|Place of origin||France|
|Main ingredients||Egg yolks, egg whites|
A soufflé is a baked egg-based dish which originated in early eighteenth century France. It is made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert. The word soufflé is the past participle of the French verb souffler which means "to breathe" or "to puff".
The earliest mention of the soufflé is attributed to French master cook Vincent de la Chapelle, in the early eighteenth century. The development and popularization of the soufflé is usually traced to French chef Marie-Antoine Carême in the early nineteenth century.
Ingredients and preparation
Soufflés are typically prepared from two basic components:
- a flavored crème pâtissière, cream sauce or béchamel, or a purée as the base
- egg whites beaten to a soft peak
The base provides the flavor and the egg whites provide the "lift", or puffiness to the dish. Foods commonly used to flavor the base include herbs, cheese and vegetables for savory soufflés and jam, fruits, berries, chocolate, banana and lemon for dessert soufflés.
Soufflés are generally baked in individual ramekins of a few ounces or soufflé dishes of a few liters: these are typically glazed, flat-bottomed, round porcelain containers with unglazed bottoms, vertical or nearly vertical sides, and fluted exterior borders. The ramekin, or other baking vessel, may be coated with a thin film of butter to prevent the soufflé from sticking. Some preparations also include adding a coating of sugar, bread crumbs, or a grated hard cheese such as parmesan inside the ramekin in addition to the butter; some cooks believe this allows the soufflé to rise more easily.
After being cooked, a soufflé is puffed up and fluffy, and it will generally fall after 5 or 10 minutes (as risen dough does). It may be served with a sauce atop the soufflé, such as a sweet dessert sauce, or with a sorbet or ice-cream on the side. When served, the top of a soufflé may be punctured with serving utensils to separate it into individual servings. This can also enable a sauce to integrate into the dish.
There are a number of both savory and sweet soufflé flavor variations. Savory soufflés often include cheese, and vegetables such as spinach, carrot and herbs, and may sometimes incorporate poultry, bacon, ham, or seafood for a more substantial dish. Sweet soufflés may be based on a chocolate or fruit sauce (lemon or raspberry, for example), and are often served with a dusting of powdered sugar. Frugal recipes sometimes emphasize the possibilities for making soufflés from leftovers.
In popular culture
Soufflés are occasionally depicted in cartoons, comedies and children's programs as a source of humor. Often this involves a loud noise or poke causing the soufflé to collapse, usually to the embarrassment and dismay of the character who prepared the soufflé or the dejection of the character being served the anticipated dessert.
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