9 December 2011

Anne Willan Twice Baked Spinach Souffles for the Holidays

Twice Baked Spinach Souffles

I think the last time I made a souffle I was in my teens. It is not that it was a culinary failure but the success of a souffle is fleeting. It rises to flamboyant heights and then collapses before you present it to your guests. It has always seemed like a lot of work for what I considered the inevitable let down. Souffles take practice. But what if you keep on practicing, and perfection escapes you? Your cheese deflates, your desserts are dense? It seems the oven door has slammed shut on your dreams? I am here to tell you that even the inexperienced among us can turn out a delicious, light airy souffle with great success and very little effort if you follow this recipe for a twice baked souffle. These were light as a cloud and cooked to perfection!!
Souffle means "breath" in French, and that's just what you want to give your souffles. A little breath of air. The key to having enough air in the souffle to allow it to rise to delicate, puffy heights, is gentle folding. Folding is the culinary technique in which two ingredients of different densities are carefully combined together to lighten the heavier of the two.

The halls are decked and the holiday spirit is alive and well here at More Than BurntToast. One of our simple pleasures in life is navigating the blogging community, participating where we can and sharing those recipes with you. It keeps our spirit of generosity alive, and  not just for one season. Did I mention the holiday season is here!!!!!!Our group has now passed the halfway point on the list of Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers. The past few months have flown by as we experiment with dishes from each of the 50 influential women on "the list." Whether you agree or disagree with the authors chosen fifty and their order it has been an enjoyable and creative outlet to cook from the masters and those we admire. There are even a few bloggers on the list. We have checked out books from the library, borrowed cookbooks from friends, surfed the Internet and browsed our own cookbook collections seeking that one recipe that will highlight that weeks outstanding woman. This group is spearheaded by my favourite well-travelled blogger Mary of One Perfect Bite who back in June invited bloggers to travel along on a culinary journey throughout the year. It is still not too late to join in so if you would like to do so contact Mary.

This brings us to #27 on the list...Anne Willan. Born in Newcastle, England, Anne received her Masters degree from Cambridge University, then studied and taught cooking in London and Paris before moving to the United States where she has been a citizen since1973. Anne is one of the hardest working individuals on the planet and her drive for perfection has long been an inspiration.

Anne founded La Varenne, her famous French cooking school, in 1975 and directs its culinary programs. She is well known on both sides of the Atlantic as a leading authority on cooking, with over 35 years' experience as a teacher, cookbook author and food columnist. Named teacher of the year by Bon Appétit magazine, and a recipient of awards in the USA, Britain, France and Australia, Anne has written a wide range of internationally published cookbooks whose worldwide sales run into the millions including two that have become culinary bibles: "La Varenne Pratique" and "French Regional Cooking." Each of her books have been published in 24 countries and translated into 18 languages. I enjoyed this article from the L.A. Times. She divides her time between Santa Monica, California and Burgundy, France.

Let's see what we are up to with our 27th Game Changer.....

Mary of One Perfect Bite - Suleiman's Pilaf with Pistachios and Duck Breast with Cherries
Val of More Than Burnt Toast - Twice Baked Spinach Souffles
Taryn of Have Kitchen, Will Feed  - Italian Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Tomato Salpicon
Heather of Girlichef  - Brioche
Miranda of Mangoes and Chutney - Honey Madeleines (Les Madeleines de Commercy au Miel)
Jeanette at Jeanette's Healthy Living  - Minestrina Soup
Kathleen Van Bruinisse at Bake Away with Me - Cherry Batter Pudding-Clafoutis Limousin
Sue of View from The Great Island
Barbara of Moveable Feasts - Tomato Tart Tatin
Nancy of Picadillo - Wild Mushroom Risotto
Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits - Drunken Chicken
Veronica of My Catholic Kitchen - Wild Mushroom Scrambled Eggs
Annie  at Most Lovely Things - Honey Madeleines
Claudia of Journey of an Italian Cook - Parmesan Balls

I have a mental short list of recipes labelled “Best of the Best” and this twice baked souffle has earned a spot on the list. These would be perfect for an elegant appetizer over the holidays since the soufflés are prepared well ahead so that the only last-minute action is to bake them in the oven, where they infallibly puff to flamboyant size. Lacking the necessary individual dishes, you can bake these soufflés in muffin cups and then brown them in sauce for serving in one large baking dish.

