Making the Perfect Souffle

02.10.11

After last week’s post about making flourless chocolate cake, I’ve had a couple requests for a souffle how-to. So here is my list of tips for making the perfect souffle. I could also call this my list of everything I’ve ever done wrong to make a not-perfect souffle. Hopefully my mistakes are your gain.

Don’t be scared that there is a list. If your oven is the right temp (buy an inexpensive oven thermometer if you need to check) and you know what to look for as you go (read through my list once), you can pull off a beautiful souffle with dramatic height that will make everyone at your table think you are a culinary master. Doesn’t that sound worth it? I’ve included my killer chocolate souffle recipe at the end, and I promise, if you try it once or twice you’ll be ready to make it for anyone.

chocolate souffle a la mode

Timing
A good souffle is all about the drama. Make sure everyone is at the table, ready for presentation of the souffle right from the oven, while it is light and airy and heavenly.

You can prep your souffle in advance. As long as your kitchen is not too warm, the souffle can sit at room temp for up to half hour before you bake. You can also prep most souffles a day in advance and leave them in the fridge, just invert a bowl over the top. When you’re ready to bake, put it straight in the oven.

I’m told you can also freeze a souffle dish full of batter, and put the souffle straight from the freezer to the oven. How fun would it be to have a row of ramekin-size souffles in the freezer, waiting to be popped in the oven any day you need a pick me up?

Ingredient and Equipment Prep
No farm fresh eggs. Eggs that are too fresh will not hold air as well as those that have been around for a while.

Eggs need to be at room temperature. Take your eggs out of the fridge at least an hour and up to a day in advance. Eggs are easier to separate when cold, so separate them into bowls first, then cover with plastic wrap so the wrap touches the surface of the egg. Leave the bowls on the counter until you’re ready to cook.

I have a little secret. I almost always add an extra egg white. I’m telling you, I’m all about getting that dramatic height.

Once you’ve buttered your souffle dish and sprinkled it with flour, sugar, or crumbs, put the dish in the fridge while you make the batter.

The bowl you beat your whites in must be clean. The smallest streak of grease will ruin any chance your eggs had of whipping up properly. Use glass or metal, not plastic, which can hold onto grease.

You can add a collar to your souffle if you’re concerned about too much height and your souffle going lopsided, or if you want to fill past the brim. Take a piece of parchment paper long enough to wrap all the way around your dish, fold it in half lengthwise so it is stiffer, and tie it around the outside of the dish with bakers twine so it rises about two inches above the rim.

Mise en place. Make sure you have every ingredient measured and ready before you start. You need to work quickly from the moment you start beating those eggs. No time for digging through the drawer for a measuring spoon.

Making the souffle
Know your peaks. Soft peaks flop over from the base and are a little foamy (see pic below). Stiff peaks are glossy stand so only the tips fall over. But they still look moist, and will usually slip a little if you tilt the bowl. If your whites are dull instead of shiny, they’re overbeaten. Err on the side of under whipping. Over whipped whites are inflexible and cannot inflate as your souffle bakes.

To check for stiff peaks, I use the old fashioned trick of setting a new egg right on top of my whites as soon I think they’re stiff. If the whites can hold the weight of the egg, at it sinks no further than half the height of the egg, I stop whipping. If the egg sinks to the bottom, I whip another 30 seconds, rinse and dry my egg, and try again.

Be certain your base is cooled to room temp or close before you fold it into the egg whites. A base that is too warm will deflate egg whites.

Your base needs to be loose enough so it can easily fold into your whites. If it looks like putty, take a glance at your recipe and see what you can add to dilute it just enough to make it foldable.

Always fold a quarter of your whites into your base first to loosen it up, before you go folding in the rest of the whites.

Don’t over fold. It will deflate your whites. No need to fold until everything is perfectly combined. Streaks are okay. Just make sure there are not big lumps of base that have not been folded in.

I fill my souffle dishes to the brim or one inch below. Like I said, I like a nice, tall souffle.

