Those do's and don'ts all promises one thing--the tallest soufflé possible.
After a survey of chefs and writers such as Julia Child, Jacque Torres, Bo Friberg, Harold McGee of On Food and Cooking and a French food scientist Herve This, here are some highly effective trick and myth-busters to a higher plateau of baked soufflé.
A baked soufflé is a batter of whipped egg white and a flavored base. Egg white is whipped up to at least a medium, but often a stiff peak and the flavored base is frequently a derivative of béchamel sauce. The first thing you can do, to bake a higher soufflé is to whip up a better meringue. Here are some suggestions to any great egg white meringue;
- Use clean equipment absolutely free of grease and yolk. Any fat is a disaster for foam construction.
- Use a copper bowl as copper reacts with egg white to form a more stable foam.
- Use egg whites that are slightly warm, not straight out of a refrigerator.
- For a soufflé, you need 1 egg white per about 1 cup of flavored base.
Next, the flavored base should be overly seasoned to compensate for the meringue. McGee suggests that the base should be cohesive but smooth enough to fall from its own weight from a spoon. Once the flavored base is made, here are some important suggestions and myth-busters for a great height;
- When mixing the flavored base and meringue, be sure to fold in the meringue gently. Common mixing technique is to RAPIDLY mix 1/4 of meringue into the flavored base, and then SLOWLY FOLD IN the flavored base into the remaining meringue.
- McGee writes that traditional dressing the inside of ramekin, (butter and flour/cheese for savory, and butter and sugar for sweet) is UNNECESSARY! He claims the height is unaffected, however, the final product is easier to unmold from the ramekin with the dressing.
- Despite the claim that final batter should be baked right away, ramekin can be filled and sit for up to an hour. The batter can stay fresh for hours in a refrigerator and is perfectly fine in a freezer.
- Since alcohol evaporates faster than water and much of the expansion of soufflé is due to steam, Bo Friberg suggests that using alcohol or flavored liqueur is a great way to increase the height.
- Julia Child claims and I agree that placing a round collar around the ramekin to assist in rise is just another hassle worth ignoring. Frozen soufflé would require this, however.
- For those creative types, stick to round ramekins. Round shape ensures even expansion of soufflé.
- Like bread in an oven, soufflé benefits similarly in a hot oven from an oven spring. Starting hot temperature is good, even if you have to turn it down after placing the batter in the oven.
Lastly, Herve This in Molecular Gastronomy, offers this great tip of all. Enjoy.
- Since the soufflé is about expansion of hot air (about 25% of total expansion is due to this, according to McGee) and steam (the remaining 75% of total expansion), you can better trap this expansion by "sealing" the top of a soufflé by broiling the top of a soufflé for about 10-20 seconds underneath a salamander before placing them in a hot oven.
p.s. The last trick tends to add at least 1/2 inch to any soufflé.