Delicate, classy, airy. Those are the words come to my mind when I think of soufflé. Every time, I hear the word “soufflé”, I feel I am floating in light air. However, as much as I enjoy this classic treat, be it savory or sweet, the thought of making one always intimidated me. I was terrified due to its “complex and easy to ruin”, “hardest thing in the culinary world” reputation. In reality, they were pretty easy to make.
Simple physics behind the puffiness. Bubbles of hot air get trapped in soufflés’ delicate structure. The bubbles deflate when cooled because the hot air contracts once out of the oven. The fluffiness of soufflé’s will go down within 5-10 minutes out of the oven, so you are better off serving them on the table right from the oven. Know the reason now why it takes forever for your soufflé to arrive at the table when you order one. You got that right, the chef prepares a soufflé after you order.
Whether sweet or savory, every soufflé has two basic ingredients – egg white meringue and a base sauce. While the meringue provides the puffiness, the base sauce provides the flavor.
Now a chemistry lesson. The classic way of making meringue is beating the egg whites in a copper bowl. Why you ask? Copper reacts with the sulfur in egg whites and releases some copper ions from the bowl that results to a tighter, stiffer meringue. An alternative to using a copper bowl and taking the egg white to an acidic range is by using salt or cream of tartar(potassium bi-tartrate). Enough physics and chemistry lesson for one post.
I used a glass bowl, some salt and an electric beater. Just be careful and don’t overbeat the meringue because there is no going back if the nice foamy white turns to a clumpy mess. My dad and I tried making meringue many times years ago, and we always ruined it because we couldn’t stop beating. So, I know it’s very hard to stop as the egg whites turns to foams. I am giving fair warning you, don’t be tempted. Also, when mixing the meringue with the sauce, fold by turning and lifting. It is perfectly fine to leave streaks of white because you do not want to push all the air out. Oh! one other nifty detail to remember, use hot, bubbly milk when mixing all the ingredients. I’ve also use fresh spinach, not frozen or canned. I’ve cooked the spinach in a pan until wilted and all water was evaporated.
Traditionally, soufflés are made in ramekins but can be made in all shapes and sizes. I like mines in individual ramekins. I know, I know…Red ramekins are so last decade, but hey, I still like one or two things from the past decade. Also, the red ramekins go very well with my kitchen color and décor, and I am not throwing them away. So, please get over and see beyond the red ramekins. Bon Appetit!
- 1 cup chopped and cooked spinach
- 2 tablespoons butter (plus extra for soufflé dishes)
- ¼ cup flour
- ½ cups hot milk
- 2 eggs, white and yolk separated
- Garlic salt to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced onion
- ½ cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease individual ramekins or soufflé dish.
- Warm milk in microwave or on stovetop.
- While milk is heating, melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat.
- When foams, add flour and turn heat to medium-low.
- Stir constantly until mixture darkens a bit – about 3 minutes.
- Whisk in hot milk gradually and cook until mixture thickens, about 2 – 3 minutes.
- Turn off heat and stir in egg yolks, salt, pepper, onion, spinach, and cheeses.
- Beat egg whites with a pinch of regular salt until soft peaks form.
- Very gently, using a rubber spatula fold spoonful of egg white into spinach mixture.
- Pour batter into prepared dish(es) and bake 15 – 20 minutes for individual dishes and 20-25 minutes for soufflé dish. Soufflé should rise and get a golden color on top.
- Serve immediately.