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.
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 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.
(Makes 6 servings)
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.
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.
(Makes 8 to 10 servings)
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.