Saturday, March 4, 2017

Soufflé - A Soufflé. Soufflés on French Menus. Soufflés in French Cuisine.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

A soufflé.

At its simplest a soufflé is beaten egg whites with other ingredients added for flavor; all is then baked. Despite the apparent simplicity, not all soufflés are equal; the very best, are so light that out of the oven they may only last for three or four minutes before collapsing. These delicate soufflés will be served directly from the oven to the diner. Apart from these special soufflés, others may be sweet or savory and may be served hot or cold.

The meaning of the word soufflé.
Outside of restaurant usage, the French word soufflé translates directly to breath, breathing or a breeze. These words with their idea of a  breath or breeze gave the name to the original light soufflés.  

The chef will choose the soufflé dish your order requires.

Some articles and books give Antonin Carême, France’s greatest early 19th-century chef, incorrectly, the honor as the creator of the soufflé.  The soufflé had made menus, and recipe books at least 70 years before Antonin’s recipe books offered them. Nevertheless, Antonin loved soufflés and called them La Reine de la Patisserie, the queen of pastry. Within the better French restaurant kitchens, a perfectly prepared soufflé will be one of the tests to decide if an applicant for the post of dessert chef gets the job.

A chocolate soufflé beginning to collapse.

At the time that Antonin prepared his recipes China or Porcelain soufflé dishes did not exist; then a soufflé was cooked inside a particular pre-prepared pastry or bread casing called a croustade. 

Pastry and bread croustades are still in use.

The word croustade remains in use even though soufflés have their own modern serving dishes. Croustade remains as the name for hollowed out loafs of bread in which soup may be served. Then again a croustade may part of the main dish with a stew inside. Other croustades may be a meat or fish dish baked or served in a pastry cover.  However, bread or pastry covers cooked with meat or fish inside will mostly be on menus as a dish served …. en croûte.

Soufflés on French Menus:

Soufflé au Fromage – A cheese soufflé.

A chocolate souffle
Soufflé Chaud au Grand Marnier et Son Jus d'Orange Pressé A  hot soufflé flavored with Grand Marnier and the juice of freshly pressed oranges. Grand Marnier is a liquor made from a blend of cognac and bitter oranges created in the 1880’s.  Soufflés with added Grand Marnier remain very popular, and Grand Marnier alone continues to be one of France’s most famous and best-selling liquors.

The creator of Grand Marnier.
The inventor of Grand Marnier was Louis-Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle, and he was not a shy man.  He gave his creation his name and then added the title Grand to increase its importance. To ensure success Marnier-Lapostolle had Grand Marnier introduced to the world by his good friend César Ritz at the Savoy Hotel in London.  Voila, instant celebrity; especially as the chef was César Ritz’s partner Escoffier. Grand Marnier’s popularity certainly did not suffer from its, occasionally disputed, inclusion in the original recipe of the dessert Crêpes Suzette
Before Grand Marnier.

Another, earlier, creator of a very popular orange base liquor combined with Cognac was the producer of Bénédictine D.O.M.  Then in 1863 a Fecamp wine merchant and businessman Alexandre Le Grand, Alexander the Great in English, claimed to have discovered in his family’s library a 16th-century Bénédictine manuscript. The document Le Grand claimed held the recipe for Bénédictine D.O.M.  Alexandre Le Grand’s amazing factory come palace and castle may be visited in Fécamp, Normandy.  Bénédictine D.O.M. continues to sell in the millions of Euros in France and around the world.

Soufflé Grand Marnier
Soufflé Tiède de Homard aux Petits Légumes A  warm soufflé made with the meat of the European two-clawed lobster and baby vegetables.
Soufflé aux Épinard A soufflé with spinach.

Seared duck with goat's cheese soufflé.
Served with a raspberry-cassis reduction sauce.
Souffle Glacé aux Trois Mirabelles - A frozen soufflé made with three different tastes all created using the Mirabelle plum. The Mirabelle plum, the Mirabelle de Lorraine IGP is a small, yellow to reddish plum; in the season it will be on menus all over France.  The Mirabelle is by far France’s favorite plum for confitures, jams or conserves.  The Mirabelle is considered a local French fruit as it is the result of hundreds of years of cultivation and crosses. The plum is mostly grown in the region of the Lorraine. The Lorraine, however, since 1-1-2015 is part of the super region of the Grande Est, the Great East;  If you are in France from mid-August through September try these plums fresh as they are rarely seen in the UK and probably never in North America. The first plum used in this soufflé will be fresh Mirabelle plums, the second will be dried Mirabelle plums, and the last will be a sauce made with a Mirabelle eau-de vie, probably the Mirabelle de Lorraine Eau-de-Vie, an excellent French plum brandy.   

An hors d’œuvre soufflé with shrimps.

Soufflé Rothschild  - The most famous of all  Antonin Carême’s soufflés. The Soufflé Rothschild uses fruits confit, preserved fruits, and an orange liquor,  Grand Marnier had not been invented at the time. At the banquet where this new dish was presented Antonin received an untold number of compliments, and the recipe entered the history of Haute Cuisine. There are other soufflés in Antonin’s book Le Pâtissier Royal Parisien, including a Soufflé au Fraises, a strawberry soufflé, that often makes current menus. The Rothschild’s were Antonin’s last employers before his retirement.

N.B. Fruits Confit are not to be confused with Confits de Fruits which are fruits slowly cooked until they achieve the consistency of a jam.  Fruits Confit used in the Soufflé Rothschild are candied or crystallized fruits. The fruit is preserved by slowly exchanging the natural water content of a fruit with sugar. The names Fruits Confit and Confits de Fruits may easily confuse, but they are very different products.

Soufflé Rothschild

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Bryan G. Newman

Behind the French Menu
Copyright 2010, 2017

For information on the unpublished book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

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