Rising to the Occasion

The secret of the souffle
Step 1:  Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer just until firm, stiff peaks form on the tip of the beaters when removed from the bowl. Don’t overbeat.
Step 2: Use a wide spatula to fold beaten egg whites into the soufflé base. Add beaten whites in four additions, allowing streaks of white to remain. Don’t overmix.
Step 3:  Pour mixture into a greased soufflé mold. Run a finger around the edge, between the rim and the batter, to create a trough. This helps the soufflé rise.
Step 4:  Check for doneness by inserting a thin knife or wooden skewer into the center of the soufflé. It should come out clean.
We’re not sure how the soufflé acquired its reputation as a fussy dessert diva. These simple, cloudlike dishes require nothing more than gently folding stiffly beaten egg whites into a thick, yolk-based sauce. The magic happens shortly after the pan is popped into the oven. Air bubbles in the egg whites get hot and expand, and, as they do, the batter rises and puffs up like a chef’s toque. Once you know how to get the maximum lift, you’ll be ready to take on soufflés from chocolate to cheese.  |!|
Classic Chocolate Souffle
 (Serves 4-6)

4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, divided use 
3 tablespoons granulated sugar for coating the dish
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided use
1 1/4 cups whole milk, warmed 
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped 
1/4 cup strong coffee 
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 large room-temperature eggs, separated 
Pinch of salt
Powdered sugar
Sweetened whipped cream  
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven.
2. Brush 1 tablespoon of the butter around the inside of an 8-cup soufflé mold and sprinkle in 3 tablespoons of sugar. Roll the sugar around to coat the sides and bottom evenly. Knock out the excess. Set aside.
3. Add the flour and 1/3 cup sugar to a medium saucepan. Beat the hot milk into the flour mixture with a whisk until incorporated. Heat the mixture over medium-high heat until it comes to a boil, about 4 minutes. Boil for 30 seconds. The mixture will be thick. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped chocolate, coffee and vanilla. Stir until the chocolate melts completely.
4. Whisk egg yolks into the warm base one at a time. Beat in the remaining 3 tablespoons butter. (The soufflé base can be made, up to this point, 8 hours in advance, and then kept covered and refrigerated. Bring back to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.)
5. In a clean metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites together with the salt until soft peaks form. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and continue to whip just until stiff. Using a wide spatula, fold the whites into the base.
6. Gently turn the soufflé mixture into the prepared mold. Smooth the top of the soufflé and run a finger around the outer edge to form a trough. The soufflé can be held for 1 hour on your kitchen counter under an inverted glass or metal bowl before baking.
7. Place the soufflé in the preheated oven and immediately turn down to 375 degrees F. Bake the soufflé for 40 to 45 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. Check for doneness. Remove the soufflé from the oven, dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately with sweetened whipped cream.
Carla Snyder is the co-author of “The Mixer Bible” and “The Big Book of Appetizers,” and owner of Kitchen Counter Points, a cooking school and corporate teambuilding company in Hudson.
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