Who doesn’t like Soufflés, those light, moist, airy as clouds cakes. Savoury or sweet, they’re bound to impress your guests at dinner parties… that is, if the soufflé doesn’t collapse before reaching the dining table, or worse, never rises. Capricious little things they are…
That is why when Patisse owner Michelle Guberina invited me to attend a soufflé class that guaranteed to teach a fail-proof recipe, I jumped at the chance, as my previous attempts have not always quite worked, plus I’d never tried to make sweet soufflés before.
French Pastry Chef Vincent Gadan has elevated soufflé-making to an art form. His famous Raspberry Soufflé had thousands of SBS viewers drooling when he appeared in Food Safari a few years ago, and the school still gets many phone calls inquiring about the now cult Raspberry Soufflé whenever the episode is replayed.
My fellow students and I arrived around 10:45am on a Saturday at the school in Chippendale and were greeted by school manager Bill Shirley. After enjoying a cup of coffee and little pear and frangipane treats, Vincent joined us and gave us the program of the day:
- prepare the crème pâtissière base for the Chocolate soufflés
- make the Three-cheese soufflés and eat them for lunch
- make the Mango soufflés and eat them for dessert
- finish making the Chocolate soufflés to take home
Vincent then led us to the kitchen with a suave: “Follow me ladies…” (Vincent is very gallic in that respect!)
Vincent likes to use his beloved Mauviel copper mini-saucepans, which are top quality and very cute, but unfortunately quite pricey at around $90 each (but you can find cheaper version of them without the handle). Regular ceramic ramequins also do a fine job, even if the soufflé edges don’t come out quite as razor-sharp as with the saucepan.
After preparing our base for the chocolate soufflé to use later (pictured further down), we started on our Three-cheese soufflés.
Vincent showed us how to do the bechamel, starting with a “beurre noisette”, obtained by letting the butter cook until it reached a beautiful golden brown colour. As soon as the butter stopped making bubbling noise, he added the flour and started making the roux. He poured the milk and whisked it to a smooth paste, then added the 3 cheeses (shredded parmesan, goats cheese and blue cheese) and an egg yolk.
A successful soufflé depends very much on perfect egg whites, for which Vincent gave us a professional chef tip: to use egg whites that have been left a few days in the fridge, as they froth up much better. Vincent then proceeded to whisk them by hand. (But he said it’s perfectly acceptable to use an electric egg-beater, phew…) When the egg whites reached the “ribbon” stage, he added 2 pinches of salt and continued whisking until it formed a “soft peak”.
He then added a bit of the meringue to the bechamel, whisked it, then added the meringue little by little and folded gently. The mixture was then poured into the carefully greased saucepan, that had also been lined with also greased baking paper so it could rise higher without falling on the sides.
We added cracked pepper and more parmesan on top for taste & decoration (but really, the possibilities are endless), and the saucepans were put in the oven for 18-20 minutes at 200c (he recommends 175c for home ovens).
The crucial moment arrived for the soufflés to be taken out of the oven… Were they going to collapse on us? Well I’d never seen soufflés that high, and I’m happy to report that once out of the oven, they remained pretty high for at least 4-5 more minutes. Couldn’t really check longer than that, because we’d eaten them by then.
We sat down and enjoyed our soufflé masterpieces with a glass of bubbly and a green salad. They were delicious, cheesy and fluffy. Vincent said that even the people who hate blue cheese love it in this soufflé and I concur.
Soufflés are also delicious served as desserts, and for our Mango Soufflés, Vincent uses frozen mango puree for professional use, but he says we could perfectly use pureed fresh mango, as long as it’s nice and ripe. He started by boiling the puree in a saucepan with a bit of corn flour and let it cool down on a plate.
The meringue was made the same way as previously, except caster sugar was added instead of salt.
Once all our soufflés were in the oven, Vincent brought his own mango soufflé to the table, with much fanfare! He prepared a mango coulis to pour inside the soufflé, which adds even more to its theatrical appeal.
We sat down again to eat our mango soufflé, which was served with vanilla ice-cream, the mango coulis and one of the pear & frangipane treats.
We couldn’t hear a sound at the table for the next 5-10 minutes… that sweet, fruity soufflé was truly delicious.
Soon after we were back to work, and thankfully we had already prepared the chocolate crème pâtissière earlier in the morning, as I was feeling quite full and lazy after our nice lunch. The base was made with Dutch cocoa powder, caster sugar and flour, to which boiled milk, then 70% couverture chocolate were added.
Time to whisk those egg whites again and my partner Ivy did a very good job of it, passing the nerve-racking “bowl-over-head” test with full colours!
The mixture was poured into the moulds that were previously buttered and lined up with a mixture of Dutch cocoa powder and caster sugar. Then, like the mango soufflés, they were placed in a “bain-marie” dish in the oven at 170c for 15-20 minutes.
Those were to be taken home, so Vincent unmoulded them and offered all kinds of chocolate buttons (dark, milk, white) for us to decorate our soufflés.
I took full advantage of those chocolate buttons!
My take-away soufflé was eaten the very same night, in a matter of seconds!
As a whole, it was a very entertaining class, very hands-on and Vincent gave us plenty of tips to make sure we could recreate the recipe at home. And also importantly, we had plenty to eat
Classes are $185 GST incl. and Patisse offers many different themes to choose from: Macarons, Art of Pastry (choux, brioche…), High Tea, Confectionary/Petits Fours etc. Check out their website to see when the next classes will be held.
Michelle and Vincent have also just released their first cookbook “Homemade Pâtisserie – Pastry Made Easy“. Vincent prides himself of the fact that all the ingredients used in the book can be easily found at regular supermarkets and that the recipes are very accessible to everyone, at every skill level.
Thank you Michelle, Vincent and Bill for having me, it was an awesome day!
The French Wench attended the soufflé class as a guest of Patisse Cooking School.