Souffles

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THE SOUFFLÉ is perhaps the most famous creation ever to come out of the French kitchen. Light, airy, and delicately flavored, it is most often described in celestial terms. Restaurants rarely offer soufflĂ©s on their menus, but many will prepare one if ordered in advance.

I was taught that a soufflĂ© must be made and baked at the last possible moment, and that it can never wait for your guests but rather your guests must wait for it. Over the years I have learned and refined techniques that will allow you to prepare most soufflĂ©s in advance (see “Preparing SoufflĂ©s for the Oven Ahead of Time”), and to bake them without collars in 10 minutes or less. I cook soufflĂ©s in a very hot oven (475°F) so that the surface sets immediately in the high heat, as do the sides as they rise from the mold. The resulting light crust holds the soufflĂ© together as it rises and eliminates the need for the paper collar often used to give extra height and support. (A note of caution, however: This high-temperature method only works with molds no larger than 4 to 5 cups.)