Can my soup be saved?


Yesterday, I decided to double a recipe for Broccoli Cheese Soup. And, I didn't start soon enough to allow extra time for the liquid ingredients to heat up. So, I think everything was too hot when I added the cheese, so it curdled. Everything tasted fine, but it didn't have the nice texture.

What I want to know - Is there anyway I can "fix" the curdled cheese now? It's been in the refrigerator overnight. I know we will eat it anyway, but if I could fix it, that would be better.

I know what to do the next time to prevent it happening. Start earlier and keep the temperature on the stove lower :-) BTW, I found the recipe on Tasty Kitchen for a Panera knockoff and the first time I made it, without doubling, it was amazing how close it was and the texture was terrific. I didn't have a blender handy, so chopped the broccoli extra fine before cooking and it worked.

Thanks for any advice, Carol

badge posted by: cwcdesign on January 20, 2012 at 5:49 am in Q & A
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reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on January 20, 2012 at 7:56 am
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

You could try picking the chunks of broccoli out and blending the remaining liquid ... it might not make it as smooth as if the accident hadn't happened, but it should at least improve somewhat.

*EDIT* OOOPS! I just read at the bottom where you said you didn't have a blender, sorry!

reply by: KAF_Keri on January 20, 2012 at 10:03 am

I just found this on one of those millions of "how to" websites online:

"To fix a broken cream sauce, take 1/2 cup of heavy cream and reduce it down to 1/3 of its original volume. Slowly drizzle in the curdled sauce while whisking vigorously. This should bring the sauce right back to its creamy, silky consistency."

No idea if it works, but would be worth a shot!

reply by: Mike Nolan on January 20, 2012 at 10:23 am
Mike Nolan

As I recall, when a cheese soup or sauce 'breaks', it is because the cheese was heated quickly and hasn't had anything to attach itself to (like the flour in a roux), so it separates into fat and milk solids. The latter are what make the soup gritty. Those little lumps have a very high melting point, so getting them to go away isn't easy.

Using a cream base rather than milk (especially low fat milk) seems to help prevent the cheese from separating in the first place. I'm not sure of the chemistry behind that. (Where's Alton Brown when you need him?)

Adding in the heavy cream is worth trying, although once you've cooled the soup it may be too late for that. You could try slowly reheating some of it, stirring in some warm cream as it warms up. I suspect you will need to get it quite hot to get the lumps out, if it works at all.

When I make an Alfredo sauce, I start with heavy cream, but I find I can add warm milk after a while without it breaking. Traditionally an Alfredo sauce didn't use any cream at all, just slow heating and constant stirring of cheese. (And NO GARLIC!!)

reply by: cwcdesign on January 20, 2012 at 10:46 am

Thanks all,

Zen, I think if I had been able to blend the soup, I might have prevented it, but as I said, I think the liquid was waaaay too hot to melt the cheese properly.
Keri, that is a better link than I could find when I searched, I think I'll bookmark it.

Mike, I was using whole milk, very fresh. but you also added an equal amount of chicken stock. I think to go back to the very beginning, I didn't get my roux hot enough and the milk and chicken stock just never really thickened. Maybe I need to make more roux for this amount of liquid - 8 cups - and 1/2 cup each butter and flour for the roux. When I make my mac & cheese I use the same amount for 4 cups of milk and add 1 cup cream right before the cheese. I don't want my soup that thick so maybe 3/4 cup each for the roux?

So, the lesson is either not to double the recipe (which won't make enough for my family) or to be patient. Where have I heard that before?

reply by: KAF_Keri on January 20, 2012 at 10:54 am

Mike, if it separates into fats and milk solids, could you (in theory) strain out the milk solids, cool the soup it to solidify the fats, skim off the fats, and then basically try adding the cheese again? Sounds good on paper (so to speak), but I have no idea if it would work in practice.

reply by: Mike Nolan on January 20, 2012 at 11:20 am
Mike Nolan

The rules to remember are:

Roux is 1 part flour (starch) to 1 part butter (fat). (When making more than a small amount of roux, I do it by weight, Michael Ruhlman's book "Ratios" says to do it by volume.)

1 tablespoon of starch (flour) will thicken 1 cup of liquid.

I'd say you were spot on there.

Did you add the milk cold or did you warm it? (I always scald milk when making white sauce, as Julia Child recommended years ago.)

It's also possible your roux wasn't cooked long enough, but if you overcook it and wind up with a brown roux instead of a white roux, the thickening power is roughly cut in half.

When I make soup, I usually do about 4 quarts at a time. Above that and the rules seem to change. (Being able to cope with larger volume cooking is what separates a restaurant cook from a home cook, IMHO.)

I also tend to add the chicken stock last. (I warm it up on another burner.) You can thin a soup or sauce far easier than you can thicken it once you get it too thin.

