Soufflés are truly the perfect low carb pudding! Light, airy & indulgent; few things can be more delicious or quick to prepare. The texture is melt in the mouth, like eating ‘a cloud’; and when you break the surface with a spoon, the most delicious scented ‘sigh’ emerges, resplendent with delicate aromatic vanilla. It’s definitely one of those ‘me moments‘, which we all need more of in life!
People are often afraid of soufflés, believing them to be difficult or high risk! Well that belief couldn’t be further from the truth. If you’ll excuse the pun: they’re a piece of cake! All you have to do is understand the process, then you’re off and away!
When you cook an egg it turns from liquid to solid. You see this when you fry an egg, scramble it, poach it &tc. It’s the protein which solidifies in heat; and a soufflé is no different from this. The act of a soufflé rising is the same as a standard cake. Hot air rises, which lifts the mixture upwards. Then, once the right temperature is reached, the heat solidifies the egg-proteins and the air-bubbles are ‘locked’ in place. Meringue has the same process – the proteins form a hard, crystalline structure which supports and holds up the rest of the mixture – quite simple, and quite marvellous!
If the egg-whites hold something up, what is it they’re holding? The answer to this is your soufflé mix, which carries the flavour of whatever you’re cooking. In this recipe I’ve chosen classic Madagascan vanilla, as I find the soft, perfumed aroma perfectly suits the light, cloud-like texture of the soufflé itself. You can use any number of things however – lemon, orange, chocolate, coffee; you can also make savoury soufflés (watch this space…!) with ham, cheese, garlic &tc. The process is the same for all. Whatever your ‘flavour-bearing mix’ is made of, you need to ensure that it’s the texture & consistency of melted chocolate. It’s that easy. Follow this rule of thumb and you’ll have perfect soufflés every time!
Before I jump the gun and detail the recipe in full, it’s worth noting that these are wonderful for a ketogenic diet, as they contain virtually no carbohydrate! This makes them ideal for diabetics or those who do not include gluten in their regime. I use almonds in this recipe, but you don’t even need those. You can make soufflés with no ‘solids’ at all; just the basic ingredients. This means they’re cheap, versatile and incredibly quick! Now do you see why I love them?
Start by preparing your soufflé dishes. Butter these liberally with a piece of greaseproof-paper. Your soufflés will rise better if you give them something to climb up, other than just butter. What do I mean? They’ll climb the walls of the dish a lot more reliably if they get a handhold – sprinkle some ground almonds or sweetener around the ramekin, all over the butter. This gives them a ‘rough surface’ to grip to as they rise. I must confess in this recipe however, I did these with just butter. I wanted to demonstrate that you can still get great results if you simply follow the principals of the exercise, without insisting on rigid doctrine & process to the letter! My aim is to demonstrate flexibility, not a sequence of off-putting rules! They’ve therefore risen higher on the side with the greatest heat – you’ll find that the rising will be more uniform if you treat them a little better than I did, and give them a ‘trellis’ to climb up!
Once your dishes are ready, you can start your egg-whites. In a clean mixing-bowl (I use a copper bowl as this stabilises the whites far better than anything else); separate 4 eggs, placing the yolks in a smaller bowl to form your mix. When it comes to separating eggs, I must admit to ‘not being flashy’. I simply crack them on the side of the bowl and strain the white through my fingers. Once your eggs are separated, whisk the whites until they form stiff peaks. Volume should be minimum 8 times what you started with, and you should be able to upturn the bowl over your head and the mixture stays in situ (if it doesn’t then you have only yourself to blame!). The whisking forms valuable aerobic exercise for the cook. I strongly recommend that you do it by hand and don’t cheat by using an electric whisk! This way, you get to ‘understand’ the ingredients more, and get a true feel of how things work. As you will however – no-one’ll ever know if you cheat!
Into the bowl with the egg-yolks, pour in a half-teaspoonful of good vanilla-essence or powdered vanilla-seeds. If using essence, make sure to check the label to see that it contains no sugar. Add a tablespoon or so of ground-almonds & half a cupful of sweetener, then whisk well. I always use xylitol in baking. In my experience, it’s the only sweetener which retains its sweetness once cooked; and its granular texture means that it behaves exactly like sugar in recipes. Now bear in mind my rule of thumb above. You want this mix to be the consistency of melted chocolate. To achieve this, mix in double-cream until you have the right texture. You shouldn’t need much; three of four tablespoons maximum.
Now scrape some of your egg-whites to the side of their bowl and add your soufflé-mix. This will need to be folded into the whites with a good metal spoon. If you simply mix this in, you’ll knock out all the air. Folding is exactly as it sounds – you turn the mixture over on top of itself, so that gravity does the work, not your spoon! At no point should you be cutting through the middle of the mix, you just want to continue lifting and turning until the two are incorporated. It should be a pleasing, yellow, moussey texture, with traces of white still visible and air bubbles prevalent throughout.
Ladle the mix into your prepared ramekins until they are a few millimetres shy of the top. Place these onto a tray and into hot oven they go for circa ten minutes. If your oven has a glass-front, you can have the joy of watching them rise. I’m fortunate enough to have an aga, which means I can open the door and peek in with no danger of the temperature falling.
You know they’re ready when well risen over the surface of the ramekin. The top should be lightly firm to the touch and evenly coloured. I always like to have a slight crispness on top, to contrast with the smooth inner, but that’s up to you. Experiment with your results – you’ll soon find out how you like them best.
Serve up straight from the oven. They’ll sink down within a couple of minutes (trying to photograph them before this happened was not easy and they were a little more magnificent than this when first out of the oven). A drizzle of cream on the serving plate will add a little richness, or whip more vanilla into double cream and serve up a dollop on the side. Either way – pure heaven in a pot!
Browse this and other recipes by picture on my pinterest page: country walks in ketosis pinterest.
Thanks for reading and bon ap!