I was supposed to be at yoga class this morning but a soufflé laced with cheese and drizzled with chestnut honey led me astray. My ‘down dogs’ will have to wait until another day. However, I am pretty certain that any dish that brings together cheese and honey has its own sort of food karma – so I may have arrived at the same result without all the effort!
I have been drooling over the cover of my February issue of La Cucina Italiana since it arrived from Italy a few months back. A perfectly risen mouthwatering soufflé graces its cover. It has been sitting on my kitchen counter staring back at me waiting for our karmas to align. With a rainy, chilly day at hand, my yoga mat yawned at me sleepily from the corner where I had placed it last eve (as extra incentive to go to class). But my issue of La Cucina glowed like a beacon of light from the counter, begging me to finally give the recipe a spin. Karmas aligned. My yoga mat happily went back to sleep.
I haven’t made a soufflé in quite awhile so before I whipped up my cheesy friend, I decided I had better read up on how to make ‘il perfetto soufflé’ as the cover proudly boasts. Now I recognize that almost all the women in Italy are born with an innate ability to perfectly mix, whip and blend the right combination and technique to effortlessly spin out one food masterpiece after another. I witnessed this first hand with my grandmother. The recipes in the Italian version of La Cucina Italiana were always markedly different from their English counterparts in the (sadly now defunct) American version of the magazine – less descriptive; not a lot of measurements or technique. This recipe was no exception. So I spent a bit of time reading up on tips and tricks for the perfect soufflé. I also modified the ingredients to make it a tad more cheesy but I didn’t dare modify the perfect complement of honey drizzled across its puffy exterior. I used my yummy chestnut honey from Montalcino – its slightly bitter taste was the perfect drizzle!
Soufflés are actually quite easy to whip up. Do not shy away from the fear of deflation. All soufflés deflate – as the little air bubbles cool, they collapse onto each other so just plan on serving your soufflé fresh from the oven. A few other tips to keep your soufflé soaring:
-Be sure your bowl and beaters are clean and dry with no traces of oil.
-Be careful not to allow any egg yolk to sneak into the whites. The whites will be less fluffy. Also allow the egg whites to come to room temperature, as they will not take as long to whip.
-Try not to overbeat the egg whites. This will make the soufflé dry.
-Add about a third of the egg white mixture into the batter first. This will lighten the batter. Then fold in the rest of the whites trying not to deflate them as much as possible.
That’s it! Just a few little tidbits to help make your creation as light as air. And remember – your creation will fall. That is what soufflés do! In fact, my little creations were a challenging photo subject – as you can tell by the photo, they fell a bit before I could take their little photos!
Just enjoy their heightened airy karma as quick as you can.
Buon appetito e buona karma!
Soufflé di Formaggio, Miele e Noci (Souffle with Cheese, Honey and Walnuts)
Adapted from La Cucina Italiana, February 2013 issue
For the ramekins:
Unsalted butter, softened
For the soufflé:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup whole milk
Pinch grated nutmeg
4 egg yolks
½ cup Asiago, grated
¾ cup Fontina, grated
Freshly ground black pepper
6 egg yolks
Butter the inside of individual 4 to 6 ounce ramekins or a 2 ½-quart soufflé dish. Dust the inside with a bit of grated Parmigiano cheese.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a medium saucepan, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium low heat. Add in the flour and whisk until blended with the melted butter. Cook for about a minute. Whisk in the milk until the mixture becomes thick and smooth, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the nutmeg.
Remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the Asiago and Fontina until melted. Season with a bit of salt and a couple of turns of freshly ground pepper. Let the mixture cool.
Clean and dry a large mixing bowl and its beaters. Beat the egg whites in the bowl on medium speed until foamy. Add a pinch of salt and beat until shiny and stiff but not dry. Try not to overbeat. Using a spatula, fold about one-third of the egg whites into the egg-yolk mixture. Lightly fold in the remaining whites until just incorporated. Do not over mix – it is ok for the batter to be streaky.
Spoon the batter into the prepared dish(es). Bake until puffed and firm to the touch – about 15 minutes for the individual soufflés and about 35 minutes for the single soufflé. (RESIST the temptation to open that oven door!! The cool air will wreak havoc on your rising soufflé!)
Drizzle with yummy chestnut honey and sprinkle with the chopped walnuts. Serve immediately!