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In this video: Cheese Soufflé that NEVER Falls! - Chef Jean-Pierre, Chef Jean Pierre proposes an interesting method for making cheese soufflé; instead of folding in beaten egg whites to his custard, he uses diced bread cubes (with crust removed) to provide the air that will make the soufflé rise.

His reasoning for using bread is that the soufflé will not fall (only slightly) and could thus be fully cooked in advance (hence making a foolproof recipe for beginner cooks).

This method relies on 2 key aspects:

  1. The bread is broken down in the heated custard environment and
  2. The soufflé will not fall because of the bread

Could someone explain from a chemistry perspective why 1) and 2) occur?

For 2), my guess is the broken down bread provides better structural integrity than egg whites, though I am not sure why.

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There is nothing to explain here - the claim is simply wrong.

You can certainly put bread in custard and subject it to heat. It is traditionally done in French toast, for example. I could even buy that under some circumstances, you won't notice that you are chewing on what used to be bread - the inside of a French toast is quite soft, and if you don't know what it is, you might not recognize it.

But first, I don't believe that the bread in this recipe will disintegrate fully to the point where it is completely mixed with the custard. (And if it did, it wouldn't turn "into flour"). You can see in the video how, before sticking it into the oven, the bread cubes swim on the surface, even after he purposefully wets them on top at around 10:20. And after he takes it out, the surface is rather uneven with a few lumps, and while he does have cubed shallots and dried tomatoes in there, the shapes look awfully like bread cubes - see for example the closeup at 11:50.

bread visible

You could, in theory, mix the bread fully. For that, you would have to wait until it is soaked well, and then physically mix it, with a fork or with the blender he praises so much. But in the video, it is implied that no such mixing happens.

The second claim is that the souffles don't fall. This is entirely wrong. When he puts the souffles in there, the ramekins are filled "all the way to the top" (quote from 10:28). When he takes them out, they are risen slightly, I'd say less than two centimeters - you can see a good shot at 11:19. That's expected, since there are no egg whites to rise during baking. And then, while he plates them, they fall back to the rim of the ramekin. He even mentions it at 11:29

"Eventually, they're gonna fall. A little bit. They're gonna fall right at the rim."

Don't be fooled by the "little bit" - if you remember, they were filled to the rim when they went to the oven.

souffle stages

So, even in his own video, you can see that the soufflés cannot hold any of the expansion they got in the oven, and fall to their original size once they cool. This is exactly how any soufflé behaves, with bread or otherwise.

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  • Thank you. So the reason they don't fall "as much" is simply because the bread takes up less space than the whites, thus more custard is placed in each ramekin. – user256872 Apr 8 at 0:23
  • No, there is the same amount of soufflé mass in the ramekin. Standard soufflés expand a lot in the oven, the fall immediately. These here expand a little in the oven, then fall down immediately. They both fall to their original size, but the bread ones never expanded much. – rumtscho Apr 8 at 7:26
  • Re: Not rising. For a souffle you add small air bubbles, they expand due to temperature in the oven, and then the mixture cooks trapping the air bubbles in their expanded state. It sounds like the idea for this bread-based version is to start with pre-expanded air bubbles (they expanded during the baking of the bread)...so you would start closer/at the final volume and not need to expand. ...not a comment on if this actually works or not in this recipe, but you could try starting with equal weights of bread-based and non-bread based and see what the final heights were for both. – user3067860 Apr 8 at 18:00
  • Do you still call it custard when it's not sweet? – njzk2 Apr 8 at 20:47
  • @njzk2 yes, I would all any liquid thickened with heated (but not emulsified) egg yolk (or whole egg) a custard. McGee almost agrees with me, adding that for him, it has to be baked in its own container to form a single piece of gel, while the spoonable ones he calls creams. "The custard family includes savory quiches and timbales as well as sweet flans, cremes caramels, pots de creme, and cheesecakes". – rumtscho Apr 8 at 21:04
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It looks more like a fluffy bread pudding (or even a quiche) instead of a soufflé.

There is no chemistry involved; the bread just adds (little) more structure.

At 10:06 you see the uncooked mixture near the rim of the ramequins.

At 11:28, you see the soufflé has deflated nearly to the rim of the ramequins

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