If there were ever a desert that could be described as the most theatrical, I think the soufflé would be an earnest contender. No sooner than when they emerge from the oven, all proud and puffed up that they turn into something completely different. Their dramatic exit from the oven is punctuated more so by their dramatic deflation. All in one act they go from gloriously risen to depressingly deflated; the soufflé is a culinary thespian if there ever was one.
Seasoned “soufflérs” are probably hardened to the melodrama of making soufflés. All that business of whisking and delicately folding the egg whites into the mixture, then all your work is undone the moment they come out form the oven. I didn't know how to take it at first, it was my very first time making soufflés and I truly thought that all my work would last at least more than just a brief moment. Luckily, although most of the soufflé’s puff is lost in the first few minutes, its taste is not lost.
They say that you should never judge a book by its cover, and rightly so, I probably would have never read or bought plenty of books if I had based my judgements on such things. Although one habit I cannot shake off is to judge a cookbook by its deserts. I am pretty hopeless with main meals and to be honest all I can really make are deserts so when I get a cookbook, I usually skip all the other chapters and head straight to the end where the sweet stuff is. And so far, this method has been a good gauge.
I adapted this recipe from Aria chef Matt Moran’s new cookbook, which I bought simply on the basis of seeing his Grand Marnier soufflé recipe. His soufflés were fortunate enough to be baked in gorgeous shiny individual copper pots that afforded his soufflés the most magnificent of rises. The soufflés were quite a sight to behold and I have to admit there was little bit of kitchen paraphernalia envy when I came across those copper pots.
Seeing that I could only revel in the thrill off the risen soufflé for but a moment, I wanted to know what vessel could produce the best rise. I didn’t have pretty copper pots to play with so I had to settle for what I had and conducted the experiment using ramekins, dariole moulds and ceramic espresso cups.
The verdict, well, the dariole moulds produced the most even rise while cooking beautifully all the way through. The espresso cups produced the highest rise; although the higher the rise, the more haphazard the fall, so some soufflés collapsed unevenly and cracked at the side. The espresso cups were also the thickest of all the dishes, so the batter failed to cook completely through leaving the bottom half quite soggy. Lastly, the ramekins produced the smallest rise, although rose evenly and did manage to cook all the way through.
So I would say that I got the best results using the metal dariole moulds, I estimate that they were probably the most even conductor of heat and therefore produced the best and most level rise and cooking all the soufflés all way through.
Being my first venture into the realm of soufflé making, the enterprise was met with some trepidation. All those steps, all that whisking and of course the glaring possibility of failure, what if my soufflé doesn’t rise? I guess that is the question every virgin soufflé maker must ask. And it is not that this fear is unfounded, you always hear and are forewarned about the things you must do to make your soufflés lift and unless these things are adhered to, then, what becomes is a failure. You’re frightened off even before you get the chance to attempt the recipe.
Luckily for Moran, he never cautions you about how your soufflé may not rise, all he says is that they are dead easy to make and he has been making this same recipe since he was an apprentice chef. Now this chimes with much more optimism and is exactly what the novice wants to hear. If an apprentice chef can make it then so should I be able to.
And so I went on to embark on this process and I have to say that it was not as terrifying as some of those cookbooks make it out to be. The operation was a success and after consuming several soufflés later, I was ready for another round of baking.
With these soufflés, rather than using orange flavourings like Grand Marnier as Moran did in the cookbook, I opted for using a coffee flavoured base. I infused the custard with coffee and Marsala, a fortified wine that is commonly placed in desserts like Tiramisu and Zabaglione. What results is a soufflé that tastes a lot like Tiramisu. Here is the recipe.Coffee and Marsala Soufflé
adapted from this cookbook
15g plain all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks
½ tbsp instant espresso
50g caster sugar
butter for greasing soufflé dishes
100g caster sugar, plus extra for coating soufflé dishes
300g egg whites, from 9-10 eggs
¼ tsp cream of tartar
icing sugar, to serve
FOR THE SOUFFLE BASE
Combine cornflour, plain flour, 25ml of the milk and one egg yolk in a small bowl.
In a small saucepan, bring the remaining milk and instant espresso to the boil, stirring occasionally to make sure the coffee has dissolved and then remove from heat.
Whisk in the cornflour mixture, then return to the stove and cook over low hear, stirring constantly until the custard thickens.
In a separate bowl, stir together the sugar and the rest of the egg yolks, then add to the coffee custard in the pan and cook for another two minutes, whisking constantly.
Remove from heat and stir in the Marsala.
Strain through a fine sieve placed over a bowl.
Cover mixture with some plastic wrap and leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Grease the soufflé dishes with butter and coat with caster sugar.
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a bowl and whisk until they form soft peaks.
Gradually add the sugar and continue whisking until they are stiff.
Place the soufflé base in a large bowl and using a large metal spoon, gently fold in half the egg whites, then fold in the other half.
Spoon the mixture into the soufflé dishes to fill them right to the tops and then level with a spatula.
Bake for 8-10 minutes until they are well risen.
Remove from oven and dust with icing sugar.