James Beard Award-winning Cookbook Author

Fresh Strawberry Souffle

Strawberry Souffle - Greg Patent: The Baking WizardA soufflé is pure drama.  And it’s one of the proudest achievements of any baker.  The oohs and ahs you’ll get alone will make your spirits soar.  Not to mention the joy of eating your creation. So please believe me when I tell you that soufflés are easy to make.  If you can whip egg whites you can make a soufflé, because soufflés are just puffed up with air beaten into egg whites that are then folded into a base, in this case a cooked strawberry purée. I took the picture above as soon as the soufflé came out of the oven and set it on my countertop.  No fancy staging.  Because I wanted you to see what it looked like the instant it was done.  See what I mean by drama?

This recipe makes 2 soufflés.  You’ll need two 1-cup soufflé molds.  Each measures 4 to 4 ½-inches across and a bit more than 2 inches deep.  To prepare them, smear the insides of the molds with softened butter going right to the rim and coat evenly with granulated sugar, knocking out excess.  The molds may be prepared hours ahead.

Tip No. 1. To whip properly, egg whites must be beaten in a grease-free bowl with grease-free beaters.  Use a glass or metal bowl but not plastic because plastic tends to hold onto grease as if its life depended on it.  Wash your bowl and beaters in hot soapy water, rinse well, and dry thoroughly.  You can beat whites by hand with a wire whisk or with an electric mixer using the whip attachment.

Tip No. 2. For the best volume, egg whites should be at room temperature.  But it’s easiest to separate whites from yolks when the eggs are cold.  So once you have your cold whites in a bowl, set the bowl into a pan with warm water and stir the whites gently to take the chill off.  Then they’re ready to be whipped.  Begin whipping on a medium speed until the whites are frothy.  Add a pinch of salt and for every 3 egg whites also add 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar, a white acid powder that stabilizes the whites by strengthening the protein bonds holding in all that trapped air you’re beating in.  When the whites form soft peaks, peaks that droop or curl at their trips, gradually add the sugar and continue beating at medium-high speed until the whites hold stiff peaks.  With a hand-held whisk, the whites will collect within the wires.

Tip No. 3. Folding in the whites.  This is the next key step, combining the whites with the soufflé base.  And your aim is to preserve as much as possible of the air you’ve beaten into the whites. You scrape your whites on top of the base with a rubber spatula, in this case the base is completely cooled cooked strawberries, cornstarch, and sugar.  When folding, the lighter ingredients, the whites, go on top.  Using the edge of a rubber spatula, cut down through the center of the whites and strawberries moving the spatula blade from one side of the bowl to the opposite side.  Turn the spatula sideways and with an upward flip bring some of the strawberry base over the whites.  Rotate the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the action.  Work rapidly—the faster you fold the more air is retained by the whites. Each time you complete a folding motion (cutting down through both the whites and strawberries with the edge of the spatula, turning the spatula and flipping up some of the base over the whites) more of the base gets combined with the whites.  In less than a minute the folding is done.

Prepare the soufflé base first and let it cool completely.  You can do this step hours or even a day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate but bring to room temperature before baking.

So, here we go.

Fresh Strawberry Soufflé

If you wish, accompany the soufflés with glasses of a sweet dessert wine such as Moscato, late harvest Riesling, or Sauternes.

Soufflé Base

6 ounces fresh strawberries, washed and stems removed
2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt

Egg Whites

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoons sugar

Prepare the soufflé molds.  Butter them right up to and including the rims and coat with granulated sugar.  Tap out excess sugar and set the molds aside.

For the soufflé base, pulse chop the berries, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a food processor until the berries are in very small pieces.  About 6 or 7 one-second pulses should do it.

Scrape the berries into a small heavy saucepan.  Cook, stirring constantly, over medium to medium-high heat until the berries are thick and bubbly.  Remove the pan from the heat and cool the berries completely.  This step may be done hours ahead.

When ready to bake, adjust an oven rack to the lower third position, set a heavy baking sheet on the rack, and preheat the oven to 400˚F.

In a clean bowl, with clean beaters, whip the egg whites on medium speed until the whites are frothy.  Add the salt and cream of tartar and continue beating until the whites form peaks that droop slightly at their tips when the beater is raised.  While beating on medium speed, add the 1 tablespoon sugar, beating on medium-high speed until the whites form stiff, unwavering peaks.

Transfer the cooled soufflé base into a medium-size bowl, scrape the whites on top, and fold the two together with a rubber spatula just until thoroughly combined.

Divide between the two molds, filling them to the top and spreading level with the spatula.

Grasp the edge of a mold with your thumb on the inside and extending about ½-inch into the soufflé batter. Rotate the mold a full circle.  Repeat with the second mold.  This movement releases the batter from the sides of the mold and facilitates the souffles’ rise.

Set the molds onto the baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the soufflés have puffed about 2 inches above the rims of the molds.

And there you have it.

Serve immediately.  Soufflés begin sinking soon after coming out of the oven.

Makes 2 servings.

I’d love to hear about your adventures in soufflé making.  Successes, failures, any questions you might have?

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