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The soufflé. Educate me...


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#1 ChrisZ

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 10:20 PM

When I got to the egg section of McGees book for the first time, I realised I had never made a soufflé. I'd never been served soufflé at someone's house, I'd never ordered soufflé in a restaurant, I couldn't even recall seeing soufflé on a menu (EVER!) - and so as far as I could determine, I had never eaten one.

I don't think I'm exaggerating to say there's a certain mystique that surrounds soufflé but the fact that I am reasonably interested in food and yet had never encountered one suggested they're about as fashionable as The Brady Bunch and just as dated.

I was intrigued by McGee's hypothesis that a soufflé would rise more predictably if the top was cooked with a blowtorch first, this would stop air bubbles below from escaping and ensure a perfect result.

So I googled a souffle recipe, made a batch of six simple cheese soufflés, and as an experiment I blowtorched the top of 3 of them and left the other 3 untouched.

The result was very clear - the three that I blowtorched rose instantly, practically spurting towards the roof of the oven until a big torrent of raw soufflé started pouring over the sides of the ramekin and everything collapsed in a soggy puddle. So McGee's logic was sound but the results were too extreme to be practical. He owes me a can of oven cleaner.

The other three soufflés turned out fine, but I realised that I had no reference at all as to what a good soufflé should be. I'd never eaten a soufflé before so I didn't know what they were meant to be like. I was reminded about this when a soufflé popped up on TV a few days ago, and I'm still curious.

Are they supposed to be dry like a pudding or moist like a mousse? Or in between? How light and airy should it be? Is it a bad thing if they taste like eggs? Should there be a difference in texture between a savoury soufflé and a sweet soufflé? Should a soufflé be firm enough to hold its shape when turned out of the ramekin, or so delicate that it needs to be eaten from the dish it was cooked in?

And so on. What defines the perfect soufflé?

#2 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 10:24 PM

Never eaten one? Shit, when I went up to Sydney and ... ate a fair bit I couldn't avoid the things. Seemed like, June or July or whenever it was, everyone, everywhere wanted to sell you a family-sized passionfruit souffle or, maybe, chocolate. But usually passionfruit. I found the sweet ones were moister than the savoury ones I had, such as the cheese-based ones (I guess something loaded up with cheddar or whatever is naturally going to be drier and heavier than something flavoured with passionfruit syrup). It may also depend on what you're using to flavour the souffle more than the sweetness/savouriness in itself. To be honest, I'm not a huge fan of the format. But I suppose the moister, sweeter kind is superior. The savoury ones I've had were also noticeably more eggy than the sweet ones, altho' neither version truly denied being an egg product in its flavour profile.

Edited by ChrisTaylor, 24 January 2013 - 10:29 PM.

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#3 DiggingDogFarm

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 10:44 PM

When I got to the egg section of McGees book for the first time, I realised I had never made a soufflé. I'd never been served soufflé at someone's house, I'd never ordered soufflé in a restaurant, I couldn't even recall seeing soufflé on a menu (EVER!) - and so as far as I could determine, I had never eaten one.

I don't think I'm exaggerating to say there's a certain mystique that surrounds soufflé but the fact that I am reasonably interested in food and yet had never encountered one suggested they're about as fashionable as The Brady Bunch and just as dated.

I was intrigued by McGee's hypothesis that a soufflé would rise more predictably if the top was cooked with a blowtorch first, this would stop air bubbles below from escaping and ensure a perfect result.

So I googled a souffle recipe, made a batch of six simple cheese soufflés, and as an experiment I blowtorched the top of 3 of them and left the other 3 untouched.

The result was very clear - the three that I blowtorched rose instantly, practically spurting towards the roof of the oven until a big torrent of raw soufflé started pouring over the sides of the ramekin and everything collapsed in a soggy puddle. So McGee's logic was sound but the results were too extreme to be practical. He owes me a can of oven cleaner.

The other three soufflés turned out fine, but I realised that I had no reference at all as to what a good soufflé should be. I'd never eaten a soufflé before so I didn't know what they were meant to be like. I was reminded about this when a soufflé popped up on TV a few days ago, and I'm still curious.