To help your souffle to rise evenly, run your thumb along the outer edge of the dish, about a half inch deep or so, before you bake.

Baking
If you have a convection option on your oven, turn it off. Your souffle will start out looking great, but then will deflate after a few minutes.

I preheat my oven to 25 degrees higher than the suggested baking temperature. Then I drop to the suggested temp as I put the souffle in the oven. It helps the crust puff at the beginning and gives the batter on the inside something to climb.

Do not open the oven for the first 3/4 of baking time. And when you open to check for doneness after that, be quick about it.

Your soufflé is done when the top crust is golden and firm, but the souffle jiggles just a bit when you give it a gentle shake.

When in doubt, check with a knife or skewer. No use going to all that trouble and then serving a souffle that is half batter. Insert a skewer or knife into the center and make sure it comes out clean, with no wet batter clinging on.

You can make almost any souffle in individual ramekins instead of a larger dish. Just reduce baking time by about 8 minutes and be vigilant.

Serving
When you serve your souffle, make a big deal about it. Seriously. It’s a souffle. Serving it and eating it should feel important. Carry it carefully to the table, and use two spoons to break a slit open in the top. Watch as the steam escapes and your guests anticipate the first bite. If you have a sauce, pour it right in that slit. As you serve, dig down and give each serving a piece of the crisp crust and a piece of the creamy inside.

Troubleshooting
Once you’ve made your souffle, take a moment to think about what you might improve for next time. If your crust was too tough, your oven was probably too hot. If your souffle did not rise, your oven was probably not hot enough. Take a moment to jot down notes for next time.

eggs are easier to separate while they’re still cold from the fridge, but need to be at room temp before you begin
I like to fill my souffle dish to the brim. you can also add a collar and fill it even higher
this is a souffle I baked with a collar, I usually opt to go without, just because I like the rough, organic edges when the souffle rises without a collar
soft peaks will flop over at the top, these whites are just a little stiffer than I like mine for soft peaks
stiff peaks will be glossy and just the top of the peak will fall over, if your whites become flakey or dry looking, they are over whipped
I like to check my stiff peaks by gently setting an egg on top, if the whites support the weight of the egg, they are ready
My favorite way to fold is to gently plunge my spatula (use a large rubber/silicone spatula) into the middle of the batter, then come up scraping the side of the bowl and lifting the batter. Then I give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat until I’m satisfied. I always prefer to leave a few streaks rather than over fold

run your thumb along the outer edge of the dish, about a half inch deep or so, to allow the souffle to rise evenly

Chocolate Souffle
serves 6
24-26 min at 375 F
Here is the chocolate souffle recipe I’ve tweaked over the years. I’ve tried a lot of chocolate souffle recipes I didn’t love. This one I love. I like to use semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, 64% or higher, usually Scharffen Berger or Valrhona if I’m trying to impress anyone.

Equipment
Mixer and beating attachment
Clean rubber spatula
Souffle dish or ramekins (any oven safe dish with sides that go straight up)

Ingredients
7 large egg whites, room temperature
3 large egg yolks, room temperature
5 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp butter, room temperature, plus more for prepping souffle dish
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar, plus extra for prepping souffle dish

