Four Steps to a Successful SouffléYou don't need a culinary degree or a five-star gourmet kitchen. You need to master just 2 basic skills: beating egg whites to the right stiffness, and folding them into a base batter. (The method is the same whether the soufflé is savory or sweet.) As the soufflé bakes, the heat causes the air bubbles in the egg whites to expand, making the whole thing rise. Once out of the oven, it will remain inflated for only a few proud minutes, so serve it quickly, while your guest can admire it.
1. Coat the ramekin. Butter the entire inner surface of the ramekin. Roll cocoa powder (or sugar or grated cheese) around in it to evenly coat the side and bottom. Invert and lightly tap the bottom to remove the excess. This will help the soufflé rise.
2. Beat the egg whites. Begin with egg whites containing absolutely no yolk and a bowl that is clean, with no trace of oil or grease. The bowl should be large. Once beaten, egg whites take up seven times their original volume. On high speed, beat the egg whites until they are stiff and shiny and hold their shape when pulled into peaks.
3. Fold in the egg whites. For the greatest puff, the beaten whites must be folded into the base batter as gently as possible. (Vigorous stirring deflates the whites.) Using a rubber spatula, first stir a quarter of the beaten whites into the base. Then fold the remaining beaten whites into the bowl: Cut down through the center to the bottom with the spatula. Using a scooping motion, lift the spatula from the bottom up one side of the bowl, bringing batter over the whites. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and bring the spatula down again through the center to the bottom. Repeat this motion 3 or 4 times, rotating the bowl each time, until almost no white streaks remain.
4. Fill the ramekin. Pour the soufflé batter into the prepared ramekin, leaving 1/2 inch below the rim. If the ramekin is too full, the batter will spill over as it rises; underfill and the soufflé will not rise sufficiently.