A souffle looks more challenging than it actually is. It is merely a thick sauce that puffs up to twice its size with the help of beaten egg whites. Nevertheless, there is a certain art to it, and certainly, one that can be mastered by cooks who tend to tread along the simple side of recipes. If you’ve always wanted to make souffles but never had the courage to try – or, if you’ve tried and tried again but never quite succeeded – don’t give up! Once you learn the secrets of the souffle, you will undoubtedly surprise yourself and receive accolades from your family and friends as you serve your magnificent souffle!
Souffles can be either hot or cold, with hot souffles that are hearty enough to serve as the main dish. Others make savory accompaniments to an entrée. Souffles can also be cold and served as dessert. Hot souffles are usually made from cheese, fish, vegetables, fruit, chocolate and other flavorings. A good souffle will reach the level of the dish before baking and rise two to three inches above the dish while it is cooking. A parchment paper collar tied around the dish supports the souffle as it rises. The collar is removed before serving, and the souffle supports itself for a few minutes until the air which is within the souffle escapes.
Souffles are usually set into souffle dishes and ramekins that have straight sides to enable the souffle to rise. They come in various sizes. Try not to use a dish that holds more than a two-quart capacity, as the souffle tends to rise poorly in larger dishes. If you don’t own special souffle dishes, you can use any dish made of oven safe china, pottery, or ceramic.
Be heavy-handed with any seasonings as you prepare the sauce base so that when the souffle is cooked and the mixture expands to a greater volume, the intensity of its flavor won’t diminish. The egg whites and air give the souffle base the power to rise to great heights. The expansion of the air bubbles in the egg whites causes the dramatic enlargement of the souffle.
The key to a perfect souffle is in a skilled hand. The souffle that looks impressive is the direct result of how well the egg whites have been beaten and how carefully they have been folded into the base. A good whisk or an electric mixer can do the trick. When making the sauce, use a heavy-bottomed saucepan, and use a thicker whisk for stirring the sauce to keep it from lumping.
Always place a souffle on the bottom rack of a preheated oven, closest to the heating element. Do not disturb the souffle by opening the oven door and allowing cooler air to rush in. Wait until the last few minutes to check on doneness. If the souffle shakes in a solid manner, it is ready. It should be firm and golden brown. Usually, people serve souffles right out of the oven in order to make a glorious presentation. Remember to remove the paper collar before sending the souffle to the table.
RECIPE OF THE MONTH
2 tbs butter or margarine
2 tbs flour
¾ cup hot milk
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp dry mustard
3 drops hot pepper sauce
1 ½ cups shredded sharp American or Cheddar cheese
4 egg yolks, well beaten
4 egg whites, beaten stiff but not dry
USE: 1 ½ quart souffle dish or deep casserole, ungreased
– Melt butter or margarine in saucepan over low heat.
– Blend in flour and cook for 1 minute.
– Remove from heat and gradually stir in hot milk to make a smooth mixture.
– Cook and stir over medium heat until sauce thickens.
– Add seasonings and shredded cheese and stir until cheese melts and blends in.
– Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes.
– Add beaten egg yolks gradually, stirring briskly.
– Fold into beaten egg whites gently but thoroughly.
– Pour into 1 ½ quart souffle dish or deep casserole. Bake in 300° F slow oven for 50 minutes. If crusty souffle with very soft center is desired, bake in 425° F (hot) oven for 25 minutes.