Soufflés have a bad reputation due to their notoriously fragile nature. Fearing collapse, those brave enough to attempt whipping up a soufflé have been known to avoid loud noises and even looking at this airy dessert the wrong way. But honestly, soufflés are not to be feared. In fact, soufflés are quite easy to make and as long as you are quick, organized, and cautious, these fluffy custards are impressive to serve and an excellent way to use up extra egg whites. An article in the New York Times dating back to 1908 even warns that the soufflé is "too useful a dish to be lightly condemned" and I whole-heartedly agree.
My soufflés were based on a gianduja pastry cream. In general, soufflés are made by adding whipped egg whites (a French meringue) to a base, typically a flavour-infused pastry cream or a roux. This is then baked in any straight-sided vessel, most commonly ramekins, and served immediately from the oven accompanied by a warm sauce Anglaise. One great tip that I learned from my mentor at pastry school was to brush the ramekins with clarified butter in upward vertical strokes to coat the sides, chill, then coat with sugar. This creates fine ridges which allow the baking soufflé to slide upwards. Also, after filling and leveling off the ramekin, run the tip of your thumb circumferentially along the rim (creating a small groove in the soufflé mix) in order to allow even rise of your soufflés (the above photo compares two soufflés, guess which one didn't get a good rim cleaning!). At this stage, the filled ramekins can even be frozen and baked off PRN.
Finally, soufflés should not be disturbed so once they are nestled in their water baths in the oven, the oven door must remain closed for the entire duration of baking. This is where experience helps and familiarity with your oven is key since neither poking nor peeking is permitted. Just make sure that your hungry guest is ready to eat when the soufflé is ready in order to avoid disappointment and deflation, respectively. In my case, I had to quickly drop my oven mitts, run with the soufflé to my sunny window, and grab the camera to capture maximum height before worrying about eating!