Why do my souffles dome?
Can someone tell me why my souffles always rise in an uneven dome shape, when many restaurant souffles rise in a sharp-edged cylindrical shape with nice crisp edges? Is it a function of the recipe itself, or more to do with assembly and baking technique?
Also, I have to give a thumbs down on Mark Bittman's chocolate souffle recipe. It's a good souffle for a beginner (high rise, low chance of failure), but it's severely lacking in chocolate flavor. If you must make it, have some thick melted ganache ready on the side as a sauce. Also, he said 15-20 minute for individual (1.5-2 cup) souffle dishes, but mine took at least 40 minutes. At the 20 minute mark I popped one and it was completely liquid in the center. I took them out after 40 minutes because no one wanted to wait any longer, but I suspect they needed almost an hour in the oven.
Are you putting a collar around the souffle dish to help support it as it rises? I use parchment and form a collar about 4" higher than and dish and tie it into place with string. If it is a savory souffle I then butter the inside of the dish and the collar and either coat it with grated parmesan or crumbs to give the souffle something to hang onto as it rises. If it is a sweet souffle I coat with sugar. When it is baked and ready to serve remove the collar and dig in.
I don't think Mark Bittman's Chocolate Souffle is a good recipe. Hope I got the facts right: as I remembered, his chocolate souffle is based on a variation of his vanilla souffle by adding melted chocolate to it. A good chocolate souffle does not need any flour or starch becaue the chocolate provides enough structure. Also he does not have enough chocolate.
Another problem is that he bakes them in too low of a temperature and not on a cookie sheet. Higher temperature and on a cookie sheet will give your souffle a good lift and a crusting top. Small souffles should bake in under 15 minutes. Many prefer a souffle that is a bit runny in the center with the sides baked through. They like the texture and the soft center provides a sauce.
Looking at your photo, I think your collar is too high causing your souffles to trap steam. I generally do not use any collar but if you do, make sure your foil is smooth and go straight up. Parchment might be easier to work with.
When preparing the souffle molds, make sure you butter and sugar them completely including the collars. Any dry spot will keep your souffles from rising evenly.
I would find a chocolate souffle recipe without any flour or cornstarch and give it another try. Your souffle looks great, just not rusty. Nothing wrong with not having a flat top. If you need a good recipe, I can post one from Jacques Pepin.
Pace all the folks who love chocolate souffles, but real chocolate lovers tend to find chocolate flavor not as rich in that warm format. People who love dark chocolate tend to find the most satisfaction in room temperature chocolate. That's why I never recommend chocolate souffles (to make or order) for people who share my tastes in chocolate. I learned this from a friend, and it was a wise tip I've never forgotten.
I don't collar my souffles, and I find that they don't dome. I get a nice flat top with very vertical sides. You might want to try that approach.
And I'm with the group that doesn't find chocolate souffles especially satisfying. Too much air, not enough chocolate. But there's a raspberry souffle recipe on epicurious that I love.