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The Kellogg’s Cookbook: Cheez-It Souffle

Cheez-It souffle

SouffleBaked2Yes, you read that right. Tonight’s cookbooks is The Kellogg’s Cookbook, and that means recipes with things like Cheez-Its, Rice Krispies and Special K. When I wrote this up for Recipes of the Damned, I made fun of a recipe that involved sauteed shrimp and Corn Pops. To be fair, the recipe sounded very good without the Corn Pops.

CheezItSouffleIngreds2This is what makes this cookbook worth perusing: Many of the recipes seem quite reasonable. This is because many Kellogg’s products are pretty simple: Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, All Bran. I’ve made cornflake-crusted oven-baked chicken before, and probably everybody who’s not a vegan or a don’t-ask-don’t-tell vegetarian has eaten Rice Krispie treats. But some of the recipes CheezItsPreCrush2are rather silly, either because they try too hard (for example, specifying Kellogg’s Stuffing Mix when any croutons would serve) or because the product they require is inherently silly. Like Cheez-Its.

Don’t get me wrong. I really like Cheez-Its. They have a good strong mainstream cheddar flavor, and they’re an excellent CheezItsCrushed3salt delivery system, which is very important to me in a processed snack food. But in a souffle? I had my doubts, so I decided to find out.

The recipe is fairly simple, though might be daunting to an inexperienced cook. (Of course, if you’ve gotten past the word “souffle” you’ll probably be just fine.) I began by preheating the SeparatedEggsoven and measuring out a cup of Cheez-Its and then crushing then in a plastic bag, using a rolling pin. I poured the crumbs back into the measuring cup; they now reached about 2/3 of the way to the top. I’d expected them to lose a lot more volume. I set them aside and separated six eggs, then beat together the yolks slightly. I also grated about a teaspoon’s worth of a fresh onion.

MilkSauceThickenedNow it was time to move to the stovetop. In a heavy saucepan, I heated one and a half cups of milk and half a stick of butter for about two minutes, stirring constantly, until the butter was melted. Then I added the grated onion and about half the Cheez-It crumbs and kept stirring, cooking for about five more minutes, until the mixture had begun to thicken and was close to boiling. Here the TemperingYolksCheez-Its are functioning much like the flour in a roux; although the ingredients come together in a different order, this is essentially a bechamel sauce. With cheddar cheese flavor and quite a bit of salt.

Now I spooned out a bit of the hot bechamel and added it to the egg yolks, mixing them together to warm up the yolks; this is SauceWithYolks2called tempering, and it keeps the yolks from curdling when they’re added to the pan. Yolks tempered, I added them to the saucepan. They did not curdle. I kept stirring, letting the mixture cook for about three more minutes, then removed it from the heat.

It was the egg whites’ turn now. Using an electric mixer, I beat the BeatingEggWhiteswhites until they were stiff but not dry, which took less than two minutes by my estimate. (I wasn’t really looking at the clock; I was looking at the egg whites.) I then carefully folded the egg whites into the Cheez-It sauce. This is the tricky part, because you don’t want to overmix them, but you want to make sure you don’t have big pockets of unblended egg white or sauce. I AddingWhitesToSaucefolded in the rest of the Cheez-It crumbs, poured it all into an unbuttered baking dish, and put it in the oven for an hour and 15 minutes.

While it cooked I finished up some kitchen tasks: I made salsa with fresh tomatoes and poblanos from the Greenmarket, and I washed a bunch of dishes. I found myself working gingerly. It FoldingInMoreCheezItsoccurred to me that a sufficiently loud noise or heavy vibration might knock the whole thing down. And boy, did my kitchen seem loud. The fridge cycling down with a thump; the poorly set drawers lurching into their grooves; a tomato rolling off the cutting board and into the sink. Outside noises sounded amplified as well: kids playing, motorcycles driving past, neighbors slamming SouffleToBakegarage doors. I half expected someone to pull into the alley in a bass-thumping boom box masquerading as a car.

But my worries were groundless. The baked souffle had risen, and stayed puffed, though it began to sink gradually once it came out of the oven. And when I dug into it with a spoon it quickly deflated. I spooned up some of the mixture SouffleDish4and we carried it away with salad. I’m not sure if I got the consistency exactly right; it was somewhat soft and I didn’t know if it should be firmer and keep its puff more solidly. But it was a pleasing texture, and it tasted good. It tasted exactly like Cheez-Its. This is not a bad taste, though it’s a little weird in a souffle texture.

SouffleSunkVerdict: Success. But this is another silly recipe. I want to make a real souffle at some point, but I think I’ll wait until the weather has cooled a bit more. The elegant puff seems like it might be a lovely way to present a fine chocolate or a really great cheese. But if I want Cheez-Its, the crunchy cracker is good enough for me.

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