A cheese soufflé is a knockout way to begin a dinner party, but they can be a bit tricky to get right. Follow Raymond Blanc's top tips for achieving the perfect soufflé and you'll rise to the challenge and serve up a classic French starter. Bon appétit!
Photograph: Jonathan Gregson
Get the basics right
- Follow the recipe to the letter – soufflés, as with most baking, are an exact science.
- Make sure your base mixture is the right consistency, as it provides the structure for your soufflé. It needs to be not too wet or too dry.
The eggs factor
- The lightness of your soufflé comes from the eggs. First, make sure your base is still warm, then whisk in one-third of the stiff egg whites to loosen it. Once you've done this, fold in the rest – ensuring you don't over-fold at this stage. It's OK if there are a few white blobs.
- Don't over-whisk the egg whites or you will knock out the air bubbles, making your soufflé heavy and dense.
- Add a tiny squeeze of lemon juice to the egg whites to stop them separating as you whisk.
Help your soufflé rise
- To get a good rise on your soufflé, lightly butter the inside of your dish and coat in a thin layer of fine breadcrumbs or grated parmesan.
- For small soufflés, fill the ramekins to the top. For large ones, fill only three-quarters of the way up.
Prep for the oven
- Run the tip of a round-bladed knife around the edge to prevent the soufflé from sticking.
- Put your soufflé dishes on a preheated baking tray so your soufflé won't have a soggy bottom.
- Bake them on the middle shelf of the oven to stop the top from burning.
Still a bit soufflé-shy?
- If you're making your soufflé debut for guests, why not try a twice-baked soufflé - this way you can prep them ahead, then re-bake them to serve.
• This piece first appeared on the Sainsbury's magazine blog, Tried and Tasted