The soufflé – it’s one of those dishes that only a crazy person would attempt, right?
You’re there carrying your cheesy surprise into a room full of expectant guests when poof, sigh, it’s all over, your soufflé has sunk and died on you. But don’t lose hope! You can still be a soufflé whizzkid courtesy of a special class at top Knightsbridge restaurant, The Rib Room. The restaurant’s Executive Pastry Chef Stefan Will was born in the former East Germany and having cut his teeth at the Savoy and worked in Tokyo, he’s one mean soufflé stirrer.
As we sit in a horseshoe around him, Stefan tells us he’ll be making four different kinds of soufflé – a twice-baked cheese soufflé, pistachio, apple crumble and finally, chocolate soufflé. For each type he makes, he lines the ramekin by brushing on melted butter. As a general rule, you should avoid highly acidic flavours in a soufflé – this is because the acid breaks down the egg white and stops the soufflé puffing up. Before you combine your base with the egg whites, you need to make sure they’re whisked just right – soft peaks are essential here to keep us much air in the mixture as possible.
And once you have your batter, there are different ways to fill the ramekins with it – Stefan prefers to use a piping bag but a spoon works well too. He explains that the classical French way to finish it off is to run your finger around the edge of the ramekin to make the soufflé rise up in a uniform way – a bit like a chef’s hat. But there are other methods including the beautiful doming effect on the Rib Room Apple soufflé.
Importantly, Stefan dispels a few myths about this much-feared dish.
1. It’s fine to open the oven on a soufflé – just make sure you don’t leave it hanging open for hours.
2. You CAN whisk a soufflé
3. You CAN make a soufflé ahead. The cheese one can be made and then rebaked just before serving. And the apple crumble one can be left in the fridge for up to two hours before baking – handy for dinner parties!
Our mouths have been watering throughout the two-hour session but at last we get to taste the four beautiful puffy treats. From the creamy pistachio to the robust cheese and from the sweet tang of the apple in its huge ramekin to the final rich Manjari chocolate soufflé presented in an espresso cup, they’re all different but equally delicious. And true to his reputation, Stefan’s soufflés were light, airy, flavoursome and looked the part – no sagging, billowing or sinking here!
Having watched a master in action, we at Belle About Town have pretty much got over our fear. So, watch out – a soufflé could making its way to a dinner party near you very soon!
The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant are offer intimate soufflé masterclasses with the next one 27th February, and 27th March. The two-hour class costs £35.