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All About Eggs -- Souffles

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All About Eggs

Basic Technique Unit IV: Souffles

Carolyn Tillie

Please post your questions here --> Q&A

(Note: Here is a listing of preceeding courses -- All about Eggs Introductory Material, All About Eggs -- FAQ, All About Eggs -- Hard Cooked Eggs, All about Eggs - Poaching eggs and All about Eggs -- Omelettes and More)

In Billy Wilder’s 1954 Sabrina, Audrey Hepburn, trying to forget her obsessive love of William Holden, travels to Paris to attend the Cordon Bleu Cooking School. There is a very charming scene where the entire class, all lined up in a row, holds out their finished souffles for the instructor’s approval. Some are too high, some are too low, and in Audrey Hepburn’s case – well, she forgot to turn her oven on entirely and her’s went uncooked. According the The Joy of Cooking, it IS the prima donna of the culinary world – displaying a level of elegance and understanding of both the ingredients and the chemistry of the Egg. When FatGuy asked how my souffle technique was, I proudly proclaimed my confidence, having made dozens and dozens in the past, but forgetting to admit to a several-year hiatus on creating souffles. Inasmuch, in this class on souffles, you will learn and see what NOT TO DO, as well as how to correctly and successfully create a fabulous baked souffle. (I’m not going to discuss frozen souffles, which I think are look-alikes to the baked masterpiece).

There are quite a few important factors that MUST be remembered in creating souffles:

1. Use absolutely the freshest eggs possible. Separate the eggs while cold, but allow them to come to room temperature before continuing with the preparation (I like the Jacques Pepin method of separating eggs by breaking all the eggs into one bowl and then manually scooping out the yolks with your hand). Make sure all your dishes and pans are absolutely clean and dry when dealing with the eggs – the smallest amount of dirt in a bowl can hinder the whipping of egg whites! Many books recommend wiping a bowl with a little vinegar to clean out any potential grease or residue.

2. Use straight, high-sided ceramic souffle dish(es). Refrigerate or freeze the prepared dish as it will assist in getting your souffle to rise a bit higher.

3. Check the temperature of your oven! Here is something I forgot to do and very shortly you will witness its repercussions! James Beard preheats the oven to the desired temperature then adds 25° to give an extra “push.” I have never tried this.

4. Do not continually open the oven door to check on the status of a souffle – drafts are death to a souffle as its ascent is based on the whipped egg whites and steam.

5. The finished dish must be served immediately – at best, there is a ten-minute window when a souffle can be held in an oven before service. After that time, it will begin to fall.

To put it most simply, a souffle is nothing more than a flavored base heightened with whipped egg whites. Wanting to demonstrate both a savory and sweet souffle, we started with a Crab and Asparagus Souffle with a bechemal base. I modified the CIA’s recipe with the following ingredients:

2 oz. Butter

2 oz. Flour

1 1/4 Milk

15 Egg Yolks

3 oz. Parmesan cheese

3 oz. Gruyere cheese

10 Egg White

8 oz. shredded Crab Meat

1/2 lb. diced/blanched Asparagus

not pictured: salt, pepper, chives, and a dash of white wine to taste.


In preparing the base, the butter is melted for a roux:


And the flour is added:


Stirring the roux – this is done for about three minutes, to get rid of any floury taste:


When the roux is thickened, the milk is added for make a bechemal – this is a slow process. Cook, stirring very often, on medium heat for 15 minutes:


When ready, the bechemal will be thickened and start to boil.

Beat the egg yolks in a small bowl. The bechemal is added slowly, to temper the eggs. I use a ladle to add a half-a-cup at a time, slowly bringing the egg yolks up to the same temperature as the bechemal


If all the bechemal were added to the egg yolks at once, it would begin to cook the egg yolks and you would end up a stringy mess.

This is your base, to which any variety of flavors can be added – various cheeses, vegetables, herbs, or spices. I added a tablespoon of freshly chopped chives, a splash of Gewürztraminer, eight ounces of shredded crab, and a half-pound of diced, blanched asparagus, and three ounces each finely shredded gruyere and parmesan cheeses.

