Soufflé has a tricky reputation. I had never been brave enough to attempt one myself, but was prepared to give up a Friday evening to learn at a souffle masterclass in one of the seven kitchens of the Jumeirah Carlton Tower in Knightsbridge, London.
The class assembled in a quiet corner of a makeshift kitchen classroom in the Rib Room, where the chef firmly assured us that it’s not as hard as you would think to make a souffle, it’s just a matter of precision and timing. He then took us through the soufflés he was going to make: twice baked savoury soufflé, apple crumble soufflé, chocolate soufflé and pistachio soufflé.
He followed the recipes, which our small class were given on hand-outs to take home, precisely and we were invited to help out a little by evenly lining ramekins with butter to ensure an even rise. The shape of the ramekin means there’s no room for creativity, only round ramekins will ensure that the soufflé rises evenly. The chef also added that an even rise is encouraged by creating a ring around the filled ramekin with your thumb – something I would never have thought to do.
He also pointed out that the dish used to whisk the egg whites must be completely free of any grease. Grease will prevent the egg white from rising sufficiently, the most common mistake made in soufflé making. On standby was the executive chef who dished out tips on the best chocolate to use in soufflé making along with samples of his favourite chocolates to use in cooking.
After demonstrating how to make each of the soufflés and the different techniques involved (regular versus twice baked and with or without flour) we were able to test the final results served with a glass of champagne. It turns out that a twice baked soufflé is no more difficult than one baked only once, which I would never have imagined. You can bake the soufflé once in the morning and then again when you are ready to serve it, cutting prep time in the kitchen when you have guests over. The apple crumble soufflé was remarkably fresh and incredibly light and it will be featured on my next dinner party menu.
If you’re looking to get more hands on in your pursuit of the perfect soufflé then perhaps this isn’t the class for you. However, what you do gain from watching the chef is the confidence to go home and try it yourself, having seen that soufflés are actually quite straight forward. At £35 for a 90-minute class with fizz, it’s reasonably priced and provides a good a launching platform for a Friday night out.
The next Souffle Masterclass at the Rib Room is on Friday 25th April at 6pm and costs £35.