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Cheese Souffle

14 May

Cheese SouffleTonight starts the Jewish festival of Shavuot (Weeks). It’s customary to eat dairy foods. You may ask why. You won’t get an answer here. There’s no definitive answer. There’s a lot of speculation, too detailed and esoteric for me to get into now. My answer must echo Tevye: “Tradition!”

Here’s a nice recipe for a delicious dairy supper. It isn’t a true souffle, which would involve starting with a white sauce, adding cheese and egg yolks and then folding in beaten egg whites. This is a lot easier because you start with stale bread cubes. It’s actually more of a savory bread pudding, but what comes out of the oven looks and tastes a lot like a souffle, so go ahead, call it a souffle!

I always turn bread that’s past its prime into bread cubes. I keep them in a large bowl on the counter to dry out, tossing them occasionally. If there’s a big holiday coming up that calls for a turkey, I’ll use it for stuffing. Otherwise, when I get enough I make a bread pudding of some sort. The dry bread cubes will keep for weeks as long as they don’t get wet!

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. butter (optional)
1 cup sliced mushrooms (optional)
4 scallions, chopped (optional)
2 Tbs. white wine (optional)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
4 to 6 slices stale white bread, crust trimmed and cut into cubes
4 eggs
2 cups milk
¼ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. dry mustard
dash of Worcestershire sauce or cayenne pepper (optional)

Directions:

If you plan to use the mushrooms, scallions and wine, melt the butter in a skillet, add the mushrooms, scallions and wine and cook until the mushrooms are soft and the liquid is evaporated.

Trim the crusts from the stale bread and cut it into cubes. Grease a casserole or soufflé dish and place the bread cubes in it. Add the mushroom-scallion mixture and the cheese. Beat the eggs well. Add the milk, thyme and mustard, and the Worcestershire sauce or cayenne pepper if you use it. Pour over the bread cubes and mix lightly to be sure all the cubes are coated with the egg-milk mixture. Wait at least 10 minutes, preferably a little longer, for the egg-milk mixture to be absorbed into the bread. (You can leave it to soak as long as overnight, but cover it and put it in the fridge if you are going to wait more than an hour or two, and then bring the dish back to room temperature before baking.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the soufflé for 35 to 45 minutes until it is puffed and golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. It will sink a little as it cools.

Serves 4

Bread Pudding

20 Mar

Bread PuddingThis is obviously not a Passover recipe — but there’s a connection! I was cleaning out my freezer for Passover and discovered a huge cache of my husband’s homemade challah (a subject for a future post!). We keep lots of not-kosher-for-Passover foods over the holiday, putting it away in a cupboard we don’t use for that week and actually selling it (via our rabbi) to someone not Jewish. But we never keep bread — the quintessential forbbiden food — over Passover. But I couldn’t bear to throw away one large and two small loaves of perfectly good bread! My solution — bread pudding, which I love any time of the year. With so much bread, I made a large one, so we’ll be enjoying some yummy breakfasts (and maybe some desserts) between now and Monday.

The only downside was that I didn’t have time to let the bread get really dried out. Usually I let the bread cubes sit in a bowl on my counter for a good few days before I make bread pudding.

This is almost more of a method than a recipe, because you can change it in so many ways. You can reduce the size of the pudding easily by reducing the ingredients proportionately. You can change the flavor by using different dried fruits (e.g. cherries, apricots) or by adding chopped fresh fruit (e.g. tart apples, pineapple, peaches, blueberries). You can even add chocolate chips or chopped nuts. You can substitute maple syrup for the brown sugar. You can substitute almond extract for the vanilla.

Ingredients:

8 cups cubed stale bread, crusts removed (challah works great)
6 eggs
3 cups milk
¼ cup brown sugar (use ½ cup or even a little  more if you plan to serve it as a dessert rather than a breakfast or brunch dish)
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of salt
½ cup raisins
2 Tbs. butter

Directions:

Beat the eggs, and then beat in the milk, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Pour the custard over the bread cubes and mix well so the bread is completely soaked. Mix in the raisins. Turn into a greased baking dish, and dot with butter. Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight or for at least a few hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and remove baking dish from refrigerator to come to room temperature.

Bake, uncovered, about an hour until the pudding is puffed and golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool at least 15 minutes before serving (the pudding will sink a bit). Serve hot or at room temperature.

Serves 6 to 8