Friday, January 05, 2007

The Madame's Souffle

Before attempting to make the following souffles, you should be aware of the principles on which their preparations are based (SEE ABOVE). Time: 45 minutes. Serves 6.

The simple but very delicate vanilla souffle is a warm family dessert par excellence. It can be made and appreciated at all times, particularly when we begin to run out of fruit.

4 deciliters (1 2/3 cups) of very good milk
100 grams (31/2 ounces) of sugar lumps
40 grams (1 3/8 ounces) of rice starch or 30 grams (1 ounce) of sifted fine wheat flour
a nice half vanilla bean
5 egg yolks
6 egg whites whisked Into a very firm snow
30 grams (1 ounce, 2 tablespoons) of fine butter
2 tablespoons of confectloners' sugar or superfine sugar.

A timbale or a souffle dish about 20 centimeters (8-inches) In diameter and 7 centimeters (2 3/4 inches) deep.

PROCEDURE. The mash (bouillie): Reserve 3 tablespoons of cold milk, that is, 1/2 deciliter (1 2/3 fluid ounces, scant 1/4 cup), to dilute the starch or flour.

Use a pot large enough that you can work in it easily when mixing in the egg whites beaten into snow; as much as possible, use a pot with low, flared sides - a saute pan, in other words - one that is good and clean. Add the rest of the milk. Boil it; as soon as it rises, add the sugar and the vanilla and turn off the heat; cover the pot tightly. Let it infuse for a scant 15 minutes, being careful to mix it from time to time with a spoon to ensure the sugar completely dissolves.

Dilute the starch or flour in a bowl with the cold milk that you have reserved. At the beginning you must take great care not to make any lumps; add the cold milk only drop by drop, working it with a small wooden spoon. Pour this diluted flour or starch into the pot with the hot sugared milk, mixing with the spoon or with a small sauce whisk.

Place the pot on more or less gentle heat and bring it to a boil, stirring continuously with the whisk or spoon. When the bubbles appear on the surface of the bouillie, mix it on the heat for another 5-6 seconds only. Then turn the heat down far enough so that it cannot either boil or heat too much. Divide the butter into very small pieces and spread these on top of the bouillie.

This bouillie must be completely ready 15-20 minutes before you add the yolks and whites beaten into a snow; the butter melts and prevents a crust from forming.

NOTE. If you have some help to whisk the whites, you only have to add the butter and the yolks into the bouillie when it is taken off the heat, and to mix in the egg whites when it has cooled a bit. But we assume that in most cases there will be only one person, without help, to prepare the bouillie and then whisk the whites.

PREPARATIONS. So that you do not have to wait once the mixture is ready, make sure that before whisking the whites you prepare the utensil you are using for the souffle. Butter the inside with a piece of butter the size of a walnut, spreading it out with the tips of your fingers. Using a sugar shaker, sprinkle this buttered interior with sugar. Keep the egg yolks ready in a bowl.

Whisk the egg whites into a snow. As soon as they are well fluffed, mix them in.

The mixture: This must be done quite quickly, and the bouillie must be only lukewarm. If it were too warm, the whites would turn to liquid at the first touch of the spatula, and would thus lose their lightness. So make sure that neither the pot nor the bouillie has retained too much heat, because it is in the pot itself that you will mix the ingredients.

First add the yolks one by one to the bouillie. Stir with the wooden spoon to mix them and, at the same time, to mix in the butter that is spread on the surface. Take out the vanilla bean. Take about one-third of the whites on the wires of a whisk so that you do not crush the rest with a spoon, and put them in the pot. Using a spatula or a wooden spoon with a large head, mix these whites thoroughly into the bouillie: that is, until the bouillie and the whites are completely combined. This helps to mix in the rest of the whites and also softens the bouillie.

Then add the rest of the whites, as directed for mixing them (SEE ABOVE).

Finishing the souffle: As soon as you have finished adding the whites, the mixture must be cooked. Put it into the prepared utensil, either a timbale or a souffle dish, taking it out with a large metal spoon. Place the spoonfuls one on top of the other to make a little mountain, but do not allow it to remain in this form. With the blade of a large knife, carefully smooth out the surface, shaping it to form a sort of pyramid raised in the middle of the utensil, if you are using a timbale or a porcelain souffle dish. If using a bowl, smooth the top of the composition into a dome.

Then make 5 or 6 grooves aD around the surface of the composition. Do this with the point of the knife to a depth of about 1 1/2 centimeters (5/8 inch), going from the bottom to the top: that is, from the side of the utensil toward the top of the souffle. These grooves will allow the heat of the oven to penetrate the souffle, which will cook more easily.

Put it into the oven immediately.

To cook: If the oven does not heat well from the bottom, make sure you proceed as explained in the article on souffles (ABOVE), first putting the souffle on top of the stove.

If the heat of the oven is too strong, you must avoid seizing the surface of the souffle by keeping it close to the opening of the oven for the first 10 minutes of cooking. The rising and swelling need time to happen before the surface forms a crust.

As soon as the souffle is in the oven, close the door, even if it is a little too warm. Allow to cook for 20 minutes from the moment the souffle is in the oven.

During this time, check the progress of the cooking from time to time by opening the oven door a little bit, but make sure you leave it open only for the shortest time possible, particularly if the stove is near an open window. Any introduction of cold air prevents the souffle from rising properly.

If the souffle colors too strongly on the side nearest the heat source, turn it so that it gradually colors on all sides. But when you do this, move it very carefully, because shaking it will cause the souffle to fall.

After 18 minutes in the oven, sprinkle sugar on the surface of the souffle with the sugar shaker. From this point on, do not let it out of your sight until the sugar melts evenly to form a light caramelized layer on the souffie, or at least a shiny one. This is what is called "glazing.'

This glazing requires 2-3 minutes, and you should watch it carefully by looking into the oven, opening the door only slightly and closing it quickly.

To confirm whether the souffle is perfectly cooked on the inside, stick a cooking needle into the middle of it. It should come out nice and clean. If, on the contrary, it comes out covered with the mixture in a state like that which you have put it in, or near it, cook for another 2-3 minutes.

As soon as you finish the glazing, take the souffle from the oven and serve it immediately. It should rise above the sides by 6-7 centimeters (2 1/2 - 2 2/4. inches) - that is, it should have doubled in height - and when you cut into it, it should be light and firm throughout, without obviously sagging.