Tuesday’s Tip of the Week, trying to get a souffle right

Like I’ve written in this post; souffles are generally much easier to make than you’d think and their not as temperamental as they’re made out to be. I’ve had much more erratic results with meringues (to the point where once I had to resort to calling the meringue “toasted” to explain the odd hue it had acquired in the oven). Following a few basic precautions will help make sure you end up with successful results. Souffles are a dual component dish, there’s the base which is a custard that carries the flavor of the dish and then there’s the egg whites to give the souffle the air  that makes it famously puff up.

Precautions for prepping the souffle:

Always have an oven preheated at 180 – 200C. If you’re going to butter your ramekins or line then with chocolate or cheese or whatever, make sure this is done before you start working on the souffle

Precautions for the base:

As noted above, the base is essentially a flavored custard, so make sure when setting the base up that you dont cook and scramble the egg yolks by exposing them to excessive heat. Always use low heat and temper the eggs before incorporation into any heat source. Tempering eggs is basically adding a small portion of the hot/warm liquid to the egg and mixing it in before adding the eggs into the hot mixture; this gently brings the egg temperature up and reduces the risk of scrambling. Also, if you’ve lost track of time or heat and over exposed the base to heat, just use a fine sieve when combining the base with the whites to remove any solid egg particles (see they aren’t all that dainty)

Precautions for the whites:

You’re going to be whisking the egg whites to shiny and stiff peak perfection; this means that all containers and utensils must be spotless, and that none of the yolk gets into the whites prior to whisking. For egg whites to whisk properly, there needs to be no contamination by fats or oils.

Precautions for the combination of whites to base:

This here is probably the part of the cooking process that requires the most attention. Souffles rise because of the air in the egg whites, if you over-work and over-mix the base with the whites, all air is lost and you’ll end up with a flat stodgy souffle. Therefore use a wide spatula and gently “cut” and fold half of the whites into the base, don’t mix them together all at once; first combine half the whites then the other.

Pour the souffle mix into the ramekins (butter them first) and give the ramekin a nice bang on the counter-top to even out the souffle. If you want a well manicured souffle then leave about half a centimeter below the edge of the ramekin free and then run your thumb all round the edge of the ramekin. I prefer a more rustic, rough-looking souffle, it’s got more character.

Precautions for cooking:

Like I’ve said, make sure your oven is preheated to 180 – 200c, add the ramekins to the center shelf in the oven and leave to cook until the souffle rises and is nicely browned. Now I’ve read recipes that say they need to be cooked anywhere from 18min to 30min, my oven takes just over 20min, just make sure they’ve risen and you like he color. Overcooking souffles will make them sink back down quite quickly. Either way, remember that a souffle sinks pretty fast once out of the oven, so make sure they’re served immediately after they’re removed from the oven.

Here’s a very useful link