When Rennie invited me to take part in their ‘Cooking Through the Decades’ challenge, celebrating food from the 1920s through to 2010, I immediately accepted. I love a challenge in the kitchen! They asked me to cook something inspired by the 1930s and I chose to make something that would be as authentic as it could be, so I did some research.
What we know as ‘the Recession’ is nothing compared to ‘the Great Depression’ of the 1930s. An economic crisis on that scale was unprecedented. Unemployment was at its peak, trade between countries was at an all-time low and currencies collapsed.
Times were tough, really tough. I have just been looking at photos of my family from the 1930s. The smiles are there, but their eyes tell a different story. You can see hardship hiding behind those smiles. Here is my Mamie (grandmother) in the 30s, with her sister, dressed in their best clothes.
Both my grandparents were born in rural France in the early 30s and I decided to cook something they would have had for a special occasion. People had to budget in the 30s. Simple dishes containing few ingredients were popular then. Meat was available, but it was expensive, so when I was planning my recipe, I tried to think of ingredients people would have had at home.
Ingredients like onions, garlic, bay leaves and herbs would grow in people’s back gardens. They would also have chickens, and therefore eggs. Cheese, milk and flour were also staple ingredients, and after a chat with my mum, we decided cheese soufflés would be the sort of party food my great-grandmothers would have made.
Cheese soufflés are pretty simple to make, yet they are incredibly tasty. Simple ingredients can transform a dish when using little tricks. Infusing milk is the way to go!
Infused milk makes such a difference to cheese soufflés, and gives flavour and depth to what could be a bland dish tasting of nothing but cheese.
Add to that some butter, cheese, chives and a few more ingredients and you will be in cheese soufflé heaven!
My Mamie grew up in a large family, so rather than a traditional soufflé with its temperamental and unstable nature, I decided to share my twice-baked soufflé recipe. After they have collapsed, the soufflés get turned upside-down, are left to cool and get baked a second time with more cheese on top!
I think my great-grandmother, with a fair few young children running around, would have made those, cooking them a few hours in advance then baking them again just before serving. Double-baked soufflés are the way forward if you want my opinion!
I love looking at those pretty little soufflés rising in the oven. It is so tempting to eat them as soon as they come out…
They deflate pretty quickly, but do not be disheartened: they will taste delicious once cooled, topped with more cheese and baked again!
Twice-Baked Cheese Soufflés
To infuse the milk
- 600 ml full fat milk
- ½ onion peeled
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 clove garlic peeled
- 5 black peppercorns
- Pinch salt
For the soufflés
- 100 g butter
- 100 g plain flour
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
- 200 g grated cheese e.g. Gruyère or Mature Cheddar
- 5 free-range medium egg whites 4 egg yolks
- Salad to serve
- Place the milk in a saucepan with the onion, bay leaf, garlic, salt and peppercorns. Bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and allow to infuse for 30 minutes before straining and discarding the aromatics.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour. Let the mixture thicken for a minute, stirring with a wooden spatula. Gradually beat in the milk, stirring until smooth and thick. Remove from the heat.
- Add in the mustard, half the cheese and season to taste. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Adjust seasoning and allow to cool.
- Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Mix the egg yolks into the cheese mixture then carefully fold in the egg whites, then the chives.
- Spoon into a greased (butter) muffin pan or ramekins and sit in a roasting tray half filled with boiling water. Bake for 20-25 minutes at gas mark 7 (220 degrees Celsius / 430 degrees Fahrenheit) until risen and just set. Allow to cool.
- The soufflés will flop down. Do not worry: because you are baking them twice, they will not need to be light and fluffy like traditional soufflés would be. All stress is also removed from the process!
- To serve, turn the soufflés out onto a baking sheet and top with the remaining cheese. Bake again for 15-20 minutes until golden.
- Serve with dressed leaves. Bon appétit!
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This post is sponsored by Rennie, but the recipe, all thoughts, opinions and photos are my own.