Soufflé: Quick and Easy
“Economical, elegant and easy!!”
From Debra F.Weber,
Your Guide to French Cuisine.
Just say the word soufflé and be ready for tales of dramatic disasters and fallen Soufflé leading to culinary disgrace. It's enough to terrify novice and experienced cooks.
Yet a soufflé is actually a classic example of how French cooks take a few ordinary ingredients - milk, butter, flour, eggs and cheese - and turn them into something elegant and, yes, dare we say it, easy.
The word soufflé is the past participle of the verb souffler which means "to blow up" or more loosely "puff up" - an apt description of what happens to this combination of custard and egg whites.
Every soufflé is made from 2 basic components:
1) a base of flavored cream sauce or purée and,
2) beaten egg whites.
The base provides the flavor and the whites provide the "lift". Whether you are making a sweet or a savory soufflé the basic sequence, as set out by Madeleine Kamman and James Peterson is:
- Preheat the oven.
- Butter dish (and collar, if using).
- Sprinkle dish with sugar, breadcrumbs or cheese, depending on your recipe.
- Cook the base - usually a béchamel or Mornay sauce - then add the egg yolks one at a time, whisking well.
- Correct seasoning. Your base should be highly seasoned because the egg whites are so bland.
- Beat the egg whites and fold 1/4 of them into the warm (not hot) base to lighten it. Then fold in the remaining whites.
- Cook the soufflé on the lowest rack.
After one or two trys, this whole process should take less than an hour.
What can go wrong?
Many times it is the egg whites that seem to cause the trouble. First, you must have a perfectly clean bowl and beaters. Make sure the whites are a room temperature before beating. With an electric beater, start on slow speed until they begin to foam. Slowly, increase the speed and when they look smooth, shiny and hold a soft peak, stop. If you've gone too far and they appear grainy and clump together, add another white and rebeat.
Another problem is a leathery crust, which is caused when the soufflé is baked in the middle of the oven rather than on the lowest rack. James Peterson even suggests that you preheat the oven to the desired temperature (at least 15 minutes before using) and as soon as the soufflé is in the oven, turn the temperature up 25° to give the soufflé a little "push".
So, have no fear, try one today. They are economical, easy and always elegant.