A weekend in France

This weekend I was feeling inspired to try my hand at some French cuisine.  On the menu was cheese soufflé and chocolate éclairs.  I found recipes for the soufflé, éclairs, and chocolate glaze online, and referred to the back pages of a wedding cake cookbook I own for the éclair filling. I was a little apprehensive of the complexity that I perceived such fine French food would entail.  But I determined to dive in and to do the same thing I always do when attempting something new and unfamiliar in the kitchen, that is, follow the directions.  I found a recipe for cheese soufflé at http://www.epicurious.com, but made a few adjustments to it. Here is my adaptation of it.

Cheese Soufflé

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 5 large egg whites + 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup (packed) grated Cheddar/Jack cheese blend (about 4 ounces)

Instructions:

Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 400F.Butter 6-cup (1 1/2-quart) soufflé dish. Add Parmesan cheese and tilt dish, coating bottom and sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 5 minutes. Warm milk in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming. (I cheated and just microwaved the milk).

Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until mixture begins to foam and loses raw taste, about 3 minutes (do not allow mixture to brown). Remove saucepan from heat; let stand 1 minute. Pour in warm milk, whisking until smooth. Return to heat and cook, whisking constantly until very thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in paprika, salt, mustard powder, and garlic powder. Add egg yolks 1 at a time, whisking to blend after each addition. Scrape soufflé base into large bowl. Cool to lukewarm. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar  in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into lukewarm or room temperature soufflé base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites in 2 additions while gradually sprinkling in the cheese. Transfer batter to prepared dish.

Place dish in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375F. Bake until soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and center moves only slightly when dish is shaken gently, about 30-35 minutes (do not open oven door during first 20 minutes). Serve immediately. Makes 4 main course servings.

Oh boy was this good! My husband and I finished off the whole thing ourselves, even with the two side dishes I made to accompany it.  The top was golden brown and nicely puffed, there were no deflation issues like you see in the movies.  (Is that caused when the soufflé is undercooked?) The interior was fluffy and the exterior a little crisp, and the flavor was wonderful!  I bet some fresh Rosemary would be really good in this too, I will have to add that next time I make it.

For the éclair filling I used a vanilla pastry cream custard recipe that  tastes just like créme brulée, it’s incredibly good.

Custard Filling

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch, sifted

Instructions:

Place the milk and the vanilla beans in a medium, nonreactive saucepan and heat to a scald. Reduce the heat to low.

Meanwhile, in a nonreactive bowl combine the yolks and sugar.  Add the salt and sifted cornstarch and whisk until smooth.

Remove the vanilla bean from the milk and with a spoon tip scrape the seeds into the milk. Whisk to break up the sticky clumps of vanilla beans.  Pour about 1/4 of the warm liquid over the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.  This will temper the eggs.  Then, add the remaining liquid and stir to combine.  Immediately pour mixture back into the pot and cook over a low-medium heat.  Whisk continuously, continuing to cook, but do not let it boil.

Pour the pastry cream, including the vanilla seeds, through a strainer into a clean, nonreative bowl to remove and uncooked egg.  If seeds don’t go through, simply stir them in.

Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin rom forming.  Refrigerate at least 3 hours or until thoroughly chilled. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use a pastry bag to pipe the custard into the éclairs once chilled. (I would love to get these pastry tips-they would work perfectly for this!)

Stainless Steel Pastry Filling Tubes- Set of 3 by Matfer Bourgeat

 

The recipe I followed for the éclairs and chocolate glaze was from http://www.allrecipes.com, the main thing I changed from their’s was that I turned my snobbish, gourmet-weekend nose up at their instant vanilla pudding filling and went with a more sophisticated custard filling.

Eclairs

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet.

In a medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring until butter melts completely. Reduce heat to low, and add flour and salt. Stir vigorously until mixture leaves the sides of the pan and begins to form a stiff ball. Remove from heat. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate completely after each addition. With a spoon or a pastry bag fitted with a No. 10, or larger, tip (I used a No. 10, but it wasn’t big enough and was difficult to get them the size I wanted, next time I will use the pastry bag without a tip on it- the opening of the pastry bag coupler would have probably been perfect.  I wanted to kick myself for not thinking of it at the time.  Oh well, it was a learning experience.), spoon or pipe dough onto cookie sheet in 1 1/2 x 4 inch strips.

Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce heat to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) and bake 20 minutes more, until hollow sounding when lightly tapped on the bottom. Cool completely on a wire rack. Makes about 10.

I found it strange piping the dough while it was still so warm, but that’s what you are supposed to do.  Also, I was a little afraid of crowding them all onto one cookie sheet because I wasn’t sure how much they were going to expand, so I did them in two batches.  I think that was a mistake though, the second batch got a little bit funny, and it turned out that they would have fit fine on the same sheet.  Also I think that it might be better to start out with the oven at 425 degrees F (210 degrees C), bake them for 20 minutes, and then reduce the oven heat to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) and bake for 10 more minutes, and then turn off the oven and leave it ajar for 10 minutes before removing them to cool completely.  Starting out at 450 degrees F made the bottoms brown a little more than I liked, and then reducing it all the way down to 325 degrees F seemed to keep the insides from cooking all the way, but I feared they would burn on the bottom if left in much longer to finish cooking the inside.  I will try these adjustments next time I make them and post how they turn out.  I also might add about a teaspoon of sugar to give it a little sweetness, not that they were bad without it though.

Chocolate Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (or squares)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons hot water or hot milk

Instructions:

Melt the chocolate and 2 tablespoons butter in a heatproof bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water over low heat (don’t let bowl touch the water). Stir in 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in hot water (or milk), one tablespoon at a time, until icing is smooth and has reached desired consistency. Remove from heat, cool slightly, and drizzle over filled éclairs (I dipped the tops of mine). Refrigerate until serving.

These éclairs were soooo yummy! Especially for my first try at them. I look forward to making them again now that I know what to expect and have a few adjustments to try.  Happy cooking and Bon Appétit!

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One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Leslie Eiriksson
    Mar 06, 2011 @ 22:15:10

    Tiffany, I love that you’re blogging the things you’re cooking up in the kitchen!

    Reply

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