No need to be scared, soufflés are not as tricky as they look but they are impressive, delicious and worth the effort. Try the twice-baked version and they can even be made ahead. Cook, invert your soufflé (it will deflate) and then refrigerate it until the time to serve, up to a day ahead. Simply re-bake the inverted soufflé for a few minutes, usually with a good pouring of cream on top. Up it will puff again and, voila… an elegant dinner party starter. Or add a salad on the side for a light dinner or lunch dish.
A few tips to remember
- Remember not to use a plastic bowl to beat egg whites because fat is hard to clean off plastic and the bowl could still have a greasy coating even after washing. Any fat will inhibit the volume of the whipped egg whites.
- From master chef Michel Roux: A pinch of salt added to the half-whisked whites for savoury soufflés and a little sugar to the half-whisked whites for sweet soufflés will help to maintain volume.
- Before you fold in the beaten whites, cool the mix to body temperature, or a little less, but ensure it’s not too cold.
- Use a metal spoon to carefully fold in the egg white.
- Run the tip of a knife or the top of your finger around the rim of the soufflé dish to ease the raw mix away from the sides to help the soufflé rise.
- Use eggs that are not too fresh.
- Brush the inside of the dish with softened butter and then breadcrumbs or (for sweet soufflés) caster sugar to give the soufflé something to cling on to as it rises.
- Fill the soufflé dish to the brim with your mixture.
- Make sure everyone is at the table waiting and ready to admire your masterpiece as you take the soufflé from the oven. In a couple of minutes it will start to sink!
Below is Celia Hay’s recipe for a classic cheese soufflé. For more soufflé recipes and make-ahead, twice-baked versions check out recipes on this site.
1 knob butter, melted for greasing
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
4 eggs, at room temperature, separated
1 tsp dried mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper
85g cheddar cheese, grated
- Heat the oven to 200C. Place a baking sheet on the shelf in the top third of the oven.
- Brush ramekins or souffle dishes with the melted butter. Coat lightly with breadcrumbs by tilting the ramekins so the breadcrumbs stick to the butter. Tip out any breadcrumbs that do not stick.
- Separate the eggs. Be sure to get no yolk in the egg whites. Put the whites in a bowl, ready to whisk.Warm the milk in a pot or microwave.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for 45 seconds.
- Gradually add the warmed milk, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat, add the mustard, cayenne pepper, grated cheese and stir in the egg yolks. Taste the mixture — it should have good flavour. Season with salt and pepper if required.
- Whisk the egg whites until just stiff and mix a spoonful into the cheese mixture to loosen it. Fold in the remainder of the whites with a metal spoon or spatula. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins so they are two-thirds full.With the back of a spoon or your fingertip make a one centimetre rim around edge of the souffle mixture. This gives a “top hat’’ appearance to the cooked souffle.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes until well risen and golden brown. Avoid opening the door until the last minutes of cooking time. To check if the souffle is cooked, wobble the ramekin gently. If it is very wobbly, cook for a little longer