Are they supposed to be dry like a pudding or moist like a mousse? Or in between? How light and airy should it be? Is it a bad thing if they taste like eggs? Should there be a difference in texture between a savoury soufflé and a sweet soufflé? Should a soufflé be firm enough to hold its shape when turned out of the ramekin, or so delicate that it needs to be eaten from the dish it was cooked in?

And so on. What defines the perfect soufflé?


The torch trick is intriguing.
I'm going to try that!
Here's Julia using the foil collar trick to prevent an eruption.
Cheese souffle is great.



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#4 haresfur

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 11:20 PM

My parents used to make cheese souffle now and then. They did it in a casserole dish rather than individual servings and a good one rose, oh, an inch or inch and a half above the dish. They would noticeably deflate on serving but were still fluffy and slightly moist. Tasted like eggs and cheese:). I'm not sure I see any advantage to it rising too far above the dish, except maybe theatrics.

ETA: I have a 2 person version of their recipe, if you care. Probably not too different from what you can find in general cookbooks. I mean, I think it has actual quantities listed.

Edited by haresfur, 24 January 2013 - 11:40 PM.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

#5 ChrisZ

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 11:29 PM

Never eaten one? Shit, when I went up to Sydney and ... ate a fair bit I couldn't avoid the things.


Oops, I sound a bit melodramatic. I was referring to savoury soufflés. I've definitely seen sweet soufflés on a dessert menu but can't recall ever ordering or eating one. It's probably easier to please with a sweet dish. If it has sugar in it and tastes like chocolate / passionfruit etc etc who's going to complain?
But for a savoury soufflé I have no idea what to aim for...

#6 JoNorvelleWalker

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 11:29 PM

I have not made a souffle in many years, however I used to get good results from the souffle recipes in Joy of Cooking.

#7 Bojana

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 02:52 AM

Folding technique plays a great role in making a good souffle. You always have a part that gives it flavour, part that gives it structure and part that gives rise. Then there is balancing of flavour release and structure. I've made recently a lovely foie gras souffle in which the original recipe did not have any starch. Sure bet it would collapse directly after being taken out of the oven. I've added a pinch of cornstarch to it and it stood beautifully, while the taste was just to my liking.

With sweet ones, I usually fold some pastry cream with the flavouring (raspberry is great, also rhubarb), then fold egg whites.

Coating ramekings helps, savoury with butter and parmesan, sweet ones with butter sugar. Blowtorch sounds intriguing, I will try it. How full were your ramekings? Maybe that caused the eruption? I fill them 2/3 at most. I could not find photos of my raspberry souffles, they are my best risers, here the foie gras (blended seared foie gras in the base as well as the small pieces of it and pieces of caramelised apple throughout).
photo.JPG

#8 nickrey

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 03:00 AM

In addition to coating the container, run a knife around the edge of each souffle, that gives a clean trajectory upon which it can rise. Also, look at souffle recipes that cover the twice cooked variant. You can pre-prepare and then cook them again for service. They sink, they rise. There is so much ritualistic BS around souffles, I'm surprised any amateur cook ever tries them.

Edited by nickrey, 25 January 2013 - 03:00 AM.

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#9 seabream

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:16 PM

I have seen recipes that call for Julia's trick of adding foil to the rim, and others that call for running a knife around the edge. I assume the goal of these tricks is for the souffles to rise with straight sides? Like this: http://www.bonappeti...th_nougat_whip.

I don't follow either of these tricks, and my souffle comes out more "mushroom" shape, like in the photo attached. I think it looks just fine, and it certainly tastes good.

Is straight sides one of the marks of a beautiful, well made, professional souffle? What is the perfect looking souffle in your opinion?

Attached Images

  • IMG_8695.jpg

Edited by seabream, 25 January 2013 - 12:16 PM.


#10 Darienne

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Posted 25 January 2013 - 12:30 PM

Now, that's a gorgeous looking souffle, seabream. Yummm...
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