Soufflé isn’t actually that hard, as long as you keep a few vital things in mind. Follow these rules and you’ll have a sky-high impressive soufflé to show off whenever you want it.
1. PACK IN FLAVOR AND STABILIZE (AT THE SAME TIME)
Chocolate desserts are delicious, but sometimes chocolate can seem one-note. I was disappointed that my first batch of soufflé just tasted like, well, chocolate, and wanted to add a boost of something bright. So I took another cue from my pastry cook days, when we would often create very stable soufflé batter out of high pectin jellies. The pectin helps keep the meringue strong and the soufflé high long after it reaches the dining room.
To keep it simple, I opted for prepared raspberry jelly, which added a nice fruity flavor to the soufflé. The store bought stuff doesn’t have as much pectin, but it does help keep the soufflé a little more stable.
2. BUTTER THE RAMEKIN RIGHT
Heed Katzie’s advice and prepare your ramekins properly: brush them with softened butter (not melted), using a pastry brush to coat the sides with upward strokes. Then add a spoonful of sugar and turn the ramekin in a circular motion to evenly coat the butter with a light layer of sugar. This gives the soufflé batter something to attach to as it bakes.
3. MAKE AN EASY MERINGUE
To create lift for my soufflés, I was set on using an Italian meringue, the most stable of the three types. (Italian meringue is made with a sugar syrup, which helps lock in the whipped egg structure; Swiss is made by gently heating the whites and sugar together until the sugar is melted, then whipping; and French is created by simply shaking in the sugar as the eggs whip.) But when the recipe came up in one of our meetings, I was surprised to find several of my co-workers against the idea. “Italian meringue is not easy,” David Tamarkin, our editor, said.
Testing Italian versus French, the soufflés made with the Italian did rise substantially higher. But I wanted a recipe anyone would be willing to try. In order to keep the recipe as approachable as possible, I decided to change it to the easiest, French meringue. For an extra boost of of height and stability, I added a 1/4 tsp. xanthan gum, which you can easily find at specialty grocery stores like Whole Foods Market, along with a pinch of salt at the start of whipping the whites.
With all meringues, it’s most important not to over whip it. Whipping to firm peaks is too far; instead take the meringue only to medium peaks. The meringue will hold its shape when the mixer stops, but the peak will curl back on itself. Stopping at this point—instead of whipping to firm, when the meringue will stand up straight on its own—gives the egg whites room to expand (upward!) as they bake in the soufflé batter. Other key points: use room temperature egg whites and a very clean bowl to create the best meringue.
4. FOLD, DON’T STIR
Once you have the whites whipped right, the worst thing you can do is deflate them by stirring the batter to death. Instead, add a third of the meringue into the batter, and stir until the mixture is uniform; this will lighten the mixture, making it easier to softly incorporate the remaining meringue. Add half the remaining meringue, and gently fold it into the base, using a wide flexible spatula to scoop out some of the batter in the center, then fold it over itself, repeating and turning the bowl as you go. Resist the urge to stir—this will just deflate the meringue and make for a very flat soufflé. Repeat with the remaining meringue, folding just until the mixture is incorporated.
5. ADD TEXTURE
Never serve soufflés alone. To give your soufflé pizazz, add some whipped cream on top, and finish it with toasted nuts for some crunch and texture.
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