filling the empty nest with food
Soufflés must have been created to keep the seasoned cook from getting too big for her britches. For a dish with only a handful of ingredients, there are spectacular ways to fail along the way from start to the (hopefully) puffed and steaming finished product. Soufflés require tasks that strike fear in the heart of many an experienced cook: making a roux, separating eggs, adding egg yolks to a hot sauce, beating egg whites, folding in egg whites. And that’s all before you bite your nails over whether the darn thing is going to rise!
First, you make a white sauce and be sure it’s smooth with no lumps. Next, you separate a few eggs–being sure not to get any bit of yolk in the white or the whites won’t whip up properly. Then, you add the egg yolks to the white sauce, to which you’ve included something sweet like chocolate or savory such as grated cheese. Make sure that the sauce has cooled enough not to cook the eggs (lest you wind up with scrambled eggs in your soufflé!).
Next, comes beating the egg whites, just until they hold a soft velvety peak–not overbeaten until they’re dry nor underbeaten. This is not an exact science, but you’ve got to get it right! And now comes the delicate task of gingerly folding the egg whites into the egg yolk-sauce mixture. Folding must be done ever so carefully so as to keep the air in the egg whites you’ve just beaten into a delicate white foam.
So, who’s big idea was it to create a dish where the essential ingredient is air?
Most cookbooks will direct you to serve a soufflé the second it comes out of the oven. And yet there usually isn’t enough instruction about how to succeed despite the above pitfalls, nor about the need to have an oven that heats evenly, and the need to scream at your family not to under any circumstance jump on the kitchen floor, bump into the stove or open the oven door for a peak. All of which could deflate your hard-won creation at the last minute.
So, if you have a competitive streak in you or want to know what that airy deliciousness tastes like–go ahead and bake a soufflé.