So this is not a Paula Peck original recipe. In fact, although souffles are French and much of her work with James Beard was based on French recipes, I haven’t been able to find record of her making a souffle. When I asked my father about this, he had no recollection of her making one at all. It’s possible that somewhere between the issues of making sure that a souffle rises and the fact that it collapses within minutes after coming out of the oven, she found them to be too high maintenance for her minimalist approach to baking.
The thought of making a souffle often terrifies people. Before I went to culinary school, I tried making one a couple of times and failed miserably. I remember my nervousness the day we tackled the unit on souffles. We had to make 3 basic souffles: chocolate, fruit based, and cheese. My fear, of course, was that my souffles wouldn’t rise. The techniques and recipes turned out so solid that not only did all three rise, I don’t recall anyone in the class struggling with that unit at all. Unless I’m changing a recipe or testing one, I can usually turn out a technically correct souffle without a problem by sticking with the following tips:
– Do not over beat egg whites.
– Do let egg whites stand very long (they will deflate).
– Use a souffle mold with straight sides.
– Coat the molds with butter but also either sugar, Parmesan, or bread crumbs. I believe this helps the souffle grip the sides and rise.
– Most souffles should be baked in an oven at 375 to 400 degrees (if heat is too low, the souffle will flatten and spill out of dish. If too high, center will be liquid and top will be crusty)
Since souffles are somewhat old fashioned, I wanted to make one with a modern twist. With the popularity of red velvet cake and my love of cream cheese frosting, I took on this what’s old is new challenge. The resulting decadent warm red velvet chocolate souffle with a touch of sweet fruity Grand Marnier and tart cream cheese icing sauce definitely fits the bill.