Fall 1998: Harvard Yard. I'm writing an academic paper on the Rise and Fall of the Holy Roman Empire.
Summer 2008: New York City. I'm blogging about the Rise and Fall of... Soufflé.
So much for intellectual progress! Now where's my fork?
Soufflé, which is a fancy French way of saying "puffy," tastes like a cloud of seafoam with a molten lava core.
Soufflé is also the much-maligned bad boy of the dessert world. It's like the playground bully with a fearsome reputation but a heart of gold.
Hollywood and the popular imagination feed into soufflé's mythical bad rep. One of my favorite classic films, Sabrina, starring Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn, is no exception. Sabrina, the chauffeur's daughter, is sent to culinary school in Paris. There, she acquires an impressive one-handed egg-cracking technique ("it's all in the wrist"), not to mention some chic Parisian garb and the womanly wiles to seduce a pair of plastic magnates upon her return to New York.
There's the fantastic scene in Sabrina which takes place in the Parisian culinary school. The harsh professor trots down the aisle to inspect the students' soufflés, critiquing each one with a "too low," "too pale," "too heavy," "so-so," and "sloppy." When he gets to Sabrina, he shoots her a look of grave disappointment and says, "Much too low." It turns out that she has forgotten to turn on the oven.
The truth is, as long as you remember to turn on the oven, it's not hard to make a soufflé. Not being cavalier here. A perfect omelet is hard. A decent soup, for that matter, is hard. But soufflé? Soufflé is easy.
This recipe takes only 10 minutes to mix together. The subsequent bake time of 18 minutes is perfect for, say, taking a shower or running errands. After wiping the sugar off my hands, I took my rambunctious puppy, Dash, out for a spin around the block. By the time we were back, the soufflé was ready.
- 1/3 cup sugar plus 2 tsp. extra for dusting
- 1/4 stick unsalted butter
- 5 oz. bittersweet baker’s chocolate, chopped
- eggs (3 large yolks and 6 large egg whites)
- non-stick vegetable oil cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Chop the chocolate into pieces (important: use baker’s chocolate, not ordinary chocolate). Place in bowl with butter and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir and microwave for 30 seconds. Repeat until melted and blended.
- Spray the 4 ramekins with non-stick vegetable oil cooking spray and dust lightly with the 2 tsp. extra sugar.
- Separate the egg whites and the egg yolks. Be very careful not to accidentally mix any egg yolks into the egg whites or your soufflé may not rise properly. (It is the air bubbles formed within the egg whites which expand in the oven and form the scaffolding for a risen soufflé.)
- Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt by hand or with an electric mixer (I just use a whisk) until soft peaks form.
- Slowly add the 1/3 cup of sugar in the egg whites, beating at medium speed and then beat at high speed until peaks stiffen.
- Stir 1 cup of egg whites into the chocolate bowl. Pour contents of chocolate bowl into remaining egg whites, folding gently with a spatula.
- Spoon mixture into ramekins.
- Bake the ramekins in the pre-heated oven for 18-20 minutes. Soufflé should puff up and form a crust and yet the centers remain molten.
- Serve immediately (soufflé has two to three minutes to stay risen before its inevitable fall.) May be served with chocolate sauce or vanilla ice cream (optional).
Servings: 4, Prep Time: 10 min. (+18 min. bake time), Calories per Serving: 325, Pair with: Port
Copyright Sweet & Victuals 2008. This article and photograph is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.