Have you ever watched a cooking show as if it were a team sport? At lot of network shows are too steeped in over-hyped drama and filler material for me to enjoy, but I wholeheartedly endorse the BBC’s Great British Bake Off. Twelve contestants spend their weekends performing three baking challenges in an outdoor tent, with the worst performer across the board being sent home until a winner can be awarded the triumphal cake stand. Whenever Netflix drops a new season, I binge my way through it and am rewarded with baking inspiration that lasts for weeks.
Apparently, I haven’t been particularly shy about my enthusiasm for the show, because last year’s Christmas gifts from my parents included a copy of The Great British Bake Off Big Book of Baking. Which is a mouthful to say and accurately describes this delightfully hefty book of detailed, chummily written recipes.
I had no qualms about testing a couple of the recipes when I was busily baking off 100 mini loaves of bread for my wedding picnic earlier this year and I was happy to page through it again when its number came up on the random number generator last week. I stop and drool over the full page spread picture of chocolate frosting every time, but since my husband’s birthday is coming up soon, I decided to leave the cakes alone for now and go in for a more savory bake.
Individual Crab Souffles
2 eggs, separated
1 egg white
15 grams butter
15 grams flour
1/2 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne
150 ml half-and-half
150 grams cooked crab meat (drained weight)
1/2 TBSP whiskey
Begin by greasing your souffle dishes. I used four 200ml ramekins, while the original recipe called for using three 250ml dishes, so there’s some leeway based on what size of dishes you have handy. You’ll also want to preheat your oven to 400 degrees – the mixture comes together quickly and you don’t want it to sit around and deflate while you wait on the oven to come up to temp.
Next up, our old friend the basic white sauce, made from a roux blended with half-and-half. Melt down the butter and whisk in the flour, then simmer the mixture for a few minutes. Slowly whisk in the half-and-half until you have a thick cream sauce. Remove from heat and stir in the whiskey, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Stir in the crab meat and sample the mixture. If it seems at all bland, boost your seasonings. You’re about to dilute this with your eggs, so you’ll want the seasoning to be on the strong side.
Whisk the two egg yolks into your crab cream sauce, keeping your whites separate. In another bowl, beat the three egg whites with a pinch of salt until you have stiff peaks. Fold a third of the beaten egg whites into the cream sauce to loosen it, and then gently fold the cream sauce into the remaining whites. Use gentle scooping motions to combine the two, trying to keep as much air trapped as possible for the lightest final souffles. Divide the mixture into your ramekins, filling them to just below the rim. Run a knife tip around the inside edge of each dish and place them on a baking sheet. Place the sheet in the oven and tiptoe around the kitchen for 12-14 minutes, until the souffles are crispy and golden. Their interior should still be moist and slightly wobbly. Sprinkle with paprika, if you want an extra touch of fancy garnish, and serve immediately.
My souffles turned out puffy and light, with enough spice and flavor to hold up their side of the dinner plate. I started by sampling a nibble-sized bite with the tip of my fork, and continued to nibble down the contents of an entire ramekin without bothering to stop. Husband says he hasn’t liked souffle in the past, but enjoyed these just fine – despite their unfortunate similarities to his most loathed meal (quiche). For someone who requests eggs for breakfast daily, he has some odd qualms. As for me, these souffles sit lightly on the stomach and only require a short burst of time in the oven, which certainly fits my definition of a pleasant summer menu item.