, as could be expected from the combination of onion and asparagus. The bacon at the bottom added a nice savoury touch. 

Next, I'm definitely going to try a cheese souffle, and I also want to try a dessert souffle. Problem is, there are too many to choose from. Right now this caramel souffle from Martha Stewart's home page is one of my favourites (there is a really helpful video on the web page, in case you are attempting your first souffle). I would also love to try rhubarb souffle as well as a lemon souffle. Again the same old problem, so much to cook but no-one to eat it all. Sigh, I'm going to end up a very lonely and very fat old lady. All because of those tiny little ramekins. And there they are in my kitchen, looking all cute and innocent. They are the devil's doing, that's all I'm saying!!

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