Falling For It: DIY Soufflé

Falling For It: DIY Soufflé

It wasn’t as if I was running out of ideas, oh no. But when I sat down and thought about what to do for my next column, I realized I really wanted to challenge myself. I was thinking big, like boning a duck big. So I did what any 21st century girl would do in this situation; I polled my friends on Facebook. I like to call it crowd sourcing.I asked for big ideas and what they would most like to see. Maybe it was something you would actually do, maybe not. Out of all the ideas, ones that included timballo and mole, paella and beef wellington, what was the idea that won? Soufflé. A puff ball of whipped egg whites folded into egg yolks and baked briefly in a porcelain ramekin.

You asked for it, and I answered. Before beginning this search for the perfect soufflé, let me clue you in on my soufflé knowledge. It was minimal; the only thing I knew was if you slammed the oven door on a soufflé, it would most likely fall and be ruined. How did I know this? From reading a Sweet Valley Twins book (#28 April Fool) circa 1993, the one where Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield switch places (or do they?) as an April Fool’s joke. Jessica slams the oven door on her cheese soufflé during home ec, ruining it and her grade.

I knew this much was true — as much as I loved those precocious twins, that level of knowledge wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Safe to say I started from scratch. What did I learn? Two things. Number one: pristine egg whites are the key to a beautiful soufflé. Number two: you can wait for a soufflé, but a soufflé never waits for you. Let’s explore what these two things mean.

Pristine egg whites.
The act of making a soufflé is all about separating protein from fat, and combining them again in a different way. Separating the egg white (all protein) from the yolk (all fat) completely is the first step. There shouldn’t be any traces of yellow yolk in the bowl before you start whipping those whites. Some people say egg whites can’t be properly whipped if they aren’t in a copper bowl but I disagree. I used a regular old mixing bowl and a balloon whisk and earned good results.

Once the whipping (which should always be done by hand) starts, the egg whites will go through a few changes. Bubbles will start to appear, giving way to smaller bubbles and a whiter color. You shouldn’t stop whipping those whites until they have formed shiny, stiff peaks. It might take five minutes, and it might make your forearm scream for mercy, but it’s worth it. Once properly whipped, they should immediately be folded into the yolks and baked in a preheated oven.

Another thing of utmost importance for those whites is having an oven that heats from the bottom. The heat rising from the bottom is what helps those whites keep their air bubbles, rising slowly and reaching astronomical heights.

Waiting for soufflé.
It’s important that as soon as the whites and yolks are recombined the soufflé makes its way into a hot oven. Don’t open the door of the oven to check on the baking until at least 3/4 of the way through the cooking process. To test when the soufflé is done, insert a kitchen skewer or needle through the center. It should come out clean. If there is still a little goop on the skewer, bake for an additional two minutes. Once finished, serve the soufflé immediately. Its risen top won’t last for long, and a deflated soufflé can turn a little rubbery.

The recipe I’m recommending for beginners is an easy way to whip out one that’s picture perfect. It’s called the omelet soufflé and once you’ve mastered it, start to challenge yourself with cheeses, nuts, bacon, and more.

Omelet Soufflé 
adapted from this recipe at NPR.org

4 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons flour, for dusting

Optional Sauce:
3 ounces red wine
1/4 ounce red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
4 tablespoons butter, unsalted and softened
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Brush the inside of a medium sized soufflé baking dish or 4 individual eight ounce porcelain ramekins with softened butter and lightly dust with flour.

Separate the eggs into two bowls. Whisk the yolks until creamy and add seasonings, set aside. Whisk whites until shiny and firm. Fold in eggs whites to yolk mixture and transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Put in the bottom third rack of the oven and bake at 375 degrees for eight minutes until golden.
While the soufflé is baking, grab a sauce pan, placing over medium high heat, adding the red wine, red wine vinegar and shallots to the pan. Reduce until almost dry. Remove from heat and whisk in the soft butter a little at a time until a rich and smooth texture is achieved. Season to taste. Spoon into the center of the omelet soufflé and serve immediately.

The Chaser:
Soufflé scandal on BBC Master Chef!
Not just for breakfast — try a nutella soufflé for dessert. Or for breakfast, I won’t judge.
We’re getting old — take a look at this slideshow from the first Top Chef cast — six years ago, when Katie Lee was Katie Lee Joel. Hehe.