I think it is a sad reflection on our civilization that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus we do not know what goes on inside our soufflés.
~Nicolas Kurti, physicist and chef

Kepler 425b, one of the closest, yet older, cousins to our own earth, has been found. (Perhaps the orb age is a celestial topic upon which both seculars and Christians can finally, somewhat agree.) A so called exoplanet which is some 60% larger than our world was discovered by the Keplar spacecraft, some 1,400 light years away in the habitable zone — where water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. It revolves around a bright star in about 385 days, and the temperatures are suitable for liquid although the jury is out whether the planet has a mountainous surface or is gassy like Neptune. Both Kepler 425b and its star (G-2 type) closely resemble the earth and our sun.

Many opine that this exoplanet will have a bulky atmosphere, rocky crust and restless volcanoes with more gravity than we experience. Does Kepler 452b sustain life?

Awe inspiring.

Admittedly, the under-served, lifted and puffy soufflé with its molten interior is almost sacred.

MUSHROOM SOUFFLE

2 T finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 1/2 T unsalted butter

1/2 lb mushrooms (wild fungi such as cèpes, porcini, oyster or chanterelles or, if too expensive, buy cultivated such as crimini, shitake and button)
2 T unsalted butter

2 1/2 T unsalted butter
3 T all purpose flour
1 C whole milk
1 bay leaf

1/4 t pimentón
1/2 t sea salt
Nutmeg, a small grating
White pepper, a healthy pinch, preferably freshly ground
Cayenne pepper, a small pinch

4 large local egg yolks
5 large local egg whites
1 C gruyère cheese, grated

Gruyère cheese, grated, for topping

Preheat oven to 375 F

Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in saucepan. Add the mushrooms and sauté for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and purée. Set aside.

Butter the surface of an 6 cup soufflé dish. Add the grated parmigiano-reggiano and roll around the dish to cover the sides and bottom, knocking out the excess.

Heat the milk with bay leaf in a heavy saucepan. Once hot, discard bay leaf and set aside the milk.

In another heavy saucepan, melt the butter, then blend in the flour with a wooden spoon to make a smooth loose paste. Stir over medium heat until the butter and flour come together without coloring more that a light yellow, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Let stand a few seconds and then pour in all of the hot milk, whisking vigorously to blend. Return to medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon; bring to a gentle boil for 3 minutes or until the sauce is quite thick. Whisk in the pimentón, salt, nutmeg and peppers and remove from heat again. Add the mushroom mash and mix well with the whisk.

While off the heat, add egg yolks one by one into the milk, herb and mushroom sauce, all the while whisking.

In a separate bowl, using a hand or stand up mixer wither fitted with a whisk, whip the egg whites until glossy and peaked. Stir in a quarter of the egg whites into the sauce with a wooden spoon or spatula. Once they are assumed in the sauce, fold in the remaining egg whites and the gruyère cheese. Turn the soufflé mixture into the prepared mold, which should be about three quarters full. Sprinkle a small amount grated gruyère on top.

Bake 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown, and the soufflé has puffed about 2″ over the rim of the mold. (Do not open oven door for 20 minutes.)

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Classical thermodynamics…is the only physical theory of universal content which I am convinced…will never be overthrown.
~Albert Einstein

The chemistry of a soufflé is relatively simple. First the yolks (mostly fats) are separated from the whites or albumen (more proteins) which uncoil their spiral shapes as they are beaten until just stiff, a process called denaturation. The egg white proteins latch onto one another and create a miniscule web of trapped air bubbles. Actually, the protein in the egg whites forms a kind of skin around these bubbles.

When the yolks and whites are gently folded together and the batter is heated, the air bubbles expand and give the soufflé its almost gravity-defying puffed up architecture. Obeying the laws of thermodynamics which study the relation between heat and energy, the soufflé follows the natural tendency for things to move from order towards chaos and randomness. (The 2nd Rule at work.) After rising, with even slight cooling—energy is lost, entropy ensues and that fateful collapse occurs.

Served immediately, a Grand Marnier soufflé is breathtaking.

GRAND MARNIER SOUFFLE

1/3 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
1 C milk

2 T butter
5 large egg yolks
3 T Grand Marnier

Butter, for greasing
Sugar

5 large egg whites
1 1/2 T sugar

Confectioner’s sugar
Orange zest

Preheat oven to 375 F

In a small heavy saucepan, whisk the flour and sugar together. In another small heavy saucepan, bring the milk to a gentle simmer. Slowly add the hot milk to the flour mixture, whisking until smooth. Place over medium heat and stir until the mixture simmers and thickens. Stir in the butter, then the egg yolks, one at a time, and then the Grand Marnier. Allow the mixture to cool.

Butter an 8″ soufflé dish and roll the sugar around in it to fully cover the bottom and sides, tapping out any excess. Using a stand up or hand mixer, beat the egg whites to soft peaks, and then gradually beat in the sugar. Beat just until the whites are stiff but not dry. Slowly fold the beaten whites into the soufflé base, until just blended. Turn the mixture into the soufflé dish.

