You may remember that over the Summer I spent a wonderful evening learning how to make pasta, prepare an artichoke and joint a guinea fowl at The Underground Cookery School. On Tuesday night I was back at Underground, again making pasta (this time for pumpkin ravioli), learning how to bone a pheasant, but more importantly, being taught how to make the perfect soufflé. Believe it or not, this overly feared French culinary masterpiece is actually rather simple as long as you learn to get all the separate steps right.
So, while the basic technique is applicable for all different types of soufflé, here is how to make the simply light, delicious and divine pear soufflé we made and enjoyed earlier in the week.
The most important step to making the perfect soufflé is to prep your ramekin properly. Melt a little bit of butter and brush the inside of each ramekin, making sure you don't use too much butter, but there is not a single dry bit. Also paint over the top of the rims of the ramekin; everywhere it is not prepped properly, your soufflé won't rise. But if you use too much butter too much sugar will stick and might burn.
Add a spoonful of caster sugar to the inside of the buttered ramekin and shake it around so every scrap of buttered surface is coated, tapping out the excess. Make sure you don't scratch this sugar butter layer, as any part where it is not present will be where the soufflé does not rise. If you are making a savoury soufflé you can do this with flour, and maybe add in a little bit of cayenne pepper for some extra spice and interest?
Now to make your soufflé. First, the flavour. Essentially you are making a roasted fruit puree, you can spice it if you wish, then adding it to a rue (which for those of you not in the know is a mixture of flour and butter). It is honestly all very, very simple. To make two soufflés juice two pairs. I do this by whizzing pears cored and peeled up as small as I can get them in the food processor and pressing them through a very thin sieve. Stir in 25g caster sugar with the juice in a small pan over a medium heat (simmering, not boiling) until it has all dissolved. Add a tiny bit of water to 1/2 tsp cornflour to make a paste then stir this paste into the pear juice mixture. Add the juice of 1/4 of a lemon. Leave the mixture to simmer until a lot of the liquid has evaporated away and you are left with something that sort of has the consistency of wallpaper paste. Set aside to cool.
Now, onto the egg whites that will give your soufflé its lift. Separate two eggs and in an electric mixer or with a hand whisk whisk them until they form glossy ribbons. Be careful not to over whisk. To achieve this effect you will need to slowly and gradually add 25g more caster sugar to the eggs, along with a few drops of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of salt. You now need to add about half of the egg whites two generous tablespoons of the pear paste and fold in, being sure to do this very gently not to knock any of the air out by using a cutting motion down the middle of the bowl while gently folding the beaten egg whites over in the pear paste (as I used to do and was told off for!) Add the rest of the egg whites and fold in too. Doing them in two batches like this helps prevent air being lost - this is a soufflé after all!
Preheat your oven to 160 degrees. Carefully fill your ramekins until just under the rim, about the amount shown in the photo above. And again, be sure not to scratch your butter and sugar layer. Level the top of each soufflé out with a clean finger and, you've guessed it, be careful not to scratch the butter sugar layer! Bake for 8 minutes until risen and golden. Dust with icing sugar and serve straight away before they fall.
I hope some of you try your hand at making your own soufflés at home, because it is really not as difficult or scary as you think they might be to make, and the sheer satisfaction when you take it out the oven with what you have created can not be beaten, in my opinion. I'd love to hear how you all get on, or if you've already tried your had at a soufflé before.