Soufflé. Isn't funny how a single word can make us feel anxious, nervous, or even hungry? I think soufflé is one of those words that many of us associate with an impossible to achieve feat or a daunting task. Some of my think of how delicious they are, but most of us probably just get worried about them falling flat. What happened in food history to make us all feel this way? A soufflé is but an egg-y bread-like thing, not quite a quiche and not quite a popover, but somewhere in between.
It's this feeling that made me want to write a slightly more technical post than usual. If you have soufflé questions... read on! And maybe try to make one some day soon: I think you'll fall in love.
What is a soufflé? A soufflé is a puffy, egg-based dish that can be made savory or sweet and has French origins. (Think quiche, but fluffier). It is known for the way it fluffs up in the oven, and deflates as it cools.
Ok, so what is a soufflé made with? Eggs! Eggs, eggs and more eggs. Most soufflés also have flour, which helps them keep their structure. For this recipe, I used cassava flour, which means the dish is gluten-free and grain-free, but many recipes use all-purpose wheat flour. From there, you can do what ever your heart desires: add cheese, like I did, or try a sweet version, with fruit or chocolate.
Ok, sounds easy enough. What makes them rise so much? This all comes back to those eggs. When you make a soufflé, you separate the yolks from the egg whites, and then beat the whites until they are stiff. This puts a lot of little air bubbles into the egg whites. When you put the soufflé in the oven, those air bubbles expand, lifting the soufflé with them. The proteins in the egg become strong as they cook, giving the soufflé it's structure.
So then... why does a soufflé collapse? You may have heard that soufflés collapse when there's a loud sound, but I have yet to see this happen (maybe we're just too quiet!). You need not worry about your soufflé! All soufflés deflate a bit, this is just their nature. When you pull the dish from the oven, hot air eventually leaves the soufflé, and as a result, the dish begins to fall. This doesn't mean it will be any less delicious. If you want your guests to see your soufflé in all of it's glory, plan to work quickly, pulling it from the oven and putting it straight on the table. Either way, they'll be impressed. I promise.
Many soufflés are baked in a large round baking dish, but I chose to bake these in my popover pan. The pan is quite deep, so each soufflé is nice and tall, and now everyone can have their own. Perfect for a brunch party! You can also bake them in ramekins or a muffin pan. Just be sure to put a cookie sheet underneath to catch any drips and save you from cleaning the oven later!
It's a snap, all you have to do is try!
Serves: 6 | Total Time:
- 4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
- 4 cups baby spinach, packed
- 4 tablespoons butter, plus some for greasing the pan.
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons cassava flour
- 1/2 cup shredded gouda cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- Dash cayenne
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet and add spinach to pan. Cook spinach, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until wilted and soft. Place in a mesh strainer, and press spinach with the back of a spoon to squeeze out any excess water. Set aside.
- In a small sauce pan, melt remaining 3 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Add milk and cassava flour to pan, and whisk until smooth. Bring to a simmer, and then remove from heat.
- Place egg yolks in a medium sized mixing bowl. Pour milk mixture into yolks, while it’s still warm, and whisk quickly until smooth. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne. Then, stir in the spinach and shredded gouda.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff glossy peaks form: about 5 minutes. Add half of the yolk mixture to the whites, and use a spatula to gently fold them in. Add the other half, and fold in. Do not over stir this mixture.
- Grease a pop over pan or individual ramekins generously. Fill each about 3/4 of the way with egg mixture. To prevent any over flow in your oven, place the pop over pan or ramekins on a cookie sheet. Place in oven and reduce heat to 375°F. Bake for 20 minutes, or until soufflés are puffed up and golden on top.
- Soufflés will begin to fall once removed from the oven (don’t worry about it, that’s just what they do!). Serve immediately. Optional: sprinkle with extra finely grated cheese.