Recipe: Clara Oswald's Souffle with Honeyed Apricots
Doctor Who returns this weekend, and I'll be decorating some dalek-shaped cookies with my friends before the big watch party, but until then I have a recipe that's also somewhat inspired by everybody's favorite Timelord. Or, I should say, inspired by his new companion: the mysterious Clara Oswin Oswald.
Clara was introduced earlier this season, in an episode where the doctor finds himself on a planet-sized Dalek asylum. Clara's been stranded there for months, and when not fortifying her small pod against Dalek intrusion, she spends her time baking souffles. Or, attempting to, anyway. Now that's my kind of girl.
But I really got the motivation to make a souffle when my lovely roommate brought me the Food Network Magazine Cheese Issue while I was suffering a head cold. In it were step by step instructions on a blue cheese souffle with fig compote. I'm not a big blue cheese fan, but elsewhere in the magazine was a goat cheese tart with honeyed apricots, and that's a flavor combination I can get behind.
Easier said than done. The souffle is a temperamental beast. My own first attempt came out less than perfect. It was floppy and sad, burnt on top and underdone in the middle (they completely sank almost immediately after this picture was taken). However, after a few more attempts, I've started to feel like I have the hang of things.
To start off any cheese souffle, you need a bechamel sauce. You may be familiar with this sauce from making it for other dishes - mac and cheese or lasagna. It's a basic white sauce that's a staple of French cooking, made from a roux of butter and flour cooked in milk. You'll also probably be pretty familiar with how to make it if you've ever made your own gravy.
But before we get started, a few tips:
1) Separate your eggs first, right out of the fridge, then let them sit at room temperature while you prepare the rest of the ingredients
2) Pre-measure and lay out everything beforehand. You don't want to be running to the fridge for the cheese while your bechamel is burning on the stove.
3) Put your oven rack as low to the floor of the oven as possible. It helps lift the souffle without the aforementioned burning of the top.
4) Be sure the bowl and whisk you'll be using to beat your egg whites are metal, completely clean and dry. The smallest trace of oil with prevent the egg whites from whisking properly.
Ready? Let's get started.
Goat Cheese Souffle with Honeyed Apricots
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons water
pinch of cinnamon
1/4 cup cognac
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried apricots, halved
juice of half a lemon
Goat Cheese Souffle
2 Tablespoons butter (+1 Tablespoon to grease your ramekin)
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons flour
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 cup milk
2 oz. crumbled goat cheese
2 eggs, separated
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
To make the honeyed apricots:
Bring sugar, honey, water, cinnamon, cognac and vanilla extract to simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat until syrupy, about 5 minutes. Add the apricots and cook 3 minutes more, then add the lemon juice. Let cool while you make your souffle.
To make the souffle:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush a 16 oz. ramekin with softened butter. Coat with sugar.
Warm the milk in a small saucepan over low heat. Meanwhile, melt your butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. When the foam starts to subside, add your flour and nutmeg, whisking constantly for 2-3 minutes. This is your roux. You don't want it to brown, you just want to cook out the starchy taste of the flour, so do not be tempted to raise the heat. Add your warm milk and continue whisking over low heat until the mixture thickens (if your whisk leaves a noticeable "trail" in the sauce, it's done). Remove from heat.
Add your goat cheese and whisk until melted. Add the egg yolks one at a time, and continue whisking until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate while you whisk your egg whites.
Beat your egg whites and cream of tartar with a stand or hand mixer with a whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. They should be glossy and smooth, and stand up straight when you pull the whisk out.
Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the cooled bechamel mixture and gently fold in until incorporated. Repeat with the remaining egg whites. Pour the mixture into the ramekin, leaving about 1 inch of space from the top. Run a clean finger around the edge of the ramekin, leaving a sort of "well" so the souffle will rise straighter.
Place on a baking sheet and into the oven for about 20 minutes (keep an eye on them - times can vary).
If you have guests joining you, be sure they're there for the reveal from the oven. As you can see from the top picture, once I added my apricots, my souffle deflated like a balloon, but it came out big and tall and impressive looking. This is a great, lightly sweet dish that can be eaten as an appetizer or dessert, or even a brunch-time meal.