Soufflé literally means “puffed up,” in French, and is a culinary term for a light, frothy dish, just stiff enough to hold its shape, and which may be savory or sweet, hot or cold. The basic hot souffle is based on a roux–a cooked mixture of flour and butter–and then incorporates beaten egg whites. Food historians confirm this is a French invention in the late 18th century. Recipes for various kinds of sweet and savoury soufflés appear in Louis Ude’s The French Cook of 1813, a work which promises a “new method of giving good and extremely cheap fashionable suppers”.
The Flop: Contrary to popular opinion loud noises do not cause souffles to flop. The rise and (and the inevitable fall) of every soufflé is a direct result of temperature. Heat expands the air in the egg whites; coolness deflates it. For that reason you do have to eat your creation as soon as it comes out of the oven (within 5 or 10 minutes) or it will deflate as it cools.
Enjoyed by Royals for centuries, imagine how chefs were able to ensure the soufflé held its shape as footmen rushed upstairs to the dining room. Serve as a main course or appetizer in a more formal meal. The Queen enjoys her cheese soufflé by plunging a spoon down into the middle and pouring cream in the centre.