Souffle for beginners – my baking experience

Since starting Eilish’s Edibles I decided I needed to improve some of my technical skills required for baking. Although I have always baked frequently and consider myself pretty good, the recipes I use can be really simple like brownies, cookies and cupcakes. It’s unusual for me to step out of my comfort zone and try something really tricky, yet this is exactly what’s needed to improve these skills to start with.

SO, feeling pretty confident and probably still a little tipsy from my cocktails the night before, I decided to try my hand at lemon soufflé. Now, some of you may disagree but when I think of a soufflé I imagine a collapsing disaster and a ruined dinner party. They are SO difficult to master and take a lot of patience and precision, skills that some may say I lack… but, despite this, I took myself off to Sainsburys to hunt down my ingredients and soufflé ramekins!

Well, the first issue I had to conquer was the ramekins. My recipe didn’t specify the size and I didn’t particularly feel like trekking all the way out to Dunelm or Hobby Craft, so I prayed the supermarket would sell something in the realms of useable. Luckily, it sort of did! I found two 10.5 cm white ramekin pots, they looked far to large but I thought just for me and Robbie they would/could do the job. I grabbed them and decided to think while I continued my shopping. I grabbed my flours, lemons and cream and then stood to the side and frantically googled normal soufflé ramekin sizes, all the pots online were significantly smaller but I decided to bite the bullet and give them a try, at £2 a pop I couldn’t refuse!

I decided I would wait to make my soufflés until after dinner, I didn’t want to mess them up and I worried prepping and leaving them would result in a disaster. So I spent the majority of my day giving the house a good clean and then had a bank holiday relax re-watching gossip girl while having a slight anxiety attack that this would be terrible and I’d have to write a very, very sad post about how it went wrong and they collapsed in to a very depressing heap. luckily though the clock soon struck 6pm and I started dinner, polished that off and then set my timer for the soufflés.

I didn’t mention this before but I decided I wanted to do this in a time trial setting, try and complete them in exactly one hour and in time for the Great British Bake Off. I’m normally a pretty slow baker and can spend hours on one dish which is really time consuming and can sometimes take the joy out of my hobby as when I’m finished, I have to go straight to bed and get ready for work the next day. The recipe I followed said it should take about an hour, I thought that was a fair challenge as usually recipes always under estimate the time needed.

I started by grating the zest off of my lemons and squeezing the juice in to a separate bowl, I then greased my ramekins with a little butter and sprinkled some sugar around the sides and bottom. I then separated the eggs and added four egg whites to one bowl and then two yolks in to another. So far everything seemed pretty simple. I added 6 tablespoons of caster sugar to the egg yolks and then combined the cream, flour and corn flour in to another bowl and whisked to make a thick paste. Now, i’m just going to step in and say this recipe creates an INSANE amount of washing up, so far I’ve already used 3 bowls, a chopping board, a wooden spoon, a whisk and a grater and it’s about to get worse. Luckily I do have a Robbie to do my washing up, the usual deal is I cook, he eats and washes up, simple!

I grabbed a saucepan (another thing to wash up) and heated the milk to boiling point, I mixed this in to my flour paste slowly and then added it back to the heat and whisked until thickened. I added the lemon zest, juice and sugar yolks and whisked until it was a custard consistency. This was a nightmare. It was lumpy and didn’t combine, I used a wooden spoon to start with as it reached the edges but this didn’t do the job so I grabbed my balloon whisk and ferociously stirred the mixture until it was smoother. The next step was to put the mixture to the side to completely cool to below body temperature. I had a little side eye towards the clock, I had been beating and whisking and heating for 40 minutes! There was no way this was going to cool and cook in 20 minutes but I threw caution to the wind and decided to attempt anyway.

Egg white time. My favourite part of baking has always been whisking egg whites, it’s so satisfying to see a gooey substance become so light and fluffy like clouds. I whisked away until soft peaks formed and then began to add my custard mix folding carefully to avoid letting the air escape. My tip when adding to egg whites is to be super gentle, it doesn’t matter if it takes a little while, just make sure you’re not being heavy handed. Once this was all combined I poured the mixture in to my ramekins. This was when I realised they were rather large. This recipe should have made 4 medium sized pots, my mixture filled one completely and the other just about – whoops. More for me I guess? I popped them in the oven and set it for 13 minutes.

13 minutes later and it was time to check my soufflés! Now the recipe strictly advises to assess the souffles through the oven door and in no circumstance open it. Well… I made a teeny, tiny mistake. I set the baking tray so high in the oven I couldn’t see them. I considered my options and decided I had to look. I carefully opened the oven no more than an inch, peered in, then quickly shut it. They weren’t done. I proceeded to do this around 5 times adding 3 minutes to the clock each time. My cooking time in the end was 28 minutes. Granted, I should have expected this when I used gigantic ramekins but oh well. To reassure you all, I don’t think opening the oven actually did any harm as they came out perfectly! Light, fluffy with a beautiful, sweet lemon flavour. Perfect.

We enjoyed them with large glasses of wine and the Great British Bake Off. And yes, we watched it 40 minutes later on catch up. You win some, you lose some!

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