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A soufflé is a light, fluffy baked dish made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a main dish or sweetened as a dessert. The word soufflé is the past participle of the French verb souffler which means "to blow up" or more loosely "puff up" - an apt description of what happens to this combination of custard and egg whites.

Every soufflé is made from 2 basic components; a flavoured sauce or purée base, and beaten egg whites. The base provides the flavor and some structural support, and the whites provide the "lift". Common varieties include cheese, chocolate, and lemon (the last two made as desserts, with a good deal of sugar).

Soufflé is considered a great delicacy. When it comes out of the oven, a soufflé is generally very large and fluffy, and will 'fall' after 20 or 30 minutes (as risen dough does). For best results, soufflé should be eaten quickly, while hot and before it falls.

Soufflé can be made in containers of all shapes and sizes, but the best are tall cylindrical containers which conduct heat well. It is traditional to make soufflé in "soufflé cups" or ramekins.

Since a soufflé has a delicate structure, making one requires cleanliness and precision. The bowl and beaters should be perfectly clean, and the egg whites should be at room temperature before beating. The whites should be beaten until they are smooth, shiny and hold a soft peak; if the whites appear grainy or clump together, another egg white can be added and the mixture should be beaten again. Always cook soufflés on the bottom rack of the oven or the resulting soufflé may have a leathery top crust.

RECIPE: The most commonly used recipe for soufflé is to use 1 quart of heavy cream per 11 eggs. after pouring the mixture into a heavy baking dish, sprinkle croûtons, shredded cheese, and salt and pepper into the mixture. bake in a 325F oven for one hour or until you can toothpick the center until dry.

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