There’s an old Buddhist saying that goes something like: “When two paths open up before you, make soufflé.”
There are two main paths to soufflé, and in accordance with the true version of that Buddhist proverb, we chose the difficult one.
My earliest knowledge of soufflé came from the Richie Rich comics I read as a kid. I seem to remember that Chef Pierre was always trying to whip one up, but it invariably fell flat after somehow getting tangled up in Richie’s antics. As a five-year-old I thought it was pronounced “soofle”.
About the two paths. At its simplest, a soufflé is a dessert combining a flavoured egg yolk base with beaten whites to produce a fluffy batter that rises impressively above the rim of the dish as it is baked.
The more complicated path we chose involves making a crème patisserie or “pastry cream” base. Abbreviated by chefs as “crème pat”, this is a multi-purpose filling for a variety of French pastries and desserts.
The fraught process of preparing the crème patisserie, then the soufflé itself, produces a dessert that is arguably more stable and contains double the amount of chef’s anxiety.
At least we had prior knowledge on our side. Two weekends earlier, Lenny had been off to Raymond Blanc’s restaurant Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxford for a cooking course. This was a Christmas surprise from me. They sent the voucher in a plain package, as promised, but Lenny mistook it for a book I had ordered from Amazon and opened it up.
Oh well, the surprise fell flat, but at least the soufflé rose to the occasion (don’t groan so hard, you’ll get a hernia).
We have to credit our mate Phil the philmmaker for the title of this episode, a high-brow cinematic reference to the 1960s New Wave film À bout de souffle.
Phil assured us that one or two of you at least would get it.