**Twice Baked Spinach Souffles**
Anne Willan From My Château Kitchen
(Clarkson Potter/Publishers. April 2000) www.randomhouse.com
  • 1 lb/500 g spinach
  • 1/3 cup/75 g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup/30 g flour
  • 1 1/2 cups/375 ml milk
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups/375 ml light cream
  • 1/2 cup/50 g grated Gruyère cheese
  • six 1-cup/250-ml ramekins
  • six 6-in/l5-cm gratin dishes
1. Pull the stems from the spinach and wash the leaves in several changes of water. Pack the wet leaves in a large saucepan, cover it, and wilt the leaves over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the spinach and let it cool. Squeeze handfuls of spinach in your fists to extract the water, and then chop it. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the saucepan, add the onion and sauté over medium heat until it is soft but not brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach with salt and pepper and continue cooking, stirring, until it is quite dry, 2 to 3 minutes. Set it aside.

2. To make a white sauce: Melt the remaining butter in a saucepan, whisk in the flour, and cook until foaming but not browned, about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Simmer it for 2 minutes and then take it from the heat. Transfer about a third of the white sauce into a small saucepan and pour the cream on top so it coats the sauce and prevents a skin forming. Set it aside.

3. Generously butter the ramekins and chill them. Stir the spinach into the remaining sauce and heat until very hot. Take the mixture from the heat, taste, and adjust the seasoning; it should be well-seasoned to make up for the bland egg whites. Beat in the egg yolks a bit at a time so they cook in the heat of the sauce and thicken it slightly. Cover the saucepan with plastic wrap to prevent a skin forming on the spinach mixture.

4. Heat the oven to 350°F/175°C. Bring a roasting pan of water to a boil on the stove for a bain marie. Beat the egg whites until stiff, adding a pinch of salt to help stiffen them. Warm the spinach mixture gently until the pan is hot to the touch. Add about a quarter of the beaten egg whites and stir until well mixed. The heat of the sauce will cook the whites slightly. Add this mixture to the remaining whites and fold them together as lightly as possible.

5. Fill the ramekins with the mixture, smoothing the tops with a metal spatula. Run a thumb around the edge of each dish to detach the mixture so the soufflé rises straight. Set the ramekins in the bain marie, bring it back to a boil on the stove, and transfer it to the oven. Bake until the soufflés are puffed, browned, and just set in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. They should rise well above the rim of the dish. Take the ramekins from the bain marie and leave them to cool -- the soufflés will shrink back into the ramekins, pulling away slightly from the sides.

6. Turn each soufflé out into a gratin dish. Whisk the cream with the reserved sauce until smooth and bring it just to a boil. Season it to taste with salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and pour on top of the soufflés, letting it pool around the sides. Sprinkle them with the cheese. The soufflés can be kept, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

7. To finish: Heat the oven to 425°F/220°C. Bake the soufflés until browned, slightly puffed, and the sauce is bubbling, 7 to 10 minutes. Serve them at once.

Makes 6 servings

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips


  1. Those look fantastic and very tasty!



  2. I have to admit I've always been a little intimidated by souffles, sweet or savory. But if you say these are nearly fool proof, well, they just might make it to my (early) Christmas dinner table next weekend. I love spinach and so, I'm pretty sure, do all the guests! Glad to learn about another woman of influence -- this was definitely a new one to me, though!

  3. Anne is indeed one of the most well known on the list. Her cooking classes are world famous. I don't believe I've ever used one of her recipes (hard to believe) but this one is fascinating and I think I'll give it a try. You had me with "light as a cloud."

  4. Wow, I am impressed! These little souffles look so light and rose so nicely. They would be nice for holiday entertaining and would surely impress guests!

  5. I just love the idea of individual souffles. Yours look so puffy and light, I can't wait to try. It's interesting that several of her recipes this week have earned extra high marks from our group.

