Vanilla soufflé

Vanilla soufflé

Leiths How to Cook
Peter Cassidy


Quantity Ingredient
10g unsalted butter, to grease
50g caster sugar, plus 1–2 tablespoons to coat the ramekins
300ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod
3 eggs
15g plain flour
15g cornflour
2-3 tablespoons icing sugar


  1. Heat the oven to 200ºC and put a baking tray in to heat. (The hot baking tray will provide ‘bottom heat’, giving the soufflés an immediate burst of heat from the base to encourage a quick and even rise.)
  2. Melt the butter and use to brush 4–6 ramekin dishes, then pour the 1–2 tablespoons caster sugar into the first ramekin. Tilt the ramekin to coat the bottom and sides evenly with the sugar, then pour the excess into the next ramekin. Repeat until all the ramekins are coated in sugar.
  3. To make the vanilla crème pâtissière, put the milk into a medium saucepan and bring to scalding point over a medium heat. Meanwhile, split the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Add the pod and the seeds to the milk to infuse. Separate the eggs, putting the whites into a large bowl and the yolks into a separate, medium bowl.
  4. When the milk has been scalded, take off the heat, skim off any skin that may have formed and remove the vanilla pod. Mix the egg yolks with all but 1 tablespoon of the 50 g caster sugar, add a splash of the milk, then both flours, and combine well to ensure there are no lumps. Add the remaining milk and stir. Rinse out the milk pan to remove the milk solids.
  5. Return the mixture to the rinsed out pan and place over a low to medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. It will go lumpy, but stir vigorously and it will become smooth. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and leave to cool slightly.
  6. Whisk the egg whites to medium-stiff peaks, then whisk in the remaining 1 tablespoon caster sugar, to stabilise. Take a large spoonful of the whites and fold it into the vanilla crème pâtissière, to loosen it, then gently fold in the remaining whites.
  7. Fill the prepared ramekins with the soufflé mixture and use a palette knife to level the tops, scraping away any excess mixture. Clean the outside of the ramekin if necessary and ‘top hat’ the soufflé by running the tip of a cutlery knife around the top inner rim of the ramekin, which will help to create an even rise.
  8. Place the ramekins on the hot baking sheet in the top third of the oven and bake for 8–12 minutes, until cooked but still uniformly wobbly when shaken.
  9. Remove the soufflés from the oven, sift the icing sugar over the tops through a fine sieve and serve immediately. There should be about 1 teaspoon undercooked soufflé mixture in the centre of each.

Baking a large soufflé

  • To make one large soufflé (to serve 4) instead of individual ones, cook in a 15 cm soufflé dish and increase the cooking time to 25–30 minutes.


  • Raspberry soufflé: Omit the vanilla pod and add 100 ml raspberry purée (from about 200 g frozen, defrosted and sieved raspberries) to the crème pâtissière. Taste and adjust the sweetness by adding a little more sugar, up to 1 tablespoon, then proceed as for the main recipe.

    Seville orange soufflé: Stir the finely grated zest of 1–2 Seville oranges and 3–4 tablespoons of their juice into the crème pâtissière and proceed as for the main recipe. Taste and adjust the sweetness with a little more caster sugar. If Seville oranges are not in season, stir in 2–3 tablespoons good quality Seville orange marmalade (ideally thin-cut) instead.

    Pistachio soufflé: Omit the vanilla pod, stir 2 tablespoons pistachio paste into the crème pâtissière, then proceed as for the main recipe.

    Caramel soufflé: Omit the vanilla pod and reduce the sugar to 25 g. Make a dry caramel using 100 g caster sugar. When the caramel is a deep golden colour, stir it quickly into the still warm crème pâtissière, then proceed as for the main recipe.

    Prune and Armagnac soufflé: Gently simmer 75 g prunes in 75 ml Armagnac and 75 ml water until soft and at least one-third of the liquid has evaporated. Leave to cool, then purée to a smooth paste. Proceed as for the main recipe, using a few drops of vanilla extract instead of the vanilla pod in the thickened crème pâtissière. Spoon 1 teaspoon of the prune purée into the prepared ramekins, then stir the remaining purée into the crème pâtissière and proceed as for the main recipe.

    Hazelnut nougatine soufflé: Omit the vanilla pod. Make ½ quantity of hazelnut nougatine and grind to a fine powder in a food processor. Use 2 tablespoons of this to coat the ramekins in place of the sugar. Stir the remaining nougatine into the crème pâtissière and proceed as for the main recipe.

A note on the crème pâtissière...

  • Try to avoid the crème pâtissière from cooling down completely before folding through the egg whites, or it will stiffen up too much. If this does happen, either warm the crème pâtissière over a low heat to soften it or pulse in a food processor until smooth, then transfer to a bowl and proceed as for the recipe.

A note on stabilising egg whites…

  • In many recipes where caster sugar is added to whisked egg whites, they can be ‘meringued’, or stabilised, by whisking a spoonful of the measured sugar into the egg whites once they have reached their desired peak. The mixture is then whisked until stiff again (about 30 seconds with an electric whisk) and will last much longer before it collapses. In this way, whisked egg whites for sweet soufflés can be stabilised and left for up to an hour before they are needed. This is very useful if you don’t want to leave everything to the last minute.

Alternative ramekin preparation

  • Take ¼ teaspoon softened unsalted butter and spread a very thin layer of it, about 1 mm thick, around the inner top rim of the ramekin, to a depth of about 1 cm. For a large soufflé dish, use about 1 teaspoon softened butter; this can give a cleaner rise, but you lose the sweet crust.
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