Sunday, March 7, 2010

Soufflé Series Part 1

I decided to start from scratch and create my own recipe for sweet soufflés. This first post will be a classical attempt, the next part of the series will deal with using non-traditional ingredients in an effort to produce a more stable and higher rising soufflé.
The general idea in making a soufflé, as far as I understand it(I am sure there are other versions), is that whipped egg-whites can be used as the sole leavening agent for a flavored base. The combination of fluffy whites, dense flavored base, and heat of the oven create a heavily leavened, light, flavorful, yet fleeting, treat.
In creating a recipe that would achieve these results I thought that the denser and more flavorful the base, the better the result would be. The whites only act to leaven and modify the texture of the soufflé, they do not add any flavor(other than egg-whitiness). Therefore, the base needs to be flavorful enough to stand-up the dilution of the egg whites and have enough stabilizers to rein-in the whites and prevent them from falling after rising. 
I am using 5oz. Aplico brand porcelain ramekins to hold the soufflé.
64g milk
1g salt
100g honey
28g flour
35g butter
50g yolks (about 3 extra-large eggs worth)
50g whites per soufflé (maximum recipe yield is 6)
6g sucrose per soufflé 
1/4 pinch malic acid powder per soufflé(you can substitue another acid, explained in method)
extra butter and sugar for lining the ramekins

You do not have to make all of the soufflés at once because the base keeps very well. It is best to make a batch of base and then add only as much egg-whites as you need; this is why I have written the recipe in this format.

Add the butter to a small pot, something you can use a whisk in, and melt it. Add the flour and stir until incorporated, you are making a roux for a dessert.
Turn the heat to high and whisk(make sure this is not a flimsy whisk) in the honey and salt. Once the mixture is starting to get hot, stream in the milk, it doesn't have to be very slow, it is just easier to incorporate when not added all at once. Bring this to a boil, the flour will thicken the base until it is almost impossible to stir, and the batter will stick into the whisk. Press the thickened base out of the whisk with a small spoon and place all of it into a small bowl. Once the base has cooled to around room temperature, add all of the yolks and stir until well combined. This can now be stored for several days, but needs to be tempered before use by being brought back to close to room temperature.
Decide how many soufflés you are going to make and place 46g of base for each one, into a bowl. See here.->
In a separate bowl add 50g of whites per desired soufflé.  Line each of the ramekins with a thin coating of butter, and then put in a small amount of sugar and turn the ramekin until there is a coating of sugar covering the entirety of the inside of the ramekin.
To the whites, add 6g of sugar and 1/8 of a pinch of malic acid powder(again,with both of these, per soufflé). Whisk the egg-whites until they are at medium peaks, slightly drooping, but not too soft. Take 1/2 of the whipped whites and stir it into the base. Then gently fold the rest of the whites in, trying to keep as much air in them as possible, the base does not have to be completely uniform, just mostly. Spoon this batter into each of the lined ramekins until it reaches the lip of the vessel, do not over or under fill. Place into a 400F oven for about 9.5 minutes(I highly recommend cooking a test soufflé to get the timing perfect, but 9.5 has been working well for me).

Adding the malic acid powder, you don't need very much.

This soufflé is over filled(I thought filling above the rim would make it rise more) it ended up being top-heavy and rose out as well as up.
This next soufflé is properly filled, and rose evenly upward, was stable after taking out of the oven, and was airy and moist in the middle, success. This one plates itself up!

Some concluding explanations:
I incorporate the yolks into the base after cooking the flour because I want the yolks to thicken only as the soufflé starts to rise. I tried making the based with cooked yolks, but then I realized that uncooked yolks in the base make it seem thinner than it is. What I mean by that is the base wont be overly thick at room temperature(the thickening power of the yolk has not been activated yet), but once heated, it will thicken and stabilize the soufflé.
The flavoring for this soufflé is honey, I use local wildflower honey that I bought at the Union Square Green Market. It has a lot of flavor, and I use it because the quality of the honey in this recipe is essential in the quality of the end result. I knew that the base had enough flavor because when I tasted it, it tasted heavily of honey. Once diluted, in the end, there was a pleasant, but distinct honey flavor present.
Also, I add sugar and an acid to the whites because I find that they whip into a more stable and smooth mass. You do not need to use malic acid powder, I have a lot of it, it tastes good and I only need to add the smallest pinch to have an effect. A little lemon juice would have a similar effect.
Finally, the reason that I butter AND sugar my ramekin, even though in Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking(p.113) it is suggested otherwise, that combination produces the best rise. Take a look at these three soufflés. All three have batter from the same mixing bowl, all chocolate flavored, and baked side by side in the oven all at once.  The one of the left is a dry ramekin, in the middle is just butter, and on the right, butter and sugar; judge for yourself.

I was very happy with this classical souffé adventure, but I want more, I want to see if I can get a higher rise, better texture, and more stability. In the next part I will document how the non-traditional soufflés turn out.

I'm yours,


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