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July 04, 2005

Soufflé tips

Contrary to common belief, soufflés are not as difficult as they seem. Most soufflés fail at the stage of incorporation of the egg-whites into the final product, or because the whites are not beaten stiff enough—or beaten to the point that they begin to lose their ability to add loft to the soufflé. My very first soufflé was beautiful, because I paid attention. Yours can be, too.
• When making the base be sure that it is “loose enough” to incorporate easily. If it is like paste, or putty, add a little water . . . not soupy, but not thick and heavy, either.
• When incorporating the whites, first add about 1/3 of them to the base and turn gently. Use either a spoonula (big rubber spatula shaped like a spoon), or a balloon whisk (large whisk with wide spaces between the wires.) Then add this lighter base back into the egg-whites. Do not overmix. Incorporate it just enough so that there are no lumps of base. Continued mixing just “beats down” the whites. (When you beat the whites to stiff peaks you create myriad air bubbles within. As they bake they expand, hence giving loft to the soufflé. If you beat them longer they begin to lose their air, and get watery.)
• The very best way to beat egg whites is in a copper bowl with a steel whisk. Far better result than using cream of tartar. (Periodically “clean” the copper with salt, lemon juice and a paper towel. (Your bowl doesn’t want to be smooth and shiny, it wants to be a little rough—not scoured and striated, but not smooth, either.)
• When preparing a soufflé you can do it a little ahead. “Potted” soufflés will hold for 30 min. or so, and can stand on a counter for that long when waiting to be put in an oven. If doing a dessert soufflé, I usually do it ahead of time and put it in the oven when the time will match my estimation of the time of completion of the meal.. If not sure about the time, wait to beat the egg whites, but the base can be made long ahead of time—even a day or so if refrigerated. And the egg-whites will hold a day or more if refrigerated (but, of course, not beaten.)

Posted by The Curmudgeon at July 4, 2005 10:38 AM