How to Bake a Soufflé

Many chefs would like you to believe that baking a soufflé is the most daring culinary undertaking you can attempt. They'll say the barometer must be in a certain range, the proportions must be measured down to the milligram, and once it's in the oven, if you so much as think about whispering, all hope of ending up with a tall, triumphant masterpiece is lost. Fortunately, none of this is true.

Choosing Soufflé Ingredients
Every soufflé, whether it's sweet or savory, has two parts: The base, which lends the soufflé its flavor, and the egg whites, which allow soufflé to grow tall. The base determines what kind of soufflé you will be making. The base of a savory soufflé is usually a béchamel sauce, a roux-based sauce, and the base of a sweet soufflé is a pastry cream.

Preparing The Soufflé
Once you have your base prepared, it's time to whip the egg whites. Many people recommend using week-old eggs, as their whites have a smaller water content, which allows them to froth better. Though a whisk can be used, it will take a lot of time and elbow grease. A hand mixer is the tool of choice for most people. It is important to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, meaning when you put the beater into the egg whites, pull it straight up and turn it upside down so the peaks stand up straight. However, don't over beat them until they start to break down. They should be strong but still retain their sheen.

When your egg whites are beaten, it is time to incorporate them into the base. All that effort you put into beating those eggs could be for naught if you simply pour the mixture into the base and stir. You should try a technique called folding. Take half of the egg whites and spoon them on the base. Using a rubber or silicone spatula, cut straight down the middle and gently fold the bottom onto the top. Turn the bowl and repeat. Add the rest of the egg whites, and fold again until they are incorporated. It is not necessary, however, to have a completely homogenous mixture.

Next, pour the mixture into a soufflé dish, a ceramic dish with straight fluted sides, that has been buttered and dusted with either flour, bread crumbs or grated cheese depending on the type of soufflé you're making. Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for roughly half an hour, and you have a soufflé.

Keeping The Oven Door Closed
You may have heard people say that you aren't supposed to open the oven door during the cooking process, and there is some truth to this. In the first 15 minutes or so, before the egg whites have set, they are unstable, and the subtle change in pressure or shaking caused by opening the door can be enough to deflate it.

Now that you know the basic techniques to making a soufflé, you should have the confidence to attempt one. Regardless of what variety or recipe you choose, if you follow these simple steps, you should end up with a light, fluffy and towering work of art.

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