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Soufflé

A soufflé can be hot or cold, savoury or sweet, an appetizer, main dish, vegetable dish or dessert. It can be an elegant dish to impress guests or the ideal way to use leftovers to create a meal for the family.

The best feature about this versatile dish is that it is surprisingly simple to make. Knowing a few tips will help you easily master soufflé-making.

Creating the perfect Soufflé

  • To make a successful soufflé, a stable egg white foam must be created. The fat contained in egg yolks will interfere with the formation of the foam so the eggs should be separated carefully so that no egg yolk slips in with the whites. It is also important to use a glass or metal mixing bowl as plastic bowls can have a greasy film which will prevent the whites from whipping properly.
  • Egg white foams are produced by the drying and stretching of the egg white during beating. The decision about when to stop beating is made based on the appearance of the foam in the bowl when the beaters are drawn out of the mixture and the bowl is tilted. A perfect soufflé foam should be beaten until stiff. The whites at the stiff peak stage must still be glossy, smooth and moist in appearance but they may slip slightly if the bowl is tipped. Air cells should be very small and the peaks should be soft enough so that only the tips fall over when the beater is withdrawn from the bowl. If the egg whites are dull or flaky, they are overbeaten.
  • Egg yolks should never be added directly to a hot sauce all at once or they may begin to coagulate too rapidly and form lumps. Instead, stir a small amount of the hot mixture into the yolks to warm them and then stir the warmed egg yolk mixture into the remaining hot mixture.
  • To combine beaten egg whites with the sauce base, gently fold in a circular motion, down one side of the bowl and up through the centre, turning the bowl slightly after making the folding motion. A rubber spatula or wire whisk may be used.
  • For a "top hat effect", use a knife or spoon to draw a circle on the surface of the soufflé about 1 inch (2.5 cm).
  • Don't open the oven door while the soufflé is baking until five minutes before the end of the baking time.
  • A soufflé is done when the top is golden or feels firm to the touch, and jiggles only slightly when gently shaken.
  • The soufflé should be served as soon as it is baked. For each serving, include some of the moist centre, the side and bottom crusts. The soufflé may be served with a sauce spooned over each portion.
  • Almost any soufflé can be baked in individual-sized dishes (10 ounces/300 mL) capacity. Reduce the baking time by 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Prepare a soufflé quickly by substituting canned cream soup for the white sauce.

The Soufflé Dish

A soufflé dish is a straight-sided bowl made of ovenproof glass or pottery. Because soufflés are served directly from oven-to-table, select a dish that is attractive as well as practical. Size is important as the batter should fill the dish at least three-quarters full to allow the soufflé to rise 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) above the dish. Usually a 4-egg soufflé requires a 4 cup dish (1 L). A 6-egg soufflé should be made in a 6 cup (1.5 L) dish.

To grease or not to grease depends on the recipe. An ungreased dish allows the soufflé to cling to the side of the dish as it rises. A greased dish sprinkled with flour, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese or sugar will give the soufflé a delicately flavoured crust.

If a soufflé dish is only three-quarters full, it will not be necessary to extend the height of the dish. But if the dish is filled to the top, a collar is needed to guide the height of the soufflé. To make a collar, cut a band of waxed or lightly greased baking paper, double thickness, 4 inches (10 cm) wide and long enough to go around the dish, allowing for at least a 3-inch (8 cm) overlap. Butter and sprinkle the band with flours or crumbs. Wrap it around the outside of the dish with the buttered side in and fasten it with paper clips or string. The collar should extend 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) above the rim of the container.

The Hot Soufflé

The hot soufflé is a combination of a thick white sauce blended with beaten egg yolks and lightened with stiffly beaten egg whites. Savoury soufflés are flavored by adding finely chopped or pureed meats, vegetables, cheese or seafood added to the base sauce. To make a dessert soufflé, the white sauce is sweetened with sugar and flavoured with pureed fruits, liqueurs, extracts or grated chocolate.

Basic Soufflé

(Makes 6 servings)

  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) butter
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon (2 mL) salt
  • Dash pepper
  • ¾ cup (180 mL) milk
  • Filling of choice (see below)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • ¼ teaspoon (1 mL) cream of tartar

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Stir in milk all at once. Continue stirring until mixture boils and is smooth and thickened.

Separate 4 eggs. Beat yolks well and add some of the warm mixture to the yolks. Combine yolk mixture with remaining sauce, blending thoroughly. If desired, add filling ingredients, stirring them into the white sauce until well blended. Set sauce aside to cool slightly.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold some of the egg whites into the sauce to lighten it, then gently but thoroughly fold the sauce into the remaining egg whites.

Carefully pour the mixture into an ungreased 4 cup (1 L) soufflé dish or casserole. Bake in a preheated 375F (190C) oven for 17 to 20 minutes.

Filling Suggestions:

  • 1 cup (250 mL) grated cheese and ½ teaspoon (2 mL) dry mustard
  • ½ cup (125 mL) finely chopped cooked chicken, 1/3 cup (75 mL) chopped mushrooms and 2 teaspoons (10 mL) chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup (250 mL) shredded cooked carrot, ½ cup (125 mL) grated Cheddar cheese and ½ teaspoon (2 mL) dried dill

The Cold Soufflé

A cold soufflé or mousse is a light, airy egg mixture set with gelatin. Although it is not a true soufflé, it borrows the same name because it resembles the shape of the hot soufflé.

Beaten egg whites are used to lighten the soufflé mixture, not raise it. A dramatic height is obtained by overfilling the soufflé dish; a collar or band is around and extending above the dish to support the soufflé mixture until it has chilled and set.

Cold Lemon Soufflé

(Makes 8 to 10 servings)

  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/3 cups (325 mL) sugar
  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup (250 mL) lemon juice
  • ½ cup (125 mL) water
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) grated lemon rind
  • 2/3 cup (150 mL) sugar

Mix together gelatin, 2/3 cup (150 mL) sugar, beaten egg yolks, lemon juice and water. Cook in a double boiler over hot water, stirring constantly until gelatin dissolves and mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Add lemon rind. Chill until mixture mounds slightly when dropped from a spoon.

Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gradually add remaining 2/3 cup (150 mL) sugar, beating until very stiff. Strain gelatin mixture and fold it into the beaten whites.

Pour mixture into an 8-cup (2 L) soufflé dish fitted with a waxed paper collar. Smooth the surface of the soufflé and chill until firm.

To serve, carefully remove paper collar. Garnish soufflé with whipped cream and grated lemon rind.

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