Culinary Arts

What Is a Soufflé? 8 Tips For Cooking the Perfect Soufflé and 2 Easy Soufflé Methods

Written by MasterClass

Jun 12, 2019 • 6 min read

If cooking was an art form (and some would argue it is), then a soufflé would be the equivalent of a Picasso. Every soufflé is an asymmetrical, one-of-a-kind dish. This billowy creation—a hallmark of French culinary tradition—can be served as a sweet dessert with chocolate or berries, or a savory meal with gruyère cheese, vegetables, or meat.

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What Is Soufflé?

A soufflé is a baked dish with a flavorful base mixed with beaten egg whites. When baked, air bubbles in the egg whites expand, puffing the soufflé up over the top of the dish.The name for this signature French dish is a derivative of the French verb “souffler,” which means “to blow” or “to inflate.”

Where Did Soufflé Originate?

The soufflé was first introduced in 1742, but popularized in the early nineteenth century when the recipe was published in the 1814 cookbook Le Pâtissier Royal Parisien by the famous French chef Marie-Antoine Carême. Over the next century, the soufflé evolved from a basic dish to experimental cuisine that works with many different ingredients.

What Are the Differences Between Sweet and Savory Soufflés?

Soufflés all start out the same: egg whites and yolks are separated. The egg whites are beaten until stiff peaks form to get the airy tops soufflés are famous for, while the egg yolks are beaten and combined with other ingredients to create a sweet or savory soufflé.

  • A sweet soufflé is a baked dessert with ingredients that are sugary and sweet, like a chocolate soufflé. Sugar is often added to the egg whites as they are beaten. Many sweet soufflés are served with a sauce on the side, like a crème anglaise or berry puree. When the dessert is punctured the sauce is poured inside. They can also be served with ice cream, a cold addition to the hot soufflé.
  • Savory soufflés are made with hearty ingredients, like rich, creamy cheeses and spices, often in a bechamel sauce—a classic French base made from butter, milk, and flour. The heavier ingredients can weigh the batter down a bit more than its sweet counterpart, limiting the lift of a soufflé.

Why Is Air So Important in a Soufflé?

Air is what makes a soufflé a soufflé. It is what inflates the dish, creating the airy architecture. The motion of beating egg whites traps air into the mix. The egg white protein seals around pockets of air, creating bubbles. Egg yolks are separated out because their fat prevents those bubbles from forming. Those air bubbles expand in the oven, creating that famous cloud-like formation of a soufflé.

5 Tips to Properly Prepare Egg Whites for a Soufflé

The egg whites are, by far, the most important ingredient in a soufflé. Here’s how to properly prepare them:

  1. Crack the eggs on a flat surface, like a countertop. Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks by either letting the egg whites slip through your fingers into a bowl or passing the egg yolks from one half of the egg shell to the other, letting the whites drip off into a bowl. Don’t let any bit of yolk into the whites which will compromise the ability of the egg whites to trap air.
  2. Make the base first. Beat the egg yolks and add the other ingredients so they are ready to receive the egg whites as soon as they are whipped.
  3. Add ½ a teaspoon of cream of tartar to the egg whites.
  4. Using a handheld mixer or a standing mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed. Get them nice and fluffy. They’ll soon form soft peaks—when you pull the mixer away peaks will form and collapse. Keep mixing until stiff peaks form—when you pull the mixer away the peaks will stay standing.
  5. As soon as you’re done beating the egg whites, the peaks will start to lose their stability so combine with egg yolks right away. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture in three stages. Add a third of the egg whites, using a rubber spatula to fold the batter. Slide the spatula under the batter, along the bottom of the bowl and fold it up and over onto itself. Do this two more times until all of the egg whites are incorporated.

Watch How to Make the Perfect Soufflé

Chef Gordon Ramsay presents his raspberry soufflé recipe and method.

8 Tips for Cooking the Perfect Soufflé

Making a soufflé is all about technique. It’s important to do it just right to get the results the perfect soufflé demands.

  1. Get some air. The key to getting air into the egg whites is a fast, steady whisk to whip air into the mixture. It’s okay to do it by hand but it can be tiring. A hand mixer or standing mixer is the optimal tool for beating the egg whites. This is a good technique to master for other dishes as well, like sponge cakes and meringues.
  2. Metal bowls are best. A large bowl made of metal is best for beating the egg whites. Other materials can hold onto residue from previous uses. Metal offers the right texture to allow the egg to achieve those peaks.
  3. Use the right soufflé dish. When souffles grew in popularity in nineteenth century France, special dishes were designed to bake them. They are usually circular, ceramic bowls with straight sides to help guide soufflés upwards. A ramekin is a small soufflé baking dish for an individual serving.
  4. Room temperature eggs will get the best results. Pull eggs out of the refrigerator an hour before making the soufflé. Cold eggs don’t get the same peaks as warmer eggs.
  5. Use cream of tartar. Cream of tartar, an acidic salt that is a byproduct of wine and grape production, is often added to egg whites when beaten. The acid helps the eggs reach maximum height and trap air. Lemon juice is another option.
  6. Use parmesan and breadcrumbs. The buttered ramekin always needs a textured coating over it to help the batter grab on to the sides of the dish and climb. Rub parmesan or bread crumbs over the buttered ramekin for a savory soufflé or granulated sugar for a sugary one.
  7. Cook the soufflé on a baking sheet at the bottom of the oven. You want to heat the soufflé from the bottom up so the hot pan will transfer to the dish.
  8. As tempting as it might be, avoid opening the oven door. The cool air will inhibit the soufflé from rising. If you want to watch, just turn on the oven light.

How to Make Easy Cheese Soufflé

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter a soufflé dish and coat with a layer of parmesan cheese. Make a bechamel sauce: put whole milk on stove over low heat, melt butter (use unsalted butter) in a medium saucepan. Whisk all-purpose flour into the butter. Stir in steamed milk, cooking several minutes until mixture thickens. Remove bechamel from the heat. Whisk in paprika, salt, nutmeg, and egg yolks. In a metal bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until there are stiff peaks. Fold beaten egg whites into bechamel in three steps, folding the ingredients with a rubber spatula after each addition. Sprinkle in gruyère cheese and a little parmesan. Add an herb, like chives, for additional flavor. Reduce heat to 375 and bake until that rising top is golden brown.

Simple Chocolate Souffle Recipé

Preheat oven to 375. Butter ramekins. Add sugar and roll ramekin to coat sugar over butter. Melt bittersweet chocolate with butter by placing it in a heatproof bowl over a small saucepan of water over medium heat. When melted, remove from heat and add vanilla and a little salt. Mix four large egg yolks with a quarter cup sugar. Add the chocolate. Beat six large egg whites. As they becomes foamy, slowly add sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the yolk and chocolate mixture in three batches. Pour into ramekins and bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with ice cream.

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