Place the soufflé dish in a baking dish, and add enough hot water to come about 1/2″ up the side of the soufflé dish. Bake until the soufflé has risen just over the rim and is lightly browned, but is still jiggly in the center, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and orange zest. Serve promptly.

The only thing that will make a soufflé fall is if it knows you are afraid of it.
~James Beard

The word soufflé is nothing more than the past participle of the French verb souffler which means “to blow up” or even more loosely “puff up” — an apt description of what is created by this heavenly marriage of egg whites and Béchamel sauce (savory) or custard (sweet). According to most food historians, soufflés were a product of 18th century French cuisine with the first written recipe purportedly appearing in the 1742 edition of Vincent La Chapelle’s, Le Cuisinier Moderne.

CHEESE SOUFFLE

2 T finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Unsalted butter

2 1/2 T unsalted butter
3 T all purpose flour
1 C whole milk
1 bay leaf

1/4 t paprika
1/2 t sea salt
Nutmeg, a small grating
White pepper, a healthy pinch, preferably freshly ground
Cayenne pepper, a minute pinch

4 large organic, free range egg yolks
5 large organic, free range egg whites
1 C gruyère cheese, grated

Gruyère cheese, grated, for topping

Preheat oven to 375 F, with the rack in the lower third of the oven.

Butter the surface of an 6-cup soufflé dish. Add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and roll around the dish to cover the sides and bottom, knocking out the excess.

Heat the milk with bay leaf. Once hot, discard bay leaf and set aside. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter, then blend in the flour with a wooden spoon to make a smooth loose paste. Stir over medium heat until the butter and flour come together without coloring more that a light yellow, about 2 minutes—a blond roux. Remove from heat.

Let stand a few seconds and then pour in all of the hot milk, whisking vigorously to blend. Return to medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon; bring to a gentle boil for 3 minutes or until the sauce is quite thick. Whisk in the paprika, salt, nutmeg and peppers and remove from heat again.

While off the heat, add egg yolks one by one into the sauce, all the while whisking.

In a separate bowl, using a hand or stand up mixer, whip the egg whites until glossy and peaked. Stir in a quarter of the egg whites into the sauce with a wooden spoon or spatula. Once they are assumed in the sauce, fold in the remaining egg whites and the gruyère cheese. Turn the soufflé mixture into the prepared mold, which should be about three quarters full. Sprinkle a small amount grated gruyère on top.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown, and the soufflé has puffed about 2″ over the rim of the mold. (Do not open oven door for 20 minutes.) Once done, remove and serve at once with frisée or salad or asparagus spears with a vinaigrette of choice and a chilled, crisp sauvignon blanc.

Pourboire: Gently and briefly sauté 1/3 C shelled, roughly chopped lobster or crab in unsalted butter until warm. After completing the white (Béchamel) sauce, stir in the shellfish and then complete the remainder of the recipe. And always consider chopped fresh herbs and other melting cheeses such as fontina, et al. Or give thought to roquefort for a pungent change of pace.

CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE

2 T unsalted butter
1/4 granulated sugar

7 oz bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened, with a high cocoa content)
1/3 cup espresso or strong coffee

1/3 C flour
2 C milk
3 T unsalted butter, cut in pieces
Pinch of sea salt
1 T vanilla extract
4 organic, free range egg yolks

6 organic, free range egg whites
1/2 C granulated sugar
Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 375 F

Butter an 8″ diameter soufflé dish and roll the sugar around in it to cover the bottom and sides, knocking out the excess.

In a heavy saucepan, smoothly melt the chocolate and coffee.

Whisk the flour and milk together and boil slowly while whisking for 2 minutes until thick. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter, salt and vanilla. Whisk in the egg yolks one by one, and then the melted chocolate and coffee mixture.

In a separate bowl, using a hand or stand up mixer, while gradually adding the sugar, whip the egg whites until glossy and peaked. Slowly and gently fold the chocolate sauce into the egg whites, and once done, turn into the soufflé dish.

Bake until soufflé has puffed up just over the rim of the dish and browned some, about 20 minutes. Dust the top with confectioners’ sugar and return to the oven to bake for a couple more minutes until the soufflé has puffed up an inch or so—but do not overcook. Serve over the ever luscious crème anglaise.

CREME ANGLAISE

6 organic, free range egg yolks, room temperature
2/3 C sugar
1 C whole milk
1/2 C heavy whipping cream
2 vanilla beans split lengthwise
3 T unsalted butter

Combine the milk, cream and vanilla bean in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let the bean steep for 15 minutes. With a paring knife, scrape the beans from the pod into the milk and cream. Whisk the egg yolks in a small heavy saucepan, adding the sugar by spoonfuls, until pale yellow and thick. In a very slow stream, stir in the hot milk/cream/vanilla mixture.

Place the sauce pan over medium low heat, slowly stirring the mixture until it almost reaches a simmer. Take care not to overcook as it will curdle, but heat enough so it thickens. The sauce is done when it coats a wooden spoon. Finish by whisking in the butter. Crème anglaise may be served warm or cold.