In our experience, few foods instill more fear in the home cook than light and airy soufflés; we'd like to change that. While they'll never be a dump-and-stir operation, with a few — OK, 10 — tips you'll be on your way to adding this impressive dish to your repertoire.
- Do read the recipe not once, but twice. It's important to understand the order of operations, as some steps require precise timing in order to garner the desired results.
- Do make certain to have your mise en place, meaning make certain to have all of your ingredients prepped according to the ingredients list and set out in front of you, rather than winging it and getting ingredients ready during the cookery process, as timing is crucial particularly when preparing the custard base.
- Do separate the eggs when they're still chilled from the fridge; cold eggs separate easier and have less chance of the yolk breaking and therefore introducing fat to the white (a big no-no). Once the eggs are separated make sure to allow them to come to room temperature before proceeding, as room-temperature egg whites whip up better.
- Don't forget to brush the ramekin(s) with melted butter and then coat them with granulated sugar (for sweet soufflés) or finely grated parmesan cheese (for savory) as the gritty texture will help the soufflé climb up the sides of the ramekin, and encourage proper puffing.
- Do ensure that no residual grease remains on the mixing bowl or whisk, as the egg whites will not whip up properly if they mingle with fat. To do this, lightly dampen a paper towel with vinegar and wipe the paper towel over the surface of the whisk and bowl.
Keep reading for five more indispensable tips for successful soufflé cookery.
- Do make certain to whisk constantly when preparing the custard base, as custard can go from silky smooth to curdled in a flash when heat is applied.
- Do strain the custard before chilling if you have any doubts regarding its smoothness (this will remove any errant chunks of curdled/scrambled egg).
- Don't forget to "lighten" the soufflé base by mixing in 1/4/-1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the custard base before gently folding in the remaining egg whites, so as to reduce egg white deflation as much as possible.
- Don't open the oven door during the cooking process more than is necessary (if at all). Instead, monitor the cooking process via the window in the oven. Sudden changes in temperature will reduce the soufflé's rise. That said, if you do need to open the oven door, don't worry, just do it quickly.
- Most importantly, don't stress too much, soufflés may be a hair persnickety to prepare, but they're doable for any intermediate-level cook, provided you follow a solidly written recipe.