Adding cheese:


Adding crab:


Base is ready:


Preparing a souffle plan is very similar to preparing a cake pan – the inside is liberally spread with butter and coated. In the case of a savory souffle, it is usually coated with shredded cheese. A sweet souffle has dishes coated with either sugar or cocoa powder (if chocolate souffles are made).


When the pan is ready and the base ready, THEN the egg whites are whipped to soft-peak stage:


Note: It is better to underbeat the eggs than to overbeat them!

I do now own a copper bowl for whipping eggs, but I know many people ask if there is a significant difference. On the use of whipping eggs in copper bowls, Anne Marie Helmenstein, Ph.D. states:

The bowl you use makes a difference when you are whipping egg whites. Copper bowls produce a yellowish, creamy foam that is harder to overbeat that the foam produced using glass or stainless steel bowls. When you whisk egg whites in a copper bowl, some copper ions migrate from the bowl into the egg whites. The copper ions form a yellow complex with one of the proteins in eggs, conalbumin. The conalbumin-copper complex is more stable than the conalbumin alone, so egg whites whipped in a copper bowl are less likely to denature (unfold). When air is whisked into egg whites, the mechanical action denatures the proteins in the whites. The denatured proteins coagulate, stiffening the foam and stabilizing the air bubbles. If the foam is overbeaten in a non-copper bowl, eventually the proteins become completely denatured and coagulate into clumps. There is no going back from the clumpy mess to nice foamy whites, so overbeaten whites are usually discarded. If a copper bowl is used, then fewer protein molecules are free to denature and coagulate, because some are tied up in conalbumin-copper complexes. In addition to forming complexes with conalbumin, the copper may also react with sulfur-containing groups on other proteins, further stabilizing the egg proteins. Although the iron and zinc found in other metal bowls also form complexes with conalbumin, these complexes don't make the foam more stable. When glass or steel bowls are used, cream of tartar may be added to egg whites to stabilize the whites.

When the egg whites are ready, they are gently folded into the flavored base:


The prepared batter is poured into the prepared pan. Be careful to wipe away any drips to assure very clean edges. The souffle is going to climb up the edges of the dish and there should be no hindrances. Put the souffle in the hot oven (heat up at least 15 minutes beforehand!):


Carolyn’s Note: Having just moved into a new house when asked to teach this class, this was the first time I used this oven. I very foolishly did NOT check the temperature of my oven! If you can look closely at the picture, you will see that the temperature is almost to 500° when it should have only been at 425°!

30 minutes later, I pulled out my finished Souffle!


Carolyn’s Note: My oven was way too hot! The top of my souffle browned too much before the inside got a chance to be completely cooked through! Learn from my mistakes! Upon eating another error was discovered – I thought the addition of asparagus would be a nice accompaniment to the crab. Wrong! This particular vegetable exuded far too much residual water and the subsequent souffle was watery:

Learning from this error, I was ready to try again – this time with dessert! I decided upon individual chocolate souffles. Without going through all the steps, the ingredients were as follows:

4 eggs, divided

1/2 cup sugar, divided

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Valhrona)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

butter and cocoa for buttering and dusting souffle dishes

powdered sugar for garnish

The base was made of 1/4-cup sugar, cocoa, flour, and cream cooked over medium heat until smooth. The butter and vanilla are added until smooth. Because it is a sweet souffle, this recipe calls for the egg whites to be whipped with the other 1/4 cup of sugar and the cream of tartar. The whipped eggs are folded into the chocolate base:


This batter was poured into the individual prepared dishes:


This time, I was careful to gauge the temperature of my oven. I learned that to get the desired 350° needed for this recipe, my oven had to be set at no higher than 225°! These individual souffles were baked for exactly 20 minutes and only at that time did I pull them out of the oven. Perfect!


Individual souffles were served dusted with powdered sugar and freshly whipped cream (slightly sweetened with a tablespoon of powdered sugar, a splash of vanilla, and a tablespoon of cognac):


A final note: I truly believe that baking individual souffles of either a savory or sweet quality tends to be far easier than a single, larger souffle.

Please post your questions here --> Q&A

(Note: Here is a listing of preceeding courses -- All about Eggs Introductory Material, All About Eggs -- FAQ, All About Eggs -- Hard Cooked Eggs, All about Eggs - Poaching eggs and All about Eggs -- Omelettes and More)

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