I can think of few things that inspire fear in the hearts of many cooks more than a soufflé.
Maybe it is the meringue that makes people nervous, or the thought of a flat pancake dessert, or maybe it is the timing issue? I think it is all of the above. The fact is that a soufflé is actually easy once you understand it.
A soufflé (French: [su.fle]) is a lightly baked cake made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert. The word soufflé comes from the French souffler which means "to blow up".
A soufflé is made up of two components.
1. A crème pâtissière which is a cooked custard base made from: egg yolks, a starch which adds stability and what I call “hang time”, more on that later, which can be: flour, corn starch, arrow root or other starches, and flavor.
2. Egg whites beaten to a soft peak meringue. The base provides flavor and stability and the egg whites provide the lift. Souffles can be savory
or sweet and should be fluffy and puffed when served. A soufflé will fall after 5-10 minutes.
Souffles can come in all sizes but are most often served in ramekins either individually or for sharing. If a soufflé is too large, it is more likely to collapse. The components for soufflés can be made ahead of time and can be assembled last minute or, the entire soufflé can be assembled ahead of time and can sit for up to 3 hours before baking.
Part of the secret to the soufflés rise, (ba –dum-ching!) is that the ramekin or baking dish needs to have a crusty coating for the soufflé to crawl up and cling to. For dessert soufflés, the ramekin is buttered all the way to the top and then generously sugared so that the soufflé can climb
up the sides. For savory soufflés, the ramekin is oiled or buttered and then bread crumbs or parmesan cheese are added.
I love soufflés! A soufflé in the oven is a celebration. The light, airy and creamy-egg concoction practically screams PARTY! When my kids were younger, I made a weekly soufflé dinner night. I made our family favorite Potato-Cheese Soufflé for dinner and with a salad and bread, we had a
very elegant and complete dinner.
For dessert, we had a different soufflé each week. Sometimes, they were chocolate, banana, lemon, vanilla bean, strawberry, pumpkin and more. My kids and I loved soufflé night. The magnificent puff, hovering over the ramekin never failed to delight. As they got older, they used to time the “fall” and I scored points each week with exclamations of GOOD ONE! Or LAST WEEKS WAS BETTER etc…
My kids did not realize that their elegant dinner was really little more than fancy scrambled eggs. They used to invite friends over for soufflé night and brag about their dinners to classmates. I will never forget other mothers in car-pool lines, telling me that I ruined dinners for them with their own kids now asking for soufflés.
My youngest son’s preschool teacher announced, to the class one day, that there was a Special treat that day. My son Jonah, asked, in his booming voice, if it was a Soufflé. The teacher explained that another child had brought some packaged cookies for a treat. Jonah announced
that cookies were not special. Souffles were special!
What type of souffle are you going to make?