French desserts almost always have the most delicate textures, pleasant appearances, and attractive sounding names. Before I actually traveled to France, I only thought about soufflé and crème brûlée whenever I thought about French desserts and their delicacies. Since my last honeymoon in Paris, I have been inspired to recreate the best of all the little tastes of France. I used to be rather intimidated by the thought of making a soufflé because of its fragile appearance. But after developing my skills, I can reassure you that making a soufflé is actually quite a simple process provided you are familiar with the tricks and have practiced the art.
The dessert’s name comes from the French infinitive souffler, which means “to blow up”. Here are my tips on how to get that perfect soufflé puff from a combination of a custard base and egg whites.
- Be sure to prepare all your equipment and plan ahead because the soufflé must be served at the table immediately to look its best.
- Soufflé dishes should be coated with butter and then dusted with sugar so that the batter will not stick to the side of the dish, thus enabling it to rise above the rim.
- Be sure that your egg whites are separated perfectly so that there is absolutely no contamination by egg yolk. Do not use the packaged egg whites or the egg whites in a carton because those contain water and will not foam properly. Use fresh large eggs separated straight from the refrigerator, and warmed to room temperature before beating.
- Be sure that the bowl of your stand mixer is absolutely clean and dry before adding your egg whites. Any grease will prevent the egg whites from peaking properly when beaten.
- Be sure that you beat the egg whites on high speed JUST until stiff peaks form. Check by lifting your whisk from the egg whites to make peaks. Stiff peaks are glossy, smooth and look moist, and will slip a little when you tilt the mixing bowl. The tiny air pockets throughout the egg whites should be very small. If the egg whites are dull or flaky, then they are overbeaten and you might want to start again.
- Be sure that all the ingredients are added to the base (the flavored custard) before you fold in the egg whites. The base needs to have a stronger flavor because adding the egg whites will dilute it.
- Be sure that your base is cooled to room temperature and loose enough before folding in your beaten egg whites. If it looks like putty, you can fold a quarter to half of your egg whites into the base first to loosen it up before folding in the rest of your egg whites.
- When folding in the egg whites, do it in a circular motion using a rubber spatula, a large spoon, or a wire whisk. Fold down on side of the bowl and up through the center, turning the bowl slightly after making the folding motion, being sure not to over-fold! Just fold it until everything is just combined and there are no big lumps of base (having streaks are okay).
- If you fill the soufflé dish 3/4 full, it will be perfect as is. But if you want a more dramatic height, you can fill it to the rim but be sure to add a collar made with a band of waxed baking paper wrapped around the dish and extending about 3 inches above the rim. Be sure to also butter and sprinkle the collar with sugar.
- Be sure to work fast without pausing. Beat the egg whites while the oven is pre-heating and fold the egg whites in the base when the oven is hot. Then cook the soufflé immediately. Most soufflés will bake in 20 to 30 minutes.
- Do not use the convection option on your oven. It will cause the soufflé to deflate quicker once it is done and removed from the oven.
- Do not open the oven door while the soufflé is baking until five minutes before the end of the baking time, or when you want to check to see if it is ready.
- Be sure to cook the soufflé for a perfect period of time. If it is undercooked and thus too moist, it will deflate much quicker. If it is overcooked and thus too dry, it will also collapse easily. Start testing it around the 20 minute mark by gently shaking the baking pan to look for jiggling (don’t worry because this won’t cause the soufflé to deflate). If the surface is jiggling too much, leave it in the oven for a couple more minutes. It is done perfectly when the top jiggles just a little and a toothpick inserted into the cracks comes out with no wet batter on it.
Once you get the technique, you will be able to amaze your guests with the aromas and beauty that any soufflé has to offer. This soufflé uses fresh raspberries to flavor the base, which is custard made with egg yolks and warm vanilla-flavored milk. The base is also known as crème pâtissière, which is common to all soufflés savory and sweet. The fresh raspberries in my recipe gave it such an amazing aroma with a freshness so addicting that it tasted like summer. And most importantly, it had a beautiful natural red color that is great to serve in time for Valentine’s Day this week.
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup caster sugar (superfine)
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 1/4 cups milk
1 vanilla bean
15 g butter
40 g unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup caster sugar (superfine), for sprinkling
400 g fresh raspberries
3 tbsp caster sugar (superfine), for the soufflé
8 egg whites
Confectioner’s sugar, for sprinkling
Whisk together the egg yolks and half of the sugar until pale and creamy.
Sift in the cornstarch and flour and mix together well.
Put the milk, the remaining sugar, and vanilla bean into a saucepan.
Bring just to a boil over medium heat, then strain over the egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Pour this mixture into a clean saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. It will be lumpy at first but will become smooth as you stir.
Boil for 2 minutes, then stir in the butter, turn off the heat and leave to cool.
Transfer to a clean bowl and cover in plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface. (Note: this recipe only uses half the amount of this batter. The unused portion can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
Brush the insides of 6 large soufflé dishes with the softened butter. Sprinkle some caster sugar inside the dishes and turn the dish around to coat thoroughly. Then tip out any excess sugar.
Preheat oven to 375oF with a baking tray inside that is large enough to hold all the soufflé dishes. Warm 1/2 the egg yolk mixture in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, then remove from the heat.
Put the raspberries and 1 1/2 tbsp of the sugar in a food processor and mix until puréed.
Pass through a fine sieve to get rid of the seeds.
Add the warmed egg yolk mixture to the raspberries and whisk together just until combined.
Beat the egg whites in a clean dry bowl of a stand mixer over medium-high speed until firm peaks form. Whisk in the remaining sugar gradually to make a stiff glossy mixture.
Whisk half of the egg white into the raspberry mixture to loosen it, then fold in the remaining egg whites with a large metal spoon.
Pour into the soufflé dishes and run your clean dry thumb around the inside rim of the dish, about 3/4 inch into the soufflé mixture, to help the soufflé rise without sticking.
Put the dishes on the hot baking tray and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the soufflé is well risen and wobbles only slightly when tapped.
Test with a skewer through a crack in the side of the soufflé; the skewer should come out clean or slightly moist. If it is slightly moist, by the time you get the soufflé to the table, it will be fully cooked in the centre. Dust the surface with a little confectioner’s sugar and serve immediately.
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