Method
1. At least an hour and up to a day before, remove eggs from fridge and separate (they separate easier while they’re still cold). Cover with plastic wrap that is touching the surface of the egg. Allow eggs to come to room temperature.
2. When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 400 F.
3. Prepare souffle dish or ramekins. Generously butter then sprinkle with sugar. Knock out excess. Place dishes in the fridge until you’re ready to fill them.
4. Beat yolks on medium until thick and pale yellow (I like to do this with my hand mixer in a small bowl. I just feel better using a different beater than I use for my whites, so I am sure I don’t have any yolk on the beater when I whip my whites. But just cleaning your beater and bowl well will work too.)
5. Melt your chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave (see more details than you will ever need about melting chocolate right here). I always melt in the microwave for simple baking. Dump chocolate into a microwavable bowl, preferably not glass because that conducts too much heat. Cook one minute on half power. Remove and stir. Continue cooking for 30 seconds at a time on half power, stirring between, until chocolate is melted. Stir until melted. Add butter and salt and stir until fully combined. If butter will not fully melt, it’s okay to put everything back in the microwave for 15 seconds longer (at half power again).
6. Fold yolks into chocolate until fully combined.
7. Are you ready to whip those whites? Make sure you have a perfectly clean, dry mixing bowl. Whip on medium-high until the whites form soft peaks.
8. Add the sugar half at a time, beating for a few seconds after each addition. Beat until whites are shiny and form stiff peaks. Do not over beat. If you over beat, your whites will become rigid and won’t be able to expand in the oven and rise to form the perfect, ethereal souffle.
9. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold about a quarter of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture until fully combined. Spoon the remaining whites on top and fold until mostly combined. Don’t over fold here. It’s okay to leave a few streaks.
10. Spoon the batter into the prepared souffle dish and smooth the top. I also run my thumb along the outer edge of the dish, about a half inch deep or so, to allow the souffle to rise evenly.
11. Reduce the oven temp to 375.
12. Bake until the crust is browned, but the middle jiggles slightly when you gently shake, about 24 to 26 minutes (about 16 minutes for individual-sized ramekins).
13. Serve immediately to your table full of admiring guests.

{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

jes February 10, 2011 at 7:16 pm

What a great tutorial! I’m going to attempt this recipe this weekend!

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AmberLee February 10, 2011 at 7:26 pm

thanks, Jes! Good luck. I’d love to hear how it goes!!

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Jenn February 10, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Thanks so much for such a great tutorial! I’ve never had nor made a souffle, but it is on a list I have of things I would like to attempt. I’ve bookmarked this page to come back to when I get around to making one. :)

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Hannah February 10, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Souffles are probably my favorite dessert. Yours is gorgeous!

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celeste February 10, 2011 at 10:49 pm

wow–thanks for these instructions. they are really thorough. maybe i’ll get brave!

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Hil February 11, 2011 at 12:11 am

Oh my, that is gorgeous! Thank you for posting such awesome instructions. I may get brave one of these days and give it a whirl. Yum.

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christi @ grey umbrella February 11, 2011 at 1:56 am

i never thought about wrapping the sides with parchment. genius! thank you for taking the time to write out these directions and notes. i’ll have to try this recipe soon.

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Lisa February 11, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Thank you – this is quite an exhaustive list of tips! Also, I took a class with David Lebovitz, and he mentioned that you can add a tiny bit of yeast to get height, particularly if you’ll be photographing the souffle. I’m not sure how it would affect the taste though…

- Lisa, Pocketful of Chocolate

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AmberLee February 12, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Thanks, Lisa! I had not idea about the yeast. That is totally worth the experiment. And how amazing to take a class from David. And yes, my list is sooooo long, I know. I tend to get that way in the kitchen, I’m one who likes to know everything before I start. It’s amazing I ever get around to the cooking : ).

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Raejean February 11, 2011 at 11:31 pm

This seems like a challenging recipe, but so worth it! I shared your link on my Favorite Feeds Friday.

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Kara February 14, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Thanks so much for the recipe, just in time for our Valentine’s Day dinner. I made this last night and it came out perfect. It was my first souffle so I really appreciate all the tips. Even though the instructions seem long it really wasn’t that difficult – it’s just takes a long time to explain! Thanks for being so particular in your details (I did use a collar).

http://www.flickr.com/photos/rubinfamily/5445401931/

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AmberLee February 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Kara! wow. it is beautiful. nice photo too.
Thanks so much for taking a sec to come back and let me know. I’m so happy it turned out!

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Sarah S February 15, 2011 at 11:37 pm

first visit and I just wanted to stop by and say HI!

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mer February 19, 2011 at 9:32 am

yum. will definitely have to give this a go!

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patsy June 24, 2011 at 11:31 am

One quick question–in your list of tips, you mention that you almost always add an additional egg white to help the souffle rise. Is that extra egg white already accounted for in the recipe you have below?