Keri, by the time you separate out the broccoli, run the soup through cheesecloth to remove the curds and skim off the separated fat, what's left? :-)

reply by: KAF_Keri on January 20, 2012 at 11:45 am

Flavored milk? :)

I forgot all about the broccoli! Yeah, I guess that method wouldn't work so well. Back to the drawing board!

reply by: cwcdesign on January 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Thanks Mike,

I will try the larger amount of butter/flour next time and I do tend to weigh my ingredients. As for the milk and chicken stock: the milk was room temperature - I've often microwaved it in the past to get the temperature up so no clean up of an extra pan. The chicken stock was warm - I had made it a little earlier. In Ireland (where I am at the moment) you can't get canned or boxed chicken stock, but Knorr makes this terrific product - concentrated stock which is sort of like a jelly, not the dry cubes in the States - you combine it with boiling water. One small container to 500ml, but I used 2 cups (16 oz) so a little stronger. It had cooled by the time I used it.

reply by: Mike Nolan on January 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm
Mike Nolan

I usually scald milk in the microwave too, you just have to be careful not to have it boil over.

I've seen the Knorr concentrate, years ago it used to be available in the US. There are some other soup base concentrates available here, but I always make my own stocks, to make sure they're both garlic free and gluten free. (The vegetable stock used in canned tuna fish sometimes has garlic in it, according to the email my wife got from the folks at Starkist.)

Have you checked the grocery stores to seek what kinds of flours are available, since you're in the EU you might be able to get French T55 flour. (I think I saw some on the shelves in a store in Dublin when we were in Ireland in 2006, but not in the smaller stores where we were staying, near Kilkenny. I did find Lyons tea though.)

reply by: cwcdesign on January 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Many of the flours in the market are self-raising. I found one called "strong flour" which is supposed to be good for bread machines. Its protein is 11g, so I figured I would use it like KAF AP. It actually has an ingredient list: wheat flour, vital wheat gluten (probably for the bread machine), calcium carbonate, alpha-amylase. There are also whole grain flours, but since my baking stuff isn't here yet, I haven't studied them carefully. However, I have been spending time in the Health Food Store and she carries unbleached flour. I think Zen once mentioned something about flour in EU not being bleached, but the owner had not heard that. She told me most people were used to bleached flour. I'm looking forward to being adventurous with flour when the time comes.

reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on January 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

Apparently bleaching has been totally banned in the EU, by any mechanism other than natural aging.

Here's the relevant document.

The relevant regulation is #5 on page 6, in part:

"Note that as part of these legislative changes, the use of the flour bleaching agents, e.g. chlorine and chlorine dioxide is no longer allowed. Therefore claims for the use of unbleached flour are meaningless and should be avoided"

Apparently the above ban has been in effect since 1998. I knew they had banned bromates from flour, but I had no idea (until Sandra passed the link above along) that they had banned ALL bleaching for flour.

Here is one UK baker's journey to find a replacement for bleached cake flours

BTW, if you check out her site at all (Kate of Kate Flour) you should take a look at her blog entry about Soul Cakes. I really liked that entry!

reply by: cwcdesign on January 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm


I loved the Soul Cake entry. And I read most of the conversation on "Kate Flour" - It was a bit overwhelming for me - I don't know if I will ever make a fancy cake again *LOL* One person commented that ascorbic acid might change the texture of the flour so I wonder if the addition of the calcium carbonate does something like that.

My preference is to use unbleached flour anyhow and I had great success with the cornstarch/KAF AP combination. When you are in the market, you have to read carefully or you will end up with self-raising flour.

I have an awful lot to learn, but I have time. At least when I go back to the health food shop, I can point them in the direction of the EU regs - thanks.

reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on January 20, 2012 at 5:07 pm
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

I know ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is a bleaching agent, but it's one of the ones that enhances gluten formation. I don't know if it might also break up the starches like chlorination does. I'm pretty sure I read that in Baking Science? How Baking Works? I'm not sure now.

I'm pretty sure that of the processes used here in the US, chlorination is the only one that enhances flour performance in cakes. It reduces gluten formation but it also breaks up the starches so the flour will absorb more water than it would otherwise have done. Apparently heat-treating the flour has a similar effect, but that flour is not available to home bakers in the UK, or at least not easily available.

I swear I'm going to be experimenting with Nuclear Flour any day now ....

reply by: cwcdesign on January 21, 2012 at 5:30 am

I look forward to the tales of your experiments :-)

In case you haven't figured out, I'm not one of the science-oriented folks on the BC

reply by: KitchenBarbarian aka Zen on January 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm
KitchenBarbarian aka Zen

Eeeeexcellent! *steepled fingers*

Step into my la-BOR-a-tory! Errr, I mean kitchen!