Recipe no 9: The Souffle
Is it just me, or does the thought of making a souffle conjure images of the slapstick antics of Lucille Ball and as such spell disaster in the kitchen? For whatever reason I can’t exactly put my finger on, baking a souffle has always intimidated me.
It wasn’t until we had our own flock and an extra 3 dozen eggs sitting in the fridge that I found the courage to give it a try, it seems that 30-some-odd eggs was the motivation I needed to overcome my fear of the souffle flop.
According to Wikipedia, the word soufflé is ‘French for souffler which means “to blow up” or more loosely “puff up”.’ Of course that ‘puff’ is the trademark of a successful souffle. And there lies the mystery, the challenge and the intrigue of the souffle, the puff. (See video below of a time lapse taken every 5 seconds of a souffle rising in the oven.)
Now perhaps I’m oversimplifying matters but it seems to me that all souffles are made from two basic components; an egg custard base made from the yolks (fat), and a meringue, made from the whites (protein).
According to Chef Jeffrey Buben, ‘When you beat egg whites, you’re basically mixing air into them. The protein in the egg whites forms a kind of skin around the bubbles of air. But if there’s any fat present (yolks), the skin can’t form and the air leaks away.”
Tips for a successful souffle:
- Eggs separate more easily into yolks and whites when they are chilled
- Carefully separate your egg whites from the yolks. Any traces of fat from the yolks will keep the whites from beating up properly.
- Bring the egg whites to room temperature before you beat them, they will foam more rapidly and to greater volume
- It’s best to use steel or metal bowl for beating egg whites
- Always start with a clean dry bowl to whip the white
There are two major kinds of souffles, savory and sweet (aka dessert souffles), here are a couple of popular recipes, given them a try and tell us what you think.
- Classic Cheese Souffle
- Asparagus Souffle at Simply Recipes
- Simple Chocolate Souffle
- Winter Raspberry Souffles at Epicurious