We like butternut squash roasted in chunks until they brown on the edges, or mashed with butter and salt, and especially in butternut squash risotto. Today I figured it was time for something else, and I wondered how difficult it would be to get the heavy mashed pulp to rise in a soufflé. I haven’t made a soufflé for eons, but I remember the high hat that puffs out of the dish before it falls a little, and the airy texture of the soufflé in your mouth. Surely this one will be different, still with a lighter texture than simple mashed squash, but not like a squash custard.
“Soufflés have the same kind of life as the ‘breath’ for which they are named. . . .”
My old Joy of Cooking (1967) has a whole section on soufflés—the one with eggplant looks yummy—but I have only ever made the traditional cheese soufflé. It starts with a thick white sauce, but that wouldn’t be necessary when you start with a thick mashed vegetable like squash or sweet potatoes. In the eggplant soufflé, there are breadcrumbs and chopped nuts mixed with the eggplant pulp, but a little milk is only recommended if the mixture seems “stiff.” It’s that point before you fold in the beaten egg whites that determines whether you need more moisture. The sweet potato soufflé uses a little applesauce for that moisture. If I need it, I will use a little milk, but I think I will try to infuse both moisture and lightness with eggs alone—4 eggs in total.
I’ll be mixing the squash, seasonings, and egg yolks in a food processor to a smooth puree, and then folding in the beaten egg whites by hand in a large bowl, but you could make it all by hand or with a hand mixer up to the egg white stage.
Buttered dish dusted with Parmesan
Folding in egg whites
Savory Butternut Squash Soufflé
Recipe Timing: Timing this recipe depends on your method of cooking the squash. If you roast it in the oven, whole or peeled and in chunks, that will take time, but it could be done the day before, especially since it should cool before mixing with eggs. I cooked mine, whole, in the microwave for 10-16 minutes, so that expedited the process. With cooked squash, the rest of the recipe goes quickly, even with separating the eggs and whipping the egg whites.
Baking dish tips: Butter a 1 1/2 qt baking dish with high sides. Dust the bottom and sides of the dish with finely grated Parmesan cheese or flour. A dish with a smaller round circumference and higher sides works better than a low-sided larger dish, such as an 8 or 9 inch square baker.
Preheat oven to 350°
1 medium-large butternut squash, cooked—about 2 cups
1 tablespoon bacon fat
1 tablespoon finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten
- In bowl of food processor, combine squash, bacon fat, and seasonings to a puree. Taste for seasoning before adding egg yolks. Add egg yolks and pulse to blend.
- Transfer squash puree to large bowl. Fold in beaten egg whites with large spatula—a silicone spatula with a large paddle works better than a small one. Mine measures 5″ and is curved to fit the sides of bowls. Mine is blue, but you can see it in red here: http://www.amazon.com/KitchenAid-Silicone-Mixer-Spatula-Red/dp/B0095PC75C
- Pour mixture into prepared dish and bake at 350° for 40 minutes, then check to make sure the center has risen to the same height as the edges. If it is sunken in the middle, let it go for another 10 minutes.
- It does rise in the baking dish, but if you want a photo, take it quickly, because the whole thing sinks about an inch in a few minutes. I forgot to get one until it was too late.
The texture is lighter and airier than a squash custard (such as a pumpkin pie) but a little heavier than the traditional cheese soufflé made with white sauce. The edges/sides—if you dust the dish with grated cheese—have a nicely browned crust. A soufflé is a nice change for a traditional vegetable side dish. Think of all the ways you can work vegetables into one.
Another recipe from my old Joy of Cooking (1967), “Breast of Chicken Cockaigne” uses a small amount of both oil and butter in a quick simmer, then relies on a short rest in a covered pan to finish the cooking. If nothing else, it reminds cooks that a chicken breast is best when not overcooked. Why Cockaigne? Here’s what the authors say about it in the forward to the cookbook:
…in response to many requests from users of “The Joy” who ask “What are your favorites?,” we have added to some of our recipes the word “Cockaigne,” which signified in medieval times “a mythical land of peace and plenty,” and also happens to be the name of our country home.
The method is really a form of poaching in fat, with enough moisture created in the covered pan to keep the meat from browning and to keep the meat extra moist. If you love poached chicken, you must really try this one instead of the one where chicken is immersed in water. The one item missing from this method is seasoning, which I guess is not a mistake. Just be sure to use or offer seasoning on serving. I’m using the chicken in a pasta salad that you can see in the next post.
Barely dusted with flour
Oil and butter
Poached and sliced
Breast of Chicken Cockaigne
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts—mine weighed about 1/2 lb each
all purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons oil (I used olive oil)
Note: the recipe calls for 1/2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil for each breast.
- Bring the butter and oil to “the point of fragrance” in a large skillet. The recipe does not suggest the level of heat to use, but since you are not supposed to let the meat brown, I used medium heat on my gas stove. I put the chicken in when the butter started to foam, but before it sizzled.
- While the fats are heating, pat the breasts dry, then lightly flour. I took the term “dust” to heart and barely floured the breasts—just enough to keep them dry. I let them sit on paper towels until the fats were ready.
- Place the chicken in the pan and move it around so the flour does not stick, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for about 15 minutes. On my burner, low is not a true simmer, but is a little higher than that. Mostly, you want to occasionally move the chicken so it doesn’t stick or brown, but not so often that you are releasing too much of the built up steam. I turned the breasts over every five minutes and they never browned.
- Leaving the cover on, turn off the heat or move off the burner on an electric stove, and let sit in the covered pan for another 10 minutes.
- Just for you, I tested the breasts with a thermometer, because I knew you wouldn’t believe me, and the breasts were at 160° after the final resting.
