If there’s a dish which strikes more terror and trepidation into the budding homecook, we sure haven’t found it. Maybe they’ve been scarred by a dinner party of sunken dishes and dreams, or perhaps it’s Masterchef judge hyperbole which has put them off. Whatever the reason, the perception of a souffle as being the kitchen’s most difficult dish to master seems skewed, disproportionate even. Which your rise certainly won’t be, if you follow this our guide on how to make the IDEAL souffle.
CHOOSE YOUR BASE & ACCOMPANIMENTS WISELY
We’re here to discuss the mechanics of a failsafe souffle, but first let’s talk flavour. Though we love a savoury version, of gruyere cheese or this delicious potato, anchovy and rosemary rendition, it’s in desserts that our love of souffle lies. We’re suckers for fruit versions, as well as chocolate because, well, chocolate. To get your chosen flavour fully incorporated through your souffle, while at the same time not impeding its rise with excessive weight or moisture, you should start by making a paste. For fruit, this would involve a puree of your desired fruit, with a little sugar or dash of lemon (depending on how sweet or sour your fruit is), splash of water and cornflour, cooked out on a low heat until it’s the consistency of jam. A similar paste can be made using cocoa powder, or simply melt chocolate and when cool mix it with egg yolks for a strongly flavoured chocolate souffle.
Set aside; this will eventually be mixed with beaten egg whites. In our eyes (and mouths) there really is nothing better than dropping a ball of ice cream deep into the recesses of a just out the oven souffle. Rather than simply resorting to vanilla, pair thoughtfully with your souffle’s primary ingredient. If you’ve made a passion fruit version, why not add a coconut sorbet? Should you be leading with apple, salted caramel ice cream is a wonderful bedfellow.
PREHEAT YOUR OVEN
If you want to make the perfect souffle then pay close attention to temperature. Preheat your oven to 190°C well ahead of time, so the heat is evenly distributed throughout and won’t drop massively when you open the oven door. Keeping a consistent temperature is key here.
LINE YOUR RAMEKINS IN ADVANCE
It’s essential that you grease your ramekins totally so your souffle rises evenly and upright. Do so with melted butter, using a pastry brush to ensure you’ve covered every available millimetre, following with sugar (for sweet) or flour, parmesan or breadcrumbs (savoury). Hold the ramekin at a 90 degree angle to your work surface, twirl and tap out any excess. The scrupulous will do this twice. Put it in the fridge (or better still, the freezer) to get cold, ensuring that your butter won’t unduly melt and bond with your souffle mixture when the two meet.
WHISK EGG WHITES UNTIL SOFT BUT STABLE
It’s vital that the mixing bowl and the whisk which you use here are totally clean. Any grease or dirt will affect the souffle’s rise. It’s now time to whisk the egg whites to soft but stable peaks, which hold but gently droop at the tip when you remove your whisk, and aren’t over worked and dry. We want light, airy souffles, so complete this part of the process diligently Adding a little more sugar here helps to stabilise the whites, but be careful to balance this with the sweetness of your base mix.
INTRODUCE YOUR WHIPPED WHITES TO THE BASE
Take around a third of your egg whites and beat them into your base mix using your whisk to full incorporate them, then with a large silver spoon very gently fold through the remaining egg white mix. Do this by making a C shape around the rim of the bowl and then cutting through the centre with grace and an ease of movement. Continue until everything is properly and completely mixed together into a homogenous whole. Be careful not to drop the mixing bowl on the work counter, and resist the temptation to hit the spoon on the sides of the bowl to shake off the last dregs of your mixture. In doing so, you’ll knock out the air from your souffle mix and you’ll never achieve that perfect feather-light souffle you’re after.
FILLING THE RAMEKIN
Carefully spoon in the souffle mix into the greased, cold ramekin, being super careful not to knock out any air from it. You could use a piping bag here for even distribution, but that extra step of transferring the mix into the bag could cause air and lightness to be lost. It’s up to you. Once the ramekin is full, run a straight edge (a spatula for instance) over it, squaring off the mix. Run your thumb around the rim to create and small indentation, which prevents the mix catching on the edge on its way skywards, allowing for that straight rise that all great souffles possess.
Once in the oven, resist the urge to open the door, fiddle with the souffle, check on its progress, prod it….anything which will disrupt its zen like growth. Any change in temperature spells bad news for a consistent rise. So, just wait. Ten to fifteen minutes should do it, depending on the size of your ramekin. The ideal souffle should be fluffy and just slightly wet in the middle. Now, you’ve worked this hard, it’s time to fill your boots. Eat it hot and don’t mess around taking photos for Instagram; your souffle won’t stay risen forever.