la reine de la pâtisserie chaude, ancienne et moderne Marie-Antoine Carême
Invented in France in the 18th century, soufflés (‘puffs of air’) were perfected by the great pasty chef Marie-Antoine Carême, who had the advantage of new ovens heated by air drafts instead of coal, which made it easier to maintain a constant temperature without opening the oven. Back then he made soufflés in hard pastry cases (not eaten), lined with buttered paper.
Carême worked for Tallyrand, Tsar Alexander I, the Prince Regent at Carlton House and Brighton Pavillion, a lastly for James Rothschild, the richest man in France. His Soufflé Rothschild originally contained fruit confit macerated in Danziger Goldwasser (vodka with edible golden flakes).
Savoury soufflés are rare in restaurants because of the preparation time, although some still offer dessert soufflés... often on the condition that you order it when ordering the rest of your meal. These are made with crème pâtissière and firmly whipped egg whites (des blancs montés en neige).
Soufflé au Grand Marnier and soufflé au chocolat are classics, but there are also fruity ones and other boozy ones, as well as frozen soufflés glacés for a light chilled dessert. A soufflé normand, containing apples and Calvados is less fluffy and more flan-like.
Image by Pierre-alain dorange