Understandably, many of us are a little afraid of the soufflé. In order to work well – and by that I mean in order to rise sufficiently – it needs to be made meticulously, without room for error and according to very rigorously followed, expert instructions. Of course, the other scary thing about this temperamental, light-as-air dish, is that, unless you’re doing a more forgiving ‘twice baked’ version, it can’t be prepared in advance. To help you to deal with these difficulties and to overcome cooking-induced fear and fretting, I’ve done a little research and compiled a list of 8 tips for a no-fail soufflé.
This sounds fairly obvious; of course of we want our equipment to be clean. But before you fly into a fit of eye-rolling and outrage, remember that, like meringue, a successful soufflé depends on well-whipped egg-whites. In order to achieve sufficient stiffness here, it’s absolutely crucial that your bowls and whisks are completely oil-free. To be doubly sure, rewash yours by hand in warm water with a good cleaning liquid.
It’s best to begin with ingredients at room temperature. Take things like butter and chocolate (which shouldn’t be cold anyway) out of the fridge well before you start. This is especially important when it comes to the eggs; cold, these are significantly more difficult to work with.
For the same reason that we need our cooking equipment to be grease-free before embarking on a soufflé, we also need to ensure that our eggs are very carefully, and accurately separated. Yolks are laden with oils which, if mixed into the whites even in the tiniest quantity, will prevent these from stiffening.
When the time comes to fold your flour/yolk etc in with your stiffened egg whites, chefs recommend you use a large metal spoon and not a wooden one. This will allow you to keep as much of the air in the mixture as possible, and won’t risk impregnating your soufflé with alien flavours that can become infused into wood over time.
So much of what makes eating an individual soufflé great has to do with the change in texture between firm outside and meltingly soft inside. In order to ensure you preserve this important contrast, you need to make sure your soufflés don’t stick to the ramekins in which they’re served. The best way to achieve this is simply to melt a little butter in each one, and with a small brush, to paint it all over the inside.
It’s always a good idea to weigh out and measure the relevant ingredients before you begin with the process of actually putting your soufflé together. If you have to leave your egg whites for half an hour while you organise other components, for example, this will undoubtedly have an effect on the dish over all.
In addition to making sure the oven is hot enough when your soufflé mixture goes in, it’s very important that you don’t open the door to ‘check’ on the dishes while they’re rising. This will allow heat to escape and cause the temperature inside to vary; both factors that will not contribute to a positive soufflé outcome.
A soufflé will drop within two minutes of coming out of the heat, so it is absolutely necessary that you get the timing right. Most variations take around ten minutes to bake, and should be taken directly from the oven to the dinner table. In order to ensure maximum height, enlist the help of a friend when it comes to serving. This way, no soufflé will be left waiting (and sagging) in the kitchen.
Success with this kind of difficult dish is largely a matter of following instructions carefully, and intelligently timing your preparation. Hopefully, my list of 8 tips for a no-fail soufflé has helped to take some of the anxiety out of what has become an infamously temperamental brand of recipe; do you have any great ideas of your own to add to it?
Top Photo Credit: jules:stonesoup
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