Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Forget reputation

Last night I completed the final pudding recipe: lemon soufflé (p211). It's been some time since my partially successful attempt at the chocolate version of this recipe, and in the meantime I've picked up a hint or two.

Some time back, I watched an episode of Masterchef that reviewed the best methods for getting a soufflé to rise properly. Apparently the key is to make sure the sides of your dish are well enough greased that the soufflé doesn't stick to the sides as it rises. I mentally filed this information away for future use, so when it came to making my soufflé last night, I was able to butter and flour chilled ramekins in a clumsy imitation of the demonstrated method.

Once the ramekins were ready, I made a start on the actual soufflé. I melted butter over a pan of boiling water, then removed it from the heat and stirred in lemon rind and juice, and some milk. Naturally the cold milk did not combine with hot butter too well; I was wondering at the obvious flaw in this instruction when I glanced at the recipe again and realised I should have added flour to the butter first, making a smooth paste to which the other ingredients would then be added.

Instead, I had to stir the flour through afterwards, and hope that it would successfully combine as I heated the mixture over the pan of hot water again. I had to make vigorous use of a whisk, and never quite achieved the consistency I'd hoped for, but by the time the mixture had thickened, I was happy enough with it.

I separated some eggs, and beat the yolks until pale. These I stirred into the soufflé mixture, before beating up the whites, adding half of them to the main bowl and folding them through before adding the rest. This method seems to work quite well in keeping as much air as possible in the mixture - much less is lost in the second addition than the first.

The soufflé mixture divided neatly into the prepared ramekins - the main recipe is for a single large soufflé, but I'd done the usual half recipe and separated it into two smaller dishes, mostly because they were the most suitable ones I had. The smaller dishes also meant the soufflés cooked much more quickly - I halved the cooking time to 20 minutes, but  even that was slightly too long. Perhaps 18 minutes would have been about right.

I was delighted that my efforts had resulted in soufflés that actually looked like soufflés, instead of the odd rounded version I'd had with the chocolate one. They'd risen quite well, and didn't collapse upon coming out of the oven. They have to be eaten immediately, of course, or even the best-made soufflé will go flat. This meant, sadly, that I was obliged to eat both of them. I couldn't see them go to waste, could I?

Luckily, they were beautifully light and airy, with a pleasant touch of lemon and only a slight hint of egg. That careful pre-coating of the ramekins gave a beautiful butteriness to the soufflé, and the edges had a very slight crust from the flour, which was a pleasant contrast to the light fluffiness of the rest.

Soufflés are supposed to be pretty tricky, but I reckon mine came out well enough. Another example of why you shouldn't be daunted by recipes that have a reputation for being difficult - just give it a go, and decide for yourself!

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