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