A soufflé is a light and fluffy sweet or savoury dish, principally made from eggs and a particular flavouring.
The soufflé is made up of two parts: the first is the base, which if savoury, is a thick flavoured white sauce, made from flour, butter and milk. To this base, egg yolks are added for consistency and then stiffly whisked egg whites are folded into the mixture. The egg whites give the dish their light and airy texture and cause the soufflé to rise during cooking.
For sweet soufflés, a custard style base is made with sweet ingredients to which the stiffly whisked egg whites are then added.
The soufflés are then poured into individual ramekins or a larger round soufflé dish and baked in the oven for about 20 minutes.
The tricky part of preparing soufflés is getting the cooking timing exactly right. For a start, the oven door must never be opened whilst the soufflé is baking, as this will cause the soufflé to immediately deflate. The soufflé should rise several inches above the dish during cooking and the crust will become browned and crisp on the outside.
If the soufflé does not spend enough time in the oven and is removed before it has been cooked properly, it will deflate quite soon after being taken out of the oven.
On the other hand, overcooking the soufflé will have the same effect and the air bubbles will burst, causing the soufflé to collapse. As you can see the timing has to be perfect.
The way in which the soufflé dish is prepared also has an effect of how the soufflé will turn out. Well-greased and lined dishes will ensure that the soufflé rises evenly, giving a more aesthetic presentation.
For sweet soufflés rub soft butter onto the bottom and sides of the soufflé dish and then line with caster sugar.
For savoury soufflés, line the dish or ramekins with butter and then breadcrumbs or flour.
Take care when placing the soufflé into the oven. The soufflé dish should not sit too near the top of the oven or too near to the rack above. Do not place them directly onto the bottom of the oven either, as this may cause the base of the soufflé to burn.
The final point to remember is that all soufflés deflate shortly after being removed from the oven, therefore they should be served immediately and all guests should be seated and ready to eat before the soufflé is brought to the table.
Soufflés may come in all sorts of flavours and tastes, including cheese, ham, lobster, chocolate, lemon and caramel, and below we offer one sweet dish and another savoury for you to try at home.