I was either watching or reading something recently when the idea of making souffle entered my head. I’ve heard it’s difficult, and I’ve heard it isn’t that hard. Still, I’ve never tried making one, so how am I to know if it’s hard or not? Anyways, I decided it was high time for me to try making one. And probably watch it fall spectacularly.
There are so many recipes out there, but, since I started ratio baking last year, using a recipe holds zero appeal to me. Now I find I prefer to read about whatever it is I want to bake on Wikipedia and then branching out from there depending on what I find. Like I’ve discovered brioche uses eggs and butter in certain amounts and the process is a bit particular. I’ve also discovered souffle has 2 parts: a base (creme patisserie, bechamel, fruit puree, etc.) and whipped egg whites. Since I wanted to start with dessert (of course), I decided to make creme patisserie.
Part 1: How to Make Creme Patisserie
A few months ago, I had some extra egg yolks lying around. I don’t know what happened to the whites, but I just had a bunch of yolks. I had just enough to make creme patisserie using a Duff Goldman recipe. It was delicious and I ended up making cream puffs. But that was months ago, and now I have no interest in recipes. So, I did some reading on creme patisserie.
It’s based on the custard ratio of 2:1 dairy to eggs, but is made a bit differently than custard. It also uses a thickener like flour or cornstarch, and only egg yolks.
I must admit I was a little scared about making creme patisserie without a recipe. I was taking a few chances, a few leaps, and hoping for the best.
I started off by cracking 3 eggs. No particular reason. I just like using 3 eggs when I make custard. It makes a decent amount, not a lot and not a little. So, I separated the yolks and the whites, got the measurement of the yolks, and then doubled that amount to determine how much milk to use. Now, you must use milk. It seems it only works with milk. Custard can use milk or cream, but creme patisserie is partial to milk.
I heated the milk without scalding it and added about 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar (a guess). I say about because, as I was slowly mixing the hot milk into my egg yolks, I didn’t realize all the milk wasn’t getting into the yolks, so lost some milk and sugar. Whoops. Well, I added a bit more warm milk, but didn’t add a bit more sugar. Hoping for the best, obviously.
And then I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off. I think my daughter liked watching me rush around, opening and closing cabinets and talking to myself like a crazy person. I had to set up a double boiler as I chose to heat the milk in the microwave. I had forgotten I still needed to heat the milk and egg mixture and thought I might be able to spare myself the trouble of setting up a double boiler. Note to self: don’t take shortcuts! Especially not for the first time I try making something without a recipe.
So, I got the mixture transferred, turned on the stove, and added 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. I honestly had no idea how much cornstarch to add. The recipes I looked at used 3, but it didn’t look like I had a whole lot of milk and egg, so I decided to try out 2 first, hoping I would be able to add more later if I needed to.
Now, if you’re trying this, and it starts to look lumpy (by the way, keep the heat low! You don’t want to turn the eggs into scrambled eggs), just keep whisking. It’ll smooth out. Once it’s nice and thick, remove it from the heat, add a bit of vanilla extract, and then place plastic wrap directly onto the creme patisserie to prevent a skin from forming.
Huh. Now that I’m writing it out, it sounds a lot easier than it seemed in the moment. Of course, I had a healthy bit of fear as I wasn’t exactly sure of what I was doing, but I tasted it and it was just fine. It could have used a bit more sugar, but I was making this so I could make a souffle for my husband and he doesn’t like it when I go too sweet.
And there you have it! The name creme patisserie used to strike a chord of fear in me. It just sounds so fancy and French, which, in my mind, usually means ten thousand steps to maybe, hopefully get something edible. But it was surprisingly easy, and so fast!
Part 2: Whip the Egg Whites
The second half of a souffle is whipped egg whites. The ratio is 2:1 creme patisserie to egg whites. It turns out those egg whites you separated out earlier is exactly the amount you need. I love it when things work out that way!
The instructions here are short and sweet: whip the egg whites until stiff.
You don’t want peaks that fold over, and you also don’t want to overwhip, so be vigilant. I’ve read that whipping by hand is the better method as you have more control over it, but I prefer to use my mixer as I have more familiarity with that, and it doesn’t make me feel like my arm is about to fall off.
Part 3: Assemble and Bake the Souffle
Now that you have your creme patisserie and whipped egg whites, gently fold the creme patisserie into the egg whites. Do this until it’s well blended. I found I still had creme patisserie left over, so it isn’t a perfect ratio that uses every bit.
Butter your ramekins or whatever vessel you’ve chosen and dust with granulated sugar. At least, I’ve read it helps the souffle climb and rise, but, since I’ve only made it once, I can’t say anything for sure.
Divide your souffle batter among the vessels you’re using and pop into an oven heated to 350 degrees for about a half hour. The best part is it’s totally okay to open the door a few times! I know because I did that. Well, I waited until the last five minutes so I could check for doneness and rise.
I’m very pleased to report it did not fall until a few minutes after I pulled them out of the oven (this is okay; it will happen). It was also a lot eggier than I expected, and I’m not a big fan of eggs, so, if you love that egg taste, definitely give souffle a shot. It’s not as scary as it might seem!