The soufflé, once the bane of my existence, is now something I enjoy cooking and relish eating. The chemistry of this dish is one that fascinates me and I often think about the trials and errors of the first chefs who invented and perfected it.
The soufflé, a French invention, is dated back to late 18th century and translates to “breath of air”. Soufflés can be served hot or cold and sweet or savory.
The technique of preparing a hot soufflé begins with the making of a roux – a combination of melted butter and flour – which acts as a base and thickening agent, like that of a Béchamel sauce. The next steps are pretty simple and are laid out in my recipe below.
In my experience, the trick to soufflés is not to over-mix. Have a steady, yet gentle hand when combining the egg whites to the roux sauce. The second, and probably most important point, is to not open the oven door when the soufflés are cooking.
I usually press my nose against the oven window in anticipation of the majestic rising until it gets too hot. It's a wonderful thing to watch a soufflé rise. The joy is fleeting, however, because once you open the door, you have about 40 seconds of wonderful puff followed by rapid deflation. As you can imagine, taking photos of a soufflé happens at Formula-1-pit-stop-pace.
Whenever I'm making one, I always wonder how restaurants can serve soufflés when they're so briefly at their perfection.
This is my fifth time making a souffle and my third successful attempt. My first two attempts were abysmal failures - they tasted great, they just didn't rise. I called them "shriveled toads" at the time.
Soufflé number 3 was also successful but had a slightly heavier texture as I used coconut milk in a Thai-inspired Pandan souffle .
Souffle number 4 was also successful and punctuated with hints of passionfruit.
Dark Chocolate Souffle
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of castor sugar
4 Tbsp of butter
4 Tbsp of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of good quality, dark, semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 large eggs, separated
Icing sugar for dusting
Pre-heat the oven to 375F.
In a medium saucepan slowly bring the milk and sugar to a gentle boil. Once boiling take saucepan off the heat and set aside.
In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat. Whisk in the flour, a little at a time. Keep whisking for about a minute. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the milk until smooth and thick.
- Return the saucepan to a medium heat. Add the chocolate chips and stir until melted and smooth. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring the whole time.
- Cook sauce for about 40 seconds and then remove from heat. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Grease several small souffle ramekins with butter and dust with a sprinkling of castor sugar. Set aside.
- Whisk the egg yolks into the slightly cooled sauce, one at a time, until smooth. Set aside.
- In a clean metal bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff with an electric mixer.
- Spoon half the egg whites into the sauce with a clean metal spoon. Fold in very gently until just combined then fold in the remaining egg whites.
- Pour in the mixture to reach the top of the souffle ramekins. Level mixture with a knife so that it's even.
- Bake souffles until risen for about 15-20 minutes. Dust with icing sugar just before serving.