Oct 25 2010

A Soufflé Waits for No One

Published by at 8:40 pm under Cooking Classes,Dessert

My culinary instructor is full of words of wisdom. The other day she was preaching the importance of working efficiently, keeping our work spaces clean and putting things back where we got them, and she said, “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

Kind of makes you think twice before taking shortcuts.

Her advice was more relevant than ever on Friday, when my classmates and I spent all day making soufflés. It sounds awfully intimidating — we were joking about the classic image of “cooking fail,” the sadly deflated soufflé. But even though a few of the desserts came out with a little dip in the center, there were surprisingly zero disasters.

A soufflé is made from a base (appareil in French), which consists of egg yolks, sugar, flour, butter and milk in various quantities. Then, in a separate bowl, you whip egg whites until they’re stiff enough to form peaks. The trick is combining the contents of the two bowls precisely so that the whites keep their volume, which gives the soufflé that fluffy texture that made it famous.

Here’s a good tip, on that note: Even if the recipe calls for all the sugar to go into the base, reserve around half to sprinkle into the egg whites, and incorporate the sugar after the whites are stiff. The sugar helps stabilize the whites so they aren’t quite so fragile, and you’ll probably have more luck maintaining said texture and volume.

We made chocolate soufflés, soufflés with candied orange peel and Grand Marinier, fruit soufflés made with raspberries and blackberries, and apple soufflés with tons of seasonal spice. Needless to say, Friday wasn’t such a good eating day either. But how often do you get to taste 15 different soufflés at a time? The tasting is educational, folks.

I was in charge of the berry soufflé, which involved cooking the fruit down and straining it through a sieve to make a purée, which I ultimately incorporated into my base. You have to be extra careful with fruit desserts, because the berries contain so much sugar on their own and will burn in a second.

On that note, the berry purée should never be handled by anyone in a white jacket who wishes to keep their jacket white. I was covered in purple syrup after this little workshop, and now I’m a walking commercial for OxyClean. Seriously, my jackets are in the dryer without a speck of stain. Magic.

But back to desserts. If you like your soufflés to have more of a pudding-style texture in the middle, underbake it. Baking them longer will give them a more cakey texture, and baking them too long will make them sink. Sigh.

Such is the finicky soufflé, which led my instructor to also advise us, “A soufflé waits for no one.” Did you ever notice how restaurants will ask you at the beginning of the meal if you want the soufflé for dessert? That’s because the timing is brutal. They can estimate as closely as possible, but you better be ready when it’s ready — or you may be looking at a sunken soufflé.

In any case, enjoy the oohs and ahhs…

Because they always look like this after the first bite.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “A Soufflé Waits for No One”

  1. Sharonon 29 Oct 2010 at 3:00 am

    Can’t wait to try one of yours…..

  2. Dannyon 03 Nov 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Looks absolutely fantastic!! I’m craving something sweet now 🙂