Thanks :) (trying this recipe out in the next few days)

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AmberLee June 24, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Hi Patsy,

Thanks for the great question. Yes! I did include the extra egg, so if you follow the recipe exactly you’ll be making it how I normally do. Good luck! I’d love to hear if it works out!

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Ninette August 19, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Great tips. I was making souffles tonight and the chocolate mixture was really tight, for better lack of a word. I don’t think the souffles will rise. I should have read your post first!

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Fieldzy August 24, 2011 at 7:28 pm

great tips buddy! and this is coming from a chef ;)

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Sharon August 28, 2011 at 7:17 am

Hi Amber,

Really a detail instruction of baking the souffle! At least benefited to all who are the first timer. I will definitely try out your recipe! Just a quick check with you, if I don’t have the souffle dish, can I exchange with an aluminium foil cup?

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AmberLee September 7, 2011 at 8:45 am

Hi Sharon,
I apologize I somehow missed your comment earlier! I do think an aluminum foil cups should work for the souffle. I can’t think of any reason they wouldn’t! I’d love to hear if you manage to get them to work out. I do think, because they are thinner, the cooking might be slightly different. I’ve also picked up several ramekins at my local thrift store, so keep your eyes open if that’s something that appeals to you!

Good luck!

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Gina December 25, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Thank you so much for the recipe and souffle primer. I followed your steps and made a wonderful, chocolatety souffle. My husband liked it more than the ones we’ve gotten in restaurants. A perfect ending for our Christmas dinner!

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jo December 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Dear AmberLee, can i use a cooking chocolate below 64%?

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AmberLee January 12, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Hi jo,
I apologize I’ve been so slow in responding to your comment! Yes, a cookign chocolate before 64% should be just find for a souffle, just sweeter! Best of luck!

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L December 29, 2011 at 11:06 am

Thanks very much for this – I need to make a souffle in advance, so am reassured by what you say. However, I’m in the UK and wonder if you can translate the sugar into grams for me? Also, I’ve never come across a souffle recipe that didn’t include flour before!

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Melanie March 4, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Hi,

I just used google to work it out. 5oz = 141.7… grams
Also 375 degrees F = 190 degrees C.

I hope that helps

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Nancy January 28, 2012 at 7:32 pm

What size was your one souffle dish that you used in this recipe? I have a 16oz. one that I’m hoping will work.

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AmberLee February 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Nancy,
I apologize that I somehow missed your comment! I hope I’m not too late, but my souffle dish looks like it is a 2 qt dish (i’ve also used 5 oz ramekins). You can always make the full recipe, then spoon it into your dish until it is as tall as you like, and spoon the rest into another dish for baking later (if it is not a souffle dish, it may not rise perfectly, but it will probably still be pretty delish!) I hope this helped?

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Lindsay February 15, 2012 at 6:56 am

Just wanted to let you know i made this for vday and it turned out pretty good. this is the second souffle recipe I have tried, And this did rise much better than my first try. I do however feel that it could be a little more chocolate-y or maybe sweeter. The other recipe I used called for a little more sugar and I live the taste. the consistency of this one however was spot on!

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susy February 18, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Thank you so much for the lesson how to bake a perfect souffle.

I bake cheese soufle, it rise so high in the oven but then diflates after I take it out.

I will try again with your method.

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Jaiden Cutts February 29, 2012 at 5:33 am

“Thanks for discussing, this is a fantastic article post.Much thanks again. Really Cool.”

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Martin Bengtson March 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Hi, im swedish and i’ve done a couple of souffle’s that came out perfect.
What makes me write here is your timing, i use celsius, but we use the exact same temperature – 190 C = 375Farenheit.

Though, i only have my souffles in for maximum 11-12 minutes. A good tip to check for is, if your souffles are deflating too fast after you take them out, they have been in for too long.

Mine can stay up for about 3-4 minutes when served.

I got my recipie from the man incharge of the Nobel desserts – the big nobel-prize-dinner. That is one of the worlds most appreciated dinners.

This is a raspberry / chocolate souffle. Ill give the recipie here.

