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Sweet souffle base

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
I'm copyediting a cookbook that contains a recipe for a Grand Marnier souffle. The directions for making the souffle base are:

"Bring milk and sugar to a boil. Stir constantly. Melt the butter in a separate pot, making sure the pot is large enough to hold the addition of the boiled milk. Do not let the milk over-boil in the pot. Add the flour to the melted butter. Add the boiled milk mixture and cook for one minute. Remove from heat. Allow to cool."

I'm not at all sure what the author means by "over-boil" and I don't understand why the milk has to be kept at a boil to make a good base. I should think that it would be OK to bring the milk and sugar to a boil and then turn the heat down, or even remove them from the heat, while one was making the roux. I've certainly had success making gravies, sauces, and souffles with liquids at all temperatures, from hot meat juices to cold milk from the refrigerator. However, I'm not a professional. Perhaps I don't know the difference between a souffle that is just OK and one that is superb. Does boiling milk do a better job of expanding the particles of flour? Is hot milk better than cold? Would very hot milk do just as well as boiling milk?

I should perhaps add that the author got this recipe from a pastry chef and doesn't seem to be a world-class cook herself. So she may have misunderstood some of his directions. But ... I can't go over the author's head and ask the chef.
post #2 of 7
If the author doesn't know what's going on then what sort of cookbook is this?

A lot of basic cooking skill is assumed in those few lines.
post #3 of 7
over-boil means the milk has bubbled over the pot and is messing up your cooktop.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 
It's a collection of cooking columns from a small-town newspaper. It's not coming from a major press and it will never appear in bookstores near you :) Which is probably just as well, as I don't think any of you would buy it.

The author really really doesn't understand how to write recipes. I'm sure that any of you could expand her gnomic instructions and make something passable, but in its raw form, her cookbook was a pit waiting for the inexperienced cook.

I'm expanding the recipes where I can, that is, where I can understand what's supposed to be happening. Sometimes my intuition fails. Sometimes my intuition tells me that "this recipe will not work as given." In one case I was so concerned about the recipe that I made it and sure enough, it would not work as given.

Given that I'm not a professional chef, just a long-time home cook, I may be introducing subtler levels of wrongness. But I'm using my google-fu, my reference books, my cookbooks, and occasionally, asking the experts. Which is why I'm here.
post #5 of 7
I think what the author may be getting at is "scalding" the milk, just as it is about to boil, take it off the heat. I am not sure what this process is supposed to achieve, maybe someone else will offer an answer to that.

It doesn't, in fact it is easier to let the milk and the roux cool a bit before mixing them. If they are too hot they will thicken too quickly and get very sticky and lumpy

If it rises to the occasion and it tastes superb, then it is superb

The souffle rises because of the egg whites, by whisking you create millions of bubbles trapping air. The more air you can get in, the better it will rise. On heating, the trapped air bubbles expand causing the souffle to rise.

Don't forget to cook the roux for a few minutes before adding the milk or your souffle will taste of flour. Hope this helps
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thank you everyone!

Thanks y'all for the advice. I can edit the recipe with some confidence now.

BTW ... my reference books, aside from my small cookbook collection (only a few dozen books, but well-chosen, I think), are the Oxford Companion to Food, Harold McGee On Food and Cooking, and Recipes Into Type. Are there any other reference books I should get? References that you find indispensible for the occasional problem?
post #7 of 7
Bazza was right about everything.

As a general rule, when making a bechamel, which is what a souffle base is, it's best to add the milk to the roux rather than the other way around. Warm, tepid, or even cold milk is preferable to hot. These two things make for a much smoother, velvety bechamel.

It's simply not necessary to boil or scald modern milk to make a souffle base. It's an archaic practice, the purposes of which were to fully mix higher fat milk with lower; kill bacteria; and, to destroy certain enzymes which may prevent thickening. However, modern homogenization and pasteurization take care of all of those problems. The scalding runs the risk of scorching which ain't good, and ought not be done unless you milk your own.

The milk needs to be heated only hot enough and long enough to fully dissolve the sugar and be infused by vanilla or other flavoring, and should be allowed to cool (at least slightly) before thickening to fully stabilize. As with most cooking processes, the less done the better.

Luck with your project,
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