How to Make a Perfect Souffle
Put these basic techniques to use whether you're making a savory or sweet souffle.
Relax, It's Just a Souffle
According to La Varenne Practique (a timeless masterwork you should consider owning if learning more about classic French cooking appeals), there are only a few critical points to perfecting a souffle: a base of the right consistency, stiff egg whites, and the careful folding of the base and the beaten whites. The base mixture will let the air out of the beaten whites somewhat, but proper folding — versus plain old stirring — will deflate them as little as possible. The following basic techniques and steps are relevant whether you are making a savory or sweet souffle.
Photography by Laura Agra
Get the Recipe: Cheese Souffle
Start with the Eggs
Make the Base
Whip the Egg Whites
Fold the Whites Into the Base
Fill the Dish
Bake the Souffle
Before you preheat the oven, move a rack to the bottom third of the oven, and make sure that any other racks are up high, or removed, so the souffle has room to rise. Don't open the oven door until you are very close to the end (and want to see if it's done).
A perfect souffle will pretty much double in volume. It will be puffed and brown, and it can have a soft center (a little jiggly when the dish is gently shaken) or a firmer center (it doesn't jiggle hardly at all when gently shaken). It depends on how you like your souffle.
Serve It Quickly
If All Doesn't Go As Planned ...
If eggs whites separate and get grainy as you are beating them: Whip in one more white, then beat for another minute until smooth.
If the souffle didn't rise: Perhaps the base was too thick and thus too heavy for the whites to push up against. Another reason could be that the whites were overmixed with the base. Another cause is that the beaten whites, or the uncooked souffle, sat for too long before baking. After mixing the souffle, cook it within an hour. If that's not possible, keep it in the refrigerator before baking, so that the whites don't start to deflate.
If it rose but then fell in the oven: You may have left it in for too long, or you may have opened the door too many times and the fluctuating temperature caused it to collapse. Grab it and serve it — it will still be delicious!