Raise your hand if you’ve had a Panera Bread Baked Egg Soufflé. Now, raise your other hand if you’ve wondered how to make it. Finally, raise your hand if you’ve tried to replicate it and came up with something tasty, but not quite right. (If you actually have three hands, I’m jealous. I’ve wanted an extra one for years.)
My personal favorite is the spinach and bacon soufflé, Rick is partial to the sausage and gouda. For this exercise I decided to stick with a cheese soufflé and worry about adding the other stuff in after the base recipe is completed.
When I decide I want to cook something a little out of my comfort zone, the first place to look is on Pinterest, followed by standard Google search, plus Allrecipes.com or Cooks.com. I’ll look at several different recipes and make note of the things they have in common. I’ll also make note of ingredients or methods of preparation that sound interesting and worth a try at a later date. For this particular project, one of the oddest methods used crescent dough and partially cooked scrambled eggs. I just couldn’t see it although it got raves.
Eventually, I settled on an easy cheese soufflé recipe at the Taste of Home website that appealed to me because it was already sized for two servings. Souffles are fussy, but not difficult to prepare. You make a thick white sauce, season and flavor it, then beat some egg yolks into it. The egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks and folded into the rest of the batter. The combination is then poured into a souffle dish and baked undisturbed for 20-25 minutes. (Quiche is much easier and more satisfying, in my opinion, but I was looking for something other than quiche for this project.)
I knew, from many Pampered Chef parties, that refrigerator crescent rolls could be used to make a nice crust. I doubted it would be close enough to the flaky pastry shell of the Panera Souffles and so rejected them. I found references to several types of pastry dough that sounded too complicated for this dish. In the end I came across an old print out I had for a Ruff Puff pastry from Fine Cooking that I’ve made exactly one other time. I have the accompanying video pinned on one of my Pinterest boards. It’s worth the time to watch if you’re at all interested in this type of pastry.
The next step was to decide on a plan of action. I didn’t think leaving the pastry dough out on the counter while I assembled the souffle was a good idea. Likewise whipping up egg whites and letting them sit while I rolled and folded puff pastry dough.
In the end I prepared the dough, let it rest as instructed, and then rolled enough for four little tart pans. One batch of the recipe from Fine Cooking yields plenty of dough so I wrapped the rest in plastic wrap for later in the week while dreaming of a rustic tart with caramelized onions.
With the dough waiting in the fridge, it was time to assemble the souffle. Roux…check…milk…add a little more…check…seasonings…check. Separate the eggs and beat in the yolks. Check. Time to whip the egg whites. No mixer.
It took me a few panicked minutes to hunt down the mixer. There was no way I could possibly beat the egg whites by hand. I finally remembered it was tucked in the very back of the most difficult cabinet to get into (obviously it’s not used much). Whew! Egg whites, beaten into stiff peaks…check.
With the souffle ready, it was just a matter of filling the puff pastry shells and popping them into a hot oven. I put the extra souffle into a small ramekin and cooked it at the same time. Rick and I agreed that the souffle texture is the right one for the filling.
The dough, while delicious, isn’t quite right. You can see from the picture that I didn’t cut my dough large enough. It was nice and flaky, but lacked the sweet tenderness of Panera’s. Don’t worry…they didn’t go to waste.
I refined my search terms to “Panera Bread pastry recipe” and came across a message board where there’s an ongoing discussion about how to make these bundles of joy. A poster claiming to have worked for Panera said the filling comes from a mix with a similar ingredient list to a standard souffle recipe (minus the stabilizers and texturizers, etc). But the dough is the same croissant dough they use for all their pastries.
So Attempt Number Two will involve making croissants which is something I’ve never done. Yeast breads are Rick’s bailiwick in the Flexitarian Kitchen.
Don’t worry, I’ll let you know how it turns out. And next time, I’ll remember the mixer!
Have you tried to recreate something you’ve eaten at a restaurant? Were you successful? Tell us about your experience in the comments.