6 whites
1 yoke
250g raspberries
1/4th of a vanilla hmm dont know the name but fresh vanilla and you scrape out the seeds.

put the raspberries to a boil, pass them through a hmm separator so you can get the cores out. take it of the heat, put the yoke in, if its too thick, add a little cream.

I also add a little cream and butter to my chocolate, makes it more tender.

Then put your chocolate in with the raspberries, put to a quick slow boil for about 10 seconds. then take of the heat. put it on the bench.

Now start your work with the whites, when done, fold this into the mixture.
Its no problem for me to add the whites to the batter, never failed of never had the whites colapsed. I always adds about 1/4th teaspoon of lemon-juice to the whites before whipping, this makes them much more stable.

Hope to have more nice discussions with you

Thanks for a good site

Best regards
Martin

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FoodMeOmaha March 18, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Great blog souffle with great tips and informative pictures! I am glad I found this on a google search. I have a love for souffle and referenced your site on my blog. Thanks for your blog!

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India March 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I have an assesment in 3days and i am cooking a chocolate souffle and wanted some tips, I will use that collar and hope for the best!

thax for the tips.
love india

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Aaron May 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I used a different recipe, but I looked at all of these tips. The recipe didn’t say anything about eggs or the base needing to be at room temperature, but I did it anyway and the souffle turned out AMAZING. When I wrote down the recipe later, I made sure to include all of these tips, as they were all very helpful. Thanks!

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Rebecca June 16, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Hi! I want to make a cheese souffle, but I don’t have the 4-cup souffle dish it calls for or the 1-quart casserole pan. I’ve got a springform pan, but it’s too big for the recipe. What else could I use for a souffle? I should probably just buy a good souffle dish, but what are some good substitutes? I heard about a mixing bowl, but I’m a little skeptical on that one since mixing bowls don’t have straight sides…

Thank you for all the tips; I hope I can make this chocolate one.

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Alana August 13, 2012 at 7:34 pm

These tips and your recipe were so helpful! Our souffle turned out perfect : D You rock! Thanks!

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Alyssa September 12, 2012 at 10:51 am

Hey there! Thank you so much for the recipe and the tips, it really helps more than you think! I succeeded in making one, thanks to you! Just one question though, what’s the inside suppose to be? Should the chocolate be melting or should it just be really really soft and sort of foamy?

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AmberLee September 12, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Hi Alyssa,
Thank you for the note! The inside should be more just soft and foamy. It sounds like you’ve already made one?

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Charlotte September 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Thanks for this recipe and your tips! I’ve made chocolate mousse and macarons before, and this seemed very similar and very doable. My friend and I had never made souffles before, and we made your recipe this afternoon in ramekins while following all of your tips. The souffles came out perfectly! We also added chocolate sauce (just melted dark chocolate and some butter), which I highly recommend. It does, however, make the souffle even richer. Thank you!

P.S. We used Trader Joe’s 72% dark chocolate bar, which I think worked really well.

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AmberLee September 17, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Charlotte,
oh yum. chocolate sauce. that is pure brilliance.

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Jenny September 21, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Hey, I read that if you add a single drop of vingar to your egg whites, it will help stop the souffle from colapsing. Is that true?

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Missy November 10, 2012 at 3:05 pm

What do you use for string to wrap the parchment paper cuffs? thanks!

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Erin December 27, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Help! I am making these soufflés for my restaurant for New Year’s Eve and I was just wondering if you knew if I could make the batter ahead of time and put them in their ramekins and either freeze them or hold them in the fridge before firing them to order. Please help me before I have unhappy customers with deflated soufflés.

Thanks a bunch!!

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Briana January 12, 2013 at 8:00 am

My husband and I tried this last night and it was amazing! It’s my favorite dessert now! Thank you for posting these tips! We loved it.

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Cheryl Anne March 18, 2013 at 5:58 am

I think this looks fantastic. Cant wait to make it.
Will send a report.

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AmberLee March 20, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Thanks, Cheryl! Can’t wait to hear!

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