What a start to the week. We all arrived around the same time and began to unpack. When Craig took his winter coat off, we saw that he was wearing his Chef’s coat. The remaining 4 of us obviously asked how he got it and if he knew anything about ours. Since Craig is not in the same Baking Basics class as the rest of us on Wednesday, he got his on Thursday. Immediately jealous, I went downstairs to the pantry and storage area right away along with Peter, Jen and Maya to check the status on ours. They had arrived also! We promptly put them on and sat in our seats just in time for lecture.
Chef Eliana was out today as planned and swapped Food Basics classes with Chef Erin. While Chef Eliana was missed, it was interesting to observe another teaching style and and discussion for methods to execute our dishes.
We reviewed eggs from last week before starting our lecture on this week’s topic, soufflés. It was great to tie things in as eggs are a major component of many soufflés. As we went through the egg review and proper techniques including mixing and folding, we touched upon two things that can happen with eggs and/or protein in soufflés, hydrolysis and syneresis. Hydrolysis is the breakdown of protein by water, and syneresis (also known as weeping) is the breakdown of protein and water, generally when too much mechanical action, such as over whipping, has occurred.
Chef Erin discussed the different properties of metal and cooking pots, and how some aren’t good to use because of how they react with the food such as aluminum and acids. Others work really well for the same reach, such as copper with eggs. The challenge is using the right pot for the right application.
We got a demo on the proper whipping of egg whites by hand, something we’d have to do in lab so we could learn how to do it properly. Using a good whisk with many tines made the process easier and we were able to observe the changes easily. It was important to do this by hand, because eggs can be over whipped easily in a stand mixer and if they are whipped too far, syneresis can happen. Chef Joe was asked to find some whites and put them in a stand mixer and let it run for a while. They were beat to hell and we could easily see the difference between the properly beaten eggs from Chef Eric and the eggs in Chef Joes mixing bowl which had water at the bottom.
As the lecture came to a close, Chef Erin talked about using collars on our ramekins so they could be filled to the top and then expose our wonderful sufflés. This was very different than the technique I was shown at Sur La Table and we discussed this. Essentially, if you’re going to go through the trouble of making a soufflé, why hide part of the rise in the ramekin? We ended with a word about folding. Mise and place and timing are important. When the egg whites are whipped, the clock starts ticking to get everything folded and into a ramekin and then to the oven. The longer you wait, the more the egg whites will fall and you’ll miss out on some of the rise from baking.
Chef Recommended Book: On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee
After our lecture ended, we chose our recipes. I chose the Grand Marnier Orange Soufflé with Grand Marnier Sabayon. I was assigned kitchen cleanup duty which seems like an easy task, but is hard in practice when you’re focused on making your own recipe. Dirty dishes keep coming no matter how hard you try to keep up. Luckily, given the nature of soufflés, we were told to serve them right out of the oven instead of coming up with a service time. This is likely the only reprieve we’ll have from the stress of serving on time.
Mise en Place was fairly straight forward. I was able to pull my custard together and then whipped my egg whites appropriately in a bowl. We did this by hand to avoid over whipping, and so that we could recognize the different stages of egg white whipping. It’s amazing to see how quickly egg whites can go from not whipped to whipped and hold a soft peak. As Chef Erin stated, when the egg whites are whipped, the clock starts ticking. I folded the whites into the the custard and then into the ramekin, then everything went into the oven. I set out to make my Sabayon.
I haven’t made Sabayon before, although I love eating it. I’m glad I got a chance to make it this week. We amped up the wine used for the recipe by finding a bottle from a recreational class that was not fully consumed instead of using a generic white available in the pantry. I whipped vigorously as I brought everything up to temperature and it thickened. Right before pulling it off the stove, I added a bit of Grand Marnier. Just at this time, my soufflé was ready.
My soufflé rose but was slightly overcooked as it was left in too long. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any skewers to test that it was at the French Cream stage, slightly soft in the middle and cooked throughout. This cost me a few extra minutes of wasted time and my soufflé had some cracking on the top.
I had missed the doneness I was looking for. A missed Mise en Place error for sure! Regardless, we dug in and poured in the Sabayon.
My Recipe, Soufflé Grand Marnier
Soufflé de Crevette
Amarene (Wild Cherry) Soufflé
Lemon Souffléd Pudding with Blueberry Sauce
Key Observations and Learnings
- Even though recipes call for measurements for things like butter and sugar, that will be used to coat a ramekin, I can save time by using common sense. An exact amount is not needed.
- I can still be even better with mise en place. This includes tools I’ll need for execution like skewers, which are not in the recipe.
- When making something delicate like a soufflé, timing is hard. You can’t just open the oven door when you want as you might ruin someone else’s work.
- Seasoning will be an ongoing learning process.
- Teamwork is essential in the kitchen as is some level of selfishness. There is a line between hoarding the tools that you need and sharing with your classmates. I am sure this is magnified in a commercial kitchen.