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RECIPE: Classic Cheese Soufflé

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A cheese soufflé, golden, fragrant, cheesy and hot. Photo courtesy Comté USA.

 

Today is National Cheese Soufflé Day.

We spent most of our 20’s making soufflés, both sweet (chocolate, vanilla, fruit) and savory (cheese, fish, spinach). The frenzy with which we turned them out was, in retrospect, our own mash-up of Julie & Julia and Groundhog Day.

Modern soufflés were developed in France in the 18th century. The cheese soufflé, initially one course of a larger meal, evolved in modern times to a light main course, served with a green salad and a glass of rosé or white wine.

To make a cheese soufflé, grated cheese is mixed into a béchamel (a type of white sauce).

In the course of making cheese soufflés over and over again, we tried different cheeses, from Comté and Gruyère to Cheddar and Stilton. The cheese you prefer will depend on how mild or sharp you like your cheeses, but start with Comté or Gruyère, two French basics.

 
There are a few “givens”:

  • You need a straight-sided soufflé dish.
  • You need to butter the entire inside thoroughly so the soufflé will rise evenly instead of sticking.
  • After you butter the dish, coat the butter with grated Parmesan or bread crumbs; then turn the dish upside down and tap out the extra crumbs. It’s just like buttering and flouring a cake pan.
  • You can make an optional collar from parchment or foil, and tie it around the dish with kitchen twine. This enables the soufflé to rise up perfectly, but it isn’t essential unless you’re really aiming to impress picky gourmets.
  • Always place the rack in the center of the oven before preheating.
  •  
    The following recipe uses a 10-cup soufflé dish or six individual ramekins (individual soufflé dishes).
     
    RECIPE: CHEESE SOUFFLÉ

    Ingredients For 4 to 6 Side Servings Or 2 Mains

  • Grated Parmesan cheese and softened butter for soufflé dish
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter for the béchamel (white sauce)
  • 5 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1-1/4 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 ounces coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (1-1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons, packed)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 large egg whites
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PLACE the rack in the center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Generously butter one 10-cup soufflé dish or six 1-1/4-cup ramekins. Sprinkle the dish(es) with Parmesan cheese to coat and tap out the extra. If using ramekins, place all six on a rimmed baking sheet for easy removal from the oven.

    2. MELT the half stick of butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Cook without browning until the mixture begins to bubble, whisking constantly, about 1 minute.

    3. GRADUALLY WHISK in the milk, then the wine. Whisk constantly until the mixture is smooth, thick and beginning to boil, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

    4. BLEND the egg yolks, salt and pepper in small bowl. Add the yolk mixture all at once to the white sauce and whisk quickly to blend. Fold in the Gruyère and the Parmesan cheeses (the cheeses do not need to melt—they’ll melt in the oven).

    5. BEAT the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer, until stiff but not dry. Fold 1/4 of whites into the [lukewarm] cheese base to lighten. Fold in the remaining egg whites.

     

    sancerre_rose_Wine-thor-wiki-230ps

    Rosé is our favorite wine with a cheese soufflé. Photo by Thor | Wikimedia

     

    6. TRANSFER the soufflé mixture to the buttered dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Gruyère.

    7. PLACE the soufflé in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 375°F. Bake the soufflé until puffed, golden and gently set in center—about 40 minutes for the large soufflé or 25 minutes for the ramekins.

    8. REMOVE the baked soufflé with oven mitts to a heatproof platter (or individual plates for the ramekins), and serve immediately.

      




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