We all have our little customs when it comes to cooking or picking recipes. During the past editions of IMBB, I've grown used to turning to my cooking book collection for inspiration as soon as the theme of the next edition is announced. It's a way to visit old friends, books I like but seldom use or favorites I haven't leafed through in a while. When Kitchen Chick announced Soufflé would be this month's theme, I immediately turned to a book that has a special place in my collection, and one that is simply perfect for the chosen theme: Soufflé by Ernst Knam. Although this was not my first cooking book, it is definitely the first "food porn" book I ever read and definitely the one responsible for letting my budding gastronomic bibliophile character bloom.
Knam is the chef/owner of the L'Antica Arte del Dolce pastry shop in Milan and author of a number of impressive books dedicated to subjects like beer, terrines and panini. Knam, as one might guess from the name, is a German pastry chef. After experiences in Switzerland and England he moved to Italy in the late '80s, and there he worked for three years as chef patissier for Gualtiero Marchesi, arguably one of Italy's top chefs for over three decades.
Knam's book on Soufflé is a fascinating trip through classics and creativity, traditional flavors and bold combinations. Although many of the recipes seem aimed more to the pros or experienced amateurs, none fails to capture your curiosity. While the recipes range from hot classic soufflés to iced ones the recipe section doesn't follow such an analytical division: it is instead divided into seasonal chapters,smartly I would add, not only according to the ingredient's seasonality but also thinking about the best moment to savor certain tastes and textures. So you will have chocolate for Autumn, coffee for Winter, and floral honey for Spring. Though some dishes are based on classics, like chocolate or passion fruit soufflé, most of Knam's creations are clearly influenced by German and Italian flavors: poppy seed and cinnamon soufflé galcé and Gugelhupf soufflé or aubergine, tomato and Parmesan soufflé and cappuccino Soufflé are only a few of the examples. Yet this is not only a recipe collection. The introductory chapter on the history of soufflé is fascinating. From the first mention of "omelette soufflé" in La Chapelle's Le Cusinier Moderne in the early XVIII century you'll follow the rise of this culinary wonder and surprise, loosing its auxiliary adjective role (as in creme soufflé) to become a dish in its own right, branching into its frozen "imitation", the soufflé glacé, and reaching its apogee in the late XIX century with up to 73 recipes listed in the manuals of the time, a success that we're still celebrating today.
In the end I have to admit that I didn't get around to baking any soufflé. You might say I was too busy looking at the pictures and dreaming of the impressive recipes in the book. And apart from that I just couldn't make up my mind about which one to try. I hope meeting an old (book) friend can be an acceptable excuse for not cooking this one time. On my part I can only thank Lisa (Kitchen Chick) for giving me the chance to brush the dust off this beautiful book. And maybe, who knows, Soufflé will be on the menu sooner than you suspect.