Safely Docked in La Paz: Goat Cheese Soufflés

There is something truly decadent about a soufflé. Maybe it’s the rich fluffy texture of the baked egg based dish? Maybe it’s the ominous reputation of a sunken or burned soufflé? Or maybe it’s that the word soufflé sounds like something that came out of the bourgeois of the 18th century? In fact, Vincent de Chapelle was the first to employ the term regarding a dish lightened with beaten egg white, only resembling the modern soufflé. The term continued to be used through out the 18th century, but not always in reference to the modern conception. In French, the word soufflé is a past participle conjugation of the verb souffler, which means “to breath” or “to whisper.” Therefore, the term theoretically could have been used to describe a whole assortment of puffy fluffy baked goods. However by the end of the 19th century, the soufflé as we know it today began to wiggle its way on to the pages of cookbooks across France.

Since then, Hollywood has butchered the reputation of the soufflé, painting the breathing pastry as a feat of epic culinary proportion. In the 1954 Billy Wilder film Sabrina, Audrey Hepburn’s character attends the Cordon Bleu in Paris to become a great cook like her mother. This tall pseudo Frenchman with a bad accent in a white coat and tall hat examines the array of disastrous soufflés put forth by his class. All but one are severely flawed. In my book, if all of the students are failing, the flaw resides in the teacher, not the dish. In Mark Bittman’s podcast, The Minimalist, he preludes his demonstration of a zucchini soufflé by declaring fear not. A soufflé is no big deal. It’s a recipe. In all honesty, a soufflé is a relatively simple recipe if you compare it with Julia Child’s recipe for boeuf bourguignon. Honestly, I think aebelskivers (family recipe for spherical Danish pancakes) are more difficult to make that a soufflé and yet they very similar steps. So I encourage you my distant readers to take it upon yourself to attempt this recipe.

So after sailing into La Paz during the big blow, we’re pooped. Honestly, pooped doesn’t even begin to describe it. I was just so happy to be alive, not that we were in any danger of dying. We were more in danger of crashing. Considering my utter joy for finally being safely at dock, we decided to feast! After conquering that storm, I was certain I could conquer any recipe, even on my boat. So I set out to conquer one of my favorite comfort foods, the cheese soufflé. I generally prefer a savory soufflé to a sweet one. Moreover, considering cheese is my favorite of all time foods, a decadent, fattening, rich fluffy little cloud of goat cheese goodness was just what the doctor ordered after two days toiling at sea. My only complaint remains that my oven (aka Loki), does not like to cooperate. Also, I didn’t have cream of tartar, which is necessary to assist the soufflé in maintaining its risen form. My soufflés came out less than perfect, so what, I made them. They were still fluffy little clouds of cheesy goodness. They were just slightly, barely sunken little clouds of goodness. Both a evenly heated oven and cream of tartar would have solved both those problems. In truth, mine came out slightly sunken, but they were still fluffy and delicious. So trust in this recipe, trust in yourself and use an oven thermometer!

Goat Cheese Soufflés

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the greasing, softened
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk, warmed
4 large egg yolks
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
¼ tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dry mustard

½ tsp salt

½ tsp white pepper

3 tbsp finely grated high quality parmesan
¾ cup ounces goat cheese, crumbled

5 eggs whites
Pinch of cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush four 8-ounce a standard sized cupcake or muffin tin with butter. Pour the sugar into each tin ramekin and rotate it to coat the bottom and sides. Refrigerate until ready to fill. I like to use a silicone cupcake tin so it easily fits everywhere on the boat

The next step is to make the béchamel. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Just as the foam subsides, whisk in the flour to make a roux; cook, whisking constantly, to remove the starchy taste, 2 to 3 minutes (do not allow the roux to brown). Add the warm milk and continue whisking until smooth and thick, about 5 minutes. (Trace a figure 8 in the bechamel with the whisk; if the sauce holds the shape, it’s done.)

Remove the bechamel from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks one at a time. Season with salt, white pepper and seasoning, then whisk in the cheese until melted and smooth. (Return the pot to very low heat, if necessary.) Transfer to a large bowl and refrigerate until cool.

Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with a whisk or mixer until stiff peaks form. I was using a mechanical hand mixer, so this took freaking forever. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the cooled bechamel mixture by slowly and gently scooping from the bottom to the top of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Fold in the remaining egg whites the same way until no streaks of white remain.

Place the prepared tin on a baking sheet. Spoon the batter into the cups, filling each about three-fourths of the way. Use a towel to wipe the rims clean (this will help the souffles rise evenly). Bake until golden and puffed up, about 20 minutes.


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