A souffle that turns out beautifully goes a long way in puffing up a cook’s ego. Anyone who can beat eggs and who owns an oven (or even a double boiler) can make a souffle. They should become part of every cook’s repertoire. They’re versatile – they can be side dishes, main entrees or desserts. They can be low in calories, or dressed up to be decadently rich.
Although ingredients vary, the constants of souffles are sauce, egg yolks, beaten egg whites, and a flavoring or puree (as seafood, vegetables or fruit). The thing that makes a souffle puff are the beaten egg whites that are folded in. When these whites are exposed to the oven heat, the globules expand and give the souffle its gossamer texture. Continual stirring of the sauce ensures creaminess.
If you want to learn how to make a souffle, following the below tips for eggs is essential. Avoid drafts – turn up the air conditioner or turn the fan off before removing a souffle from the oven. If good impressions are what you’re after, plan to serve it immediately – it will fall in as little time as a minute after being removed from the oven. But don’t panic if you don’t time it just right, it will still taste great. You can use a huge rubber spatula to fold in the egg whites. The important thing in making a souffle is filling the dish completely, unless recipe otherwise states, with the souffle mixture before baking. Variations are found in almost all cookbooks.
How to make a basic souffle:
Separate the eggs. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan and stir in flour. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes, then gradually add milk. Simmer, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add cheese and vegetables if using a variation. Season to taste with salt and pepper and beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Beat the egg whites until frothy, add the cream of tartar, and continue beating until whites are stiff and shiny. Mix some beaten whites into the yolk mixture, then carefully fold in the rest. Turn into a greased 6-cup mold and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 15 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees and continue baking 30 minutes or until it is puffed and golden brown. Makes 3 servings as a main dish, 6 servings as a side dish.
Spinach or Kale Souffle
Saute 1 small minced onion in 1 tablespoon butter until tender. Add 1 package (10 ounces) frozen spinach or kale, thawed and drained. Cook and stir to evaporate any liquid; season to taste with cayenne pepper and nutmeg, if desired, and set aside. Before adding egg yolks to souffle base, stir in 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese and cook until melted. Add vegetable mixture and proceed with master recipe.
Peel and dice 1 large eggplant. Cook in small amount of boiling water until tender, drain well, and rub through a coarse sieve. Before adding egg yolks, stir in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon ketchup, 1 teaspoon grated onion, and the mashed eggplant. Continue with master recipe.
Easy Cheese Souffle
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour, salt and peppers. Slowly add milk and cook, whisking constantly, until thick and smooth. Add cheese and mix thoroughly. Remove mixture from heat and add gradually, whisking the entire time, beaten egg yolks. Gently fold in egg whites, stiffly beaten. Spoon into a buttered dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes.
Variation: Before adding souffle mixture, layer in baking dish: steamed or sauteed asparagus or broccoli.
Tips for making perfect souffles:
Remove the eggs from the refrigerator, separate them, and let them stand for at least 1 hour before starting the souffle. You do this because eggs are easiest to separate when cold, but you can beat the whites to greater volume at room temperature.
Make sure the whites go into a perfectly clean, dry bowl. The tiniest bit of grease, moisture, or egg yolk will keep the whites from mounting properly. If any yolk gets into the white, scoop it out with a piece of eggshell.
Beat the whites until they are shiny and stiff enough to hold a good peak when lifted on the beater. Do not beat after this point. Use a wire whisk, rotary eggbeater, or electric mixer, working so as to incorporate as much air as possible into the whites. Do not hesitate to use cream of tartar to help the whites to mount and hold the air.
Fold the egg whites carefully into the base. First mix some whites into the base to lighten it, then fold in the rest.
Bake the souffle in a dish with straight sides and a flat bottom. This classic shape is available in China, glass, and metal and in sizes from 1 to 8 cups. Use the right-sized dish. If you do not have one the right size, use one that is smaller rather than larger and fashion a 2 or 3 – inch collar around it. Aluminum foil folded over once or twice and held together with straight pins or paper clips, is ideal, but you can also use waxed paper or brown paper, folded over and held in place with string. Be sure to butter the collar when you butter the dish.
Keep the oven door closed during baking to keep it from falling. If you cannot resist a peek, do it after the first 25 minutes and make it fast.
Have everything – and everybody – ready so that you can serve the souffle immediately.