If you have some of the really large breasts being sold these days, increase the times as needed.
Quiche gives my husband cognitive dissonance, you know, that odd feeling you get when you confront two contradictory ideas or feelings in the same thing, usually in yourself, like holding two seemingly contradictory political views. Every time he bites into a quiche, he expects the sweetness of a custard pie—one of his favorite pies—but can’t wrap his head around the savory deliciousness of quiche ingredients. It just doesn’t make sense to him. It’s not that he won’t eat a savory omelet; I think it’s the pie format and that creamy custard that confuses him. Anyway, he’s getting a steak for dinner.
I’m following the recipe I’ve always used, from my old Joy of Cooking (1967). It begins with a pâte brisée crust that uses room temperature butter, instead of the cold butter that you would expect. It can even be pressed into a pie plate instead of being rolled, but I prefer to chill it and roll it. It’s a dough that handles very nicely and holds up to the wet custard, as long as you blind bake it a little.
The filling possibilities for a quiche are endless, but I usually stick with the traditional bacon and Swiss cheese, with Gruyere being my Swiss of choice. You can make this recipe in a regular pie plate, but I like the high, formal collar you get with a spring form pan.
Blind bake to keep sides up
Prebaked for 12 minutes
Fillings on the bottom
The finished custard
Creamy filling; crisp crust
Bacon Gruyere Quiche with Fresh Herbs
Preheat oven to 450° to bake the pie crust; allow time to lower to 375° for baking the quiche.
Pâte brisée crust:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2-3/4 cup water (does not need to be ice water)
1 beaten egg white (you will use the yolk in the filling, below)
- Work the butter into the flour-salt mixture with your fingers. A food processor would be too much with the soft butter and probably work it too much, resulting in a tough dough.
- Make a well in the center and add 1/2 cup of the water, then stir quickly with a fork until it holds together, adding more water as needed. I used a little more than the 1/2 cup, but not as much as the 3/4 cup.
- Dump the dough onto plastic wrap and shape into a ball, then flatten into a round of about 1/2″ thickness. Cover with the wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Roll out the chilled dough to fit your pie plate or spring form pan. Fill the pan with parchment paper and some kind of weights—beans work well to keep the sides up in a spring form pan.
- Bake at 450° for about 12 minutes. remove beans and decide if you want to bake it a few minutes longer. It won’t be completely done, but will be done enough to stay crisp on the bottom through baking the custard. Brush the crust with beaten egg white and set aside while you prepare the custard.
- Turn the oven down to 375°, opening the door to hasten the cooling.
1/4 lb thick sliced smoked bacon, diced and browned
2 cups shredded or diced Gruyere cheese
3 whole eggs, plus 1 yolk from the egg you separated to brush the crust, above
2 cups whole milk, scalded and cooled slightly
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
a pinch of grated nutmeg, fresh or ground
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped chives
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- While the crust is baking, sauté the bacon over medium heat to brown and to render out most of the fat. Drain on paper towels.
- Sprinkle cooked bacon and shredded cheese over bottom of baked pie crust.
- Whisk eggs with the herbs and seasonings, then whisk in the cooled milk quickly.
- Pour the custard over the bacon and cheese.
- Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes, until the top is browned. This is longer than I would cook a custard pie, because I hate a custard pie that weeps, but it works for a quiche that is loaded with other filling ingredients, and I use a lot more cheese than the original recipe.
I suppose you’ve seen the Molasses Ginger cookies featured on my home page, and maybe I’ve said that oatmeal-raisin are my all-time favorite cookie, so it should come as no surprise that bran muffins with molasses and raisins are my favorite muffin. I’m just making six large muffins, instead of a dozen small ones—or as the recipe suggests twenty-two 2″ muffins. This recipe from my old Joy of Cooking (1967, p. 581) uses buttermilk, helping these hefty muffins retain some tenderness. I’m also adding some chopped walnuts with the raisins for a little crunch.
I would not call these a dessert muffin
I wouldn’t serve these on a dessert plate with a cup of tea. I think of them as more of a slightly-sweet bread to eat for lunch with lots of butter and cream cheese and a big mug of coffee. They are not for the faint of heart.
The amount of batter the recipe makes is odd—maybe the muffin pans were different in 1967. It filled my jumbo muffin pan with enough left over for a small loaf pan. I couldn’t find my little individual loaf pans, after rearranging the cupboards recently, so I ended up filling a small 7 3/8″ x 3 5/8″ loaf pan about half full.
Makes a shaggy batter
Rose just enough in baking
Buttermilk Bran Muffins
The recipe offered two optional ingredients that I did not have on hand, but that I think would add very nice flavor and moisture: orange zest and mashed banana. I’m particularly interested in adding the orange next time.
Buttermilk Bran Muffins
Preheat oven to 350°; butter a muffin tin or use paper liners.
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups wheat bran (I used Bob’s Red Mill miller’s wheat bran)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (the recipe said 1/4 teaspoon)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- Optional: 1-2 tablespoons grated orange rind)
- 2 cups buttermilk (I used whole buttermilk)
- 1 beaten egg
- 1/2 cup molasses
- 4 tablespoons melted butter (the recipe said 2-4)
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup raisins
- Optional: 1/2 cup mashed bananas
- Combine the dry and wet ingredients separately; then mix them together until most of the dry ingredients are moist.
- Fold in the nuts and raisins, mixing until all is combined. I did all my mixing with a large wooden spoon instead of a mixer, as muffin batters produce a better crumb if not overmixed. A muffin should be coarse in grain, instead of soft and fine like a cake—but clearly there are different kinds of muffins for different purposes.
- Spoon the heavy batter into greased tins 3/4 full and bake for about 25 minutes.