No, I am not talking here about music or windpipe but simply about the simplest of sophisticated dishes: the soufflé! I fell for it when I was a student in Paris. During a visit from my father, we discovered the magnificent soufflés of the eponymous restaurant “Le Soufflé” on rue du Mont-Thabor in the first arrondissement. The variations on their specialty were mind-boggling and belly-rumbling at once! We worshipped all of them and went back often.
But since then, I have always approached Le Soufflé with awe and a slight nervousness. I should not have since my reading of Hervé This
‘ book “Révélations Gastronomiques” (Belin) has now rendered all this molecular mystery as clear as cristal and today I feel much more confident when tackling so iconic a recipe.
The one offered here includes roquefort cheese but souffles can be made in any sort of flavours, from sweet to savoury, and here lies their curiosity appeal: Follow your own taste and experiment on the given structure…
Eager to share my new proficiency on the subject, I will try to summarise.
First you have to understand that a soufflé will rise if there are three conditions:
- A good binding made by the flour and yolks mixture- in which the yolks are put in off the hob so they don’t curdle by cooking too fast.
- Enough oxygen in the molecules of the egg whites so that when they dilate with the heat, the mixture then expands upwards! The more you beat the eggs, the more bubbles you create and the more stable the substance becomes.
- The heat must come from the bottom of the oven so the souffle will rise in the best fashion.
So far so good.
A scientist at the INRA, Hervé This is a also a fantastic educator and some of his classes are available on video
. I could spend hours listening to him! Always enjoyed being taught though – science especially but only since I left formal education behind and don’t have to deal with fractious maths teachers…
- Ingredients list for a roquefort soufflé:
Flour 50g or 40g of potato flour (my favourite for lightness)
Egg yolks 6
Egg whites 6
Milk 250 ml
Pinch of baking soda in the whites
Take two bowls and separate each egg : no yolk in the white or the fat will prevent the protein skin forming around each bubble of oxygen. Remember your science. Keep aside.
Now, melt the butter in a small pan, then add the flour. Turn continuously with a wooden spoon while you add the milk slowly and the mixture will start thickening. Do keep on low heat and be patient so you get a good coating of your spoon. Turn off the hob and add the egg yolks one by one, still turning the spoon in regularly. Add the cheese and spices while its still hot then put aside.
Whip up the whites until very firm. It is important to beat them well and long enough so the bubbles are as numerous and dense as possible. Very fresh eggs are a pre-requisite for successful egg whites; discard any watery or discoloured eggs for they are likely to ruin your best efforts. Which would be a pity! The traditional pinch of salt or baking soda in it helps break up the molecules and sets the mix quicker.
Gently but swiftly fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture, avoiding to break up too many of the precious bubbles!
Pour into a greased soufflé dish immediately and put straight into a warmed oven: 20 min at 180°C. Less if you are making individual soufflés.
Lastly, a soufflé should not wait but as I discovered last week, if your guests are not sat down by the time it is ready, do not despair: Back for a few minutes in the oven, it will actually rise again!
Mi-ra-cu-lous.More tips for the perfectionists – not that I am counting myself in:
Herve This also advises to use a slightly tulip shaped container, as opposed to the cylindrical shape of most soufflé dishes. I used both and I am not sure either had an incidence but both raised beautifully (see both pics and draw your conclusions… ).
In fine, Monsieur This recommends putting the mix for a few minutes under the grill – before baking- in order to achieve the top-hat effect soufflé you get in restaurant – but I like my crackled and bumpy look…
Think I’m definitely not a perfectionist… That’s what 3 babies and married life do to you.