  6. What a treasure of a recipe! I will definitely be making these at some point during the Christmas holidays. I also loved the discourse on souffles. Spoken like a true gourmand. Have a wonderful day, Val. Blessings...Mary

  7. wow Vall look sedelicious, love this:))

  8. This looks delicious...and I cannot believe I have never made a souffle...I love the idea of individual ones.

  9. Val,
    I've never heard of baking a souffle twice. Had I known that you could do that I would have been doing it. How convenient for a dinner party. It sure would take away some of the stress that one might feel with souffles. Thanks for this post!

  10. I've never made a souffle although I love them. I will definitely give this a try, it doesn't look too difficult but very delicious. GG

  11. I have yet to attempt a souffle. I'm not afraid to try, but I guess it's more that they have to be baked and served right away. When it comes to dessert souffles, I'm not keen on that. I'd try these though. They look like they would make a wonderful light supper with a side salad.

  12. We were served a cheese souffle at a luncheon the other day and I said the same thing: I haven't made a souffle in years. And I love them, too. It also appears I am a fan of Anne Willan recipes and this look fabulous, Val! I am definitely trying this.

  13. This looks so lovely for a holiday dinner. The individual soufflés are such a nice touch. A wonderful choice for Anne.

  14. I think this would fall in the decadent or food porn category. Ooh la la.

  15. Goodness, these look wonderful! One of those one a bed of lettuce would be a delicious, light dinner.

  16. I've never attempted souffle, probably mostly because I'm afraid of failure. I think this should be my first try!

  17. I can't believe I am saying this publicly but this pasta-lady is going to make a souffle.

  18. Do you know, I have never made a souffles before. They have never really appealed to me, but I think these might be just the thing for Christmas when our family are staying.

  19. So interesting and yummy sounding souffle - you make it sounds so simple!

  20. These are so beautiful; we love love anything spinach. I can almost taste the creamy goodness with your great photo.

  21. Those are seriously some of the prettiest souffles I've ever seen. My mouth is watering in anticipation (that unfortunately won't be met). Gorgeous!

  22. I haven't made souffles since I was in college but always enjoyed making them. These are so unique and lovely. Spinach has always been one of my favorite veggies. In fact my family use to call me Popeye for eating so much of it but told me I looked like Olive Oil since I was skin and bones.

    I can't wait to try this and read more about Anne and her cookbooks. Thank you for sharing.

  23. Oh my goodness, that looks lucious! A perfect treat for fall!

  24. Valerie!
    Thank you for this inspiration and beautiful post! I have wanted to get into souffle making again - like you, it has been years - but my late 20's I think... and with this high recommendation - the perfect recipe to start with.
    Does she still have her cooking school there? If so, wouldn't it be fun to go? Interested? I am!

  25. What a deliciously naughty recipe this is, Val. Pretty much, this is how I make my creamed spinach. But, turning this into a souffle' is something I'd really like to do. I've only made (and blogged) a souffle' once, in my life. It actually turned out to be easier than I thought-- except I forgot to flatten the top, before baking. I'm going to add this recipe to my "special meal" file. It looks a wee bit fussy, but that only means it's a challenge I'm willing to take on. Val, how do you manage to work 6 days a week, and keep up your blogging so faithfully? I am so impressed!

  26. I loooove spinach souflees! These look beautiful.

  27. i wondered if nutmeg would be included, and lo and behold, it's there! this is great. :)

  28. This certainly raises "eat your spinach" to a whole new and delicious level!!


  29. I think this might be the perfect side for our Christmas prime rib. It sounds absolutely delicious and I love that it can be prepared ahead of time. Thanks, Val.

  30. I love making souffles. I must just be lucky, because mine always stay beautiful until a utensil is inserted.

  31. yum! i love these for holiday brunch

  32. Even I can make souffles? YAY! :D

  33. The best part of this - aside from the flavor - is the fact that you can make these ahead of time. Definitely on my list of dishes to make this Christmas.

  34. Definitely food porn. Like the fact that I can even make these.

  35. These spinach souffles sound so good!


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