Well, the title says it all really. Today was soufflé day and the first time I’ve ever made this classic, egg based, French dish. Savoury or sweet, most people know soufflé becomes it comes with a bit of a reputation. And none of it good. ‘Temperamental’, ‘needy’, ‘deflates on a whim’ and ‘difficult to handle’; these were just some of the warnings we were given.
But some things you have to try for yourself and I am happy to report back my soufflé experience was a total success! And, not quite so deserving of its bad-boy reputation as you might think. As long as you accept that the soufflé is here for a good time, not a long time.
But good time it is. Light as a feather and spoon lickingly good. This is one dish I’m going to bring into my repertoire more often. Especially the cheese ones. Think of eating light, hot, fluffy, creamy cheese and this is the cheese soufflé. Poor innuendo aside which I’m now going to stop I promise – what’s not to love about this sort of mouthful.
A soufflé uses the egg in two distinct ways:
- First you have a thick and creamy base made with the egg yolks. Combined with the yolks there’s usually flour and either cheese (if savoury) or something sweet, such as lemon curd or creme patisserie.
- Then you have the stiffly whipped egg whites, which are veeeery gently folded into the creamy mixture to give you the light, airy and soufflé like consistency.
It’s true that you have to treat it with care. The egg whites must be whisked to truly stiff peaks. The creamy egg yolk base must be smooth and unctuous before the whites can be folded carefully in. You have to give it your careful and full attention when it’s spooned into those ramekins. They must first be carefully lined (with butter obvs) and then the mixture poured in so carefully so as not to lose any of that precious air. Your thumb and index finger run around the rim to ensure the mixture is nestled neatly inside and will rise smoothly (and straightly) up against the clean sides.
The soufflé is then cooked in a hot oven for about 12 minutes and must be eaten immediately. Immediately immediately. Otherwise they start to look distinctly sad and droopy looking.
But an amazing discovery was that at the stage just before they go into the oven, they can also go straight into the fridge. And will keep happily just chilling there for an hour or so. They might rise fractionally less than if they were cooked straight away, but (and I know because I chilled mine) even after 1 hour in the fridge they still rose mightily impressively. See? Not so scary after all.
I made a sweet soufflé and instead of using the orangey Grand Marnier, I flavoured my creme patisserie with that sweet, deep sherry – Pedro Ximénez. Delicious. And I have to say -as they’re plucked from the hot oven all puffed up – really impressive. Timing is everything though, the saddest thing would be to not have mouths and spoons at the ready.
A winner. I’d encourage you all to try. It might feel like you’re flirting with danger, but I suspect you’ll find it worth the effort.