Food for Thought

All About Soufflé

A soufflé is a lightly baked egg-based dish that originated in France, early in the 18th century. This pastry made from egg yolks and beaten egg whites mixed with various other ingredients, could either be served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert. The word first appeared in English in Louis Ude’s The French Cook, 1813, and is actually the past participle of the French verb souffler meaning “to blow”, “to breathe”, “to inflate” or “to puff.”

It is believed that the the first recipe for soufflé appeared in Vincent La Chapelle’s Le Cuisinier Moderne (1742). Two key components which make up this dish are the French creme patisserie base or flavored cream sauce or purée, and egg whites beaten to a soft peak meringue. The soufflé acquires its flavor from the base, while the egg whites provide the lift to puff it up. Various food such as cheeses, jams, fruits or chocolates could be baked into its base.

Louis Ude’s The French Cook, 1813. Photo lifted from Pinterest.

A lot of soufflé bakers would usually puncture the top of a soufflé fresh out of the oven, then pour mouth-watering sauces onto it, like chocolate, vanilla, or for savory type, cheese and herbs.

Cheese soufflé.

The development and popularization of the soufflé is traced to French chef Marie-Antoine Carême in the early 19th century. Now, the delightful dessert has gained enough fame for  February 28th to be declared National Chocolate Souffle Day. The origin of this celebration remains unknown.

Due to its tendency to collapse almost immediately upon removal from the oven, the media frequently depicts soufflés in sitcoms, cartoons, children’s programs and movies as a source of humor.

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