Tuesday 29 March 2011

Recipe: Soufflé base (sweet)

Completely different from the usual method for soufflé base, this version comes from Gaston Le Notre ( the late, and very great), and is one of the 'basic' recipes to be found at the front of the wonderful pâtisserie book he published in the seventies. The flour-to-milk ratio is very much higher than I've  found anywhere else, and in fact the process is more akin to making choux pastry than to making a custard. The result is much more robust than a soufflé made using a creme patissiere base - although not noticeably denser in texture, to the palate of the unwary diner - and will make the journey from oven to table with much less risk of deflating en route. Casting around, I find that the identical approach was suggested by Madame Saint-Ange, when she was publishing recipes around the end of the 1920's...so Le Notre wasn't making it up!

The first time I tried this method, it was a disaster, and the soufflé came out with the density of a pudding. I was tempted to think the method was wrong, but decided that it was worth trying again, on the basis that Le Notre was a fantastic technician, and it made no sense that he would have been advocating a process that didn't work. The trick is at the 'boiling' stage (see below); if you cook the flour too much, it produces a dense cowpat of stodge that will resist any attempt to rise in the oven. When I tried it again, and was much more careful, the result was perfect ....as it has been every time subsequently.

For enough soufflé base for two individual sweet  soufflés: half a cup of milk, 30g Sugar, 22g Flour, 2 medium Eggs, 10g Butter.
1. In a bowl mix the Flour and Sugar with about 3 tbs of the Milk. 
2. In a saucepan, bring the remaining milk to the boil, add it to the Flour/Sugar/Milk mix and stir well, then return all to the saucepan.
3. Stirring vigourously with a whisk, bring the mixture to the boil, and cook until it visibly thiskens - probably about thirty seconds. Remove from the heat, stirring for a further ten seconds or so, then add to this the Butter; cover the pan with a lid, and leave for ten minutes.
4. After ten minutes whisk the melted Butter into the base, along with the 2 Egg yolks.
5. Add whatever flavouring ingredient you want to the base, and leave to one side until time to cook the soufflés; then whisk the egg whites and fold in as usual.
6. Cook the soufflés in a 180 degree C oven for fifteen minutes (no need to use a bain marie with this method)


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