Blog Archive

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Soufflés, Squeals, and San Miguel

San Miguel de Allende, voted top city in Mexico and 8th Best City in the World in 2012 by Condé Nast Traveler

Hot Grand Marnier Soufflé 

Soufflés and Squeals
by Victoria Challancin

Do soufflés and squeals actually go together?  Are they part and parcel of the same thing?  Well, apparently in my home they are.  Did the squeals come from my Mexican cooking students who were so very proud of and excited by their efforts?  No...they clearly emanated from me.  Unabashedly, from me alone.  OK, maybe my sister-in-law joined in what became a chorus.

Last week in a loosely-themed cooking class on French cuisine, I decided to teach my Mexican students how to prepare a soufflé.  Why a soufflé, you ask?  For one thing, they are just so essentially French.  They are fun to make.  The visual rewards of seeing them emerge like magic from the oven are multiple.  And, sweet or savory, they are a textural marvel, a gratifying taste sensation.  So why not indeed?
 A tray of perfect individual soufflés

When I teach my students to make a soufflé, I always explain that there is only one real rule, nay, law of nature, that they need to know concerning soufflés.  They will fall.  One hundred per cent of the time.  They will fall.  Absolutely, they will fall.  Eventually.  Having said that, soufflés aren't nearly as delicate as some people fear.  In fact, you have a five- to ten-minute window of opportunity from the time your soufflé emerges from the oven before it collapses.

 Juanita, proudly removing them from the oven

Soufflés:  A Wee Bit of History
Soufflés are French, in every way.  The word soufflé is the past participle of the French verb souffler, which means "to blow up."  A gentler interpretation might be "to puff up."  Technically, what is a soufflé?  It is a lightly baked dish made with an egg yolk custard base, lightened with beaten egg whites and combined with other savory or sweet ingredients.  The base provides the flavor; the beaten egg whites proved the lift. 

So why do soufflés rise and why do they fall?  Let's ask Harold McGee, author of Food and Cooking:  The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.  McGee says that when placed in a hot oven, the air bubbles in the soufflé mixture heat up and expand, so the soufflé expands upwards, the only direction it can go--right over the top of the dish.  More lift comes from the evaporation of water from the bubble walls, creating gas molecules in the bubbles, which increase the pressure, causing the walls to stretch and expand as well.  As these bubbles cool down when the soufflé is removed from the oven, they contract and the vapor condenses back into liquid.  And if you heat it up again, it will rise again, hence the popularity of twice-risen soufflés.

According to The Oxford Companion to Food, soufflés are an 18th century French invention.  Beauvilliers, author of L'Art du Cusinier, was probably making them almost 30 years before his book was published in 1814.  However, other soufflé dishes developed elsewhere independent of the French style, notably in Russia and the Ukraine.

Whatever their origin, whatever the science of the magic they proffer, soufflés should be embraced by even the novice cook.  They are delicious to eat and satisfying to make.  And not scary at all.

 Carmen, dusting them with confectioners' sugar, with Laura, Juanita, and Marisol looking on

 Another view, in case you need yet one more--I seem to.  In fact, I could squeal anew just looking at the photos and remembering the taste

 Le Soufflé Restaurant in Paris, where soufflés are the only item on the menu

 A savory soufflé with chicken cooked in white wine with taragon to pair with it

And the pìece de résistance, my favorite:  Hot Grand Marnier Soufflé.  Wow.

Parting Shots:  The Dogs
 There are those of you asking how Angus is faring.  Here he is at 4 1/2 months, with one remaining white eyebrow.  Not sure why.  Can't believe he is still enough for a photo.

 Angus trying to pick burrs out of his father's fur...sigh...

Burr-trimmed Roscoe and the ever-elusive Molly, our 13-year-old rescue dog that we got at 6 weeks of age

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Like life, recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask permission before using text or photos.


Not Quite Nigella said...

I remember first hearing about souffles and makign them when younger. I had heard that you couldn't make loud noises or banging when you were cooking them so everyone was on tippy toes! :P

Nancy said...

I have yet to make souffles -too intimidated. Had I been at your class I too would have squealed. Maybe even busted out a happy dance, lol.

Your pups are so cute! Felicidades to San Miguel. I've heard such great things about it. Can't wait to visit one day.

Victoria of Flavors of the Sun said...

I am hoping this new article on SMA will encourage some of my blogging friends to come for a visit. We would have such fun!

Joan Nova said...

I'm squealing X 2! You know I want to visit one day and am excited for the city's recognition.

And, those souffles my-oh-my! Bravo! I've never made one and it's been a while since I had one in restaurant. I have terrible longing now.

Eha said...

I am squealing now :) ! OK, I usually say I don't eat dessert but a Grand Marnier souffle has always had me won over as soon as sighted on a menu! Have never had one as perfect as yours!! Used to make souffles oft as a savoury first course: that breathless moment one lifted them out of the oven! And all one's friends were ready and waiting at the table going 'ooh!'' and 'ahhh'! Victoria: are there any more canines hidden in your garden? :D ! Besides the Matriarch who has now come out to play? [big scratch, Angus!!]

Victoria of Flavors of the Sun said...

No more canines. Just the three, Roscoe, Angus, and Molly. Enough, that's for certain! But lovable. Each one perfect.

Minnie(@thelady8home) said...

You made me long for those soufflés!!! I feel like having one now. :-D

CQUEK said...

What an interesting dish; the texture and flavour said...

You know that I want to visit also...

Victoria of Flavors of the Sun said...

Absolutely. And I hope you and Joan come together!