Cheese Soufflé

Soufflé makes people nervous and I'm not sure why. Start with a good béchamel sauce, which will open doors to everything from glorious mac and cheese to scalloped potatoes and more, and you're most of the way there. Use a bit of cream of tartar when whipping your eggs and you have a bit of insurance against a fast falling soufflé. But here's the thing: it will fall. This beauty isn't made to stand tall for long and that's one of the many reasons to enjoy it soon. Do we blame the day lily blooms for only lasting a day or enjoy their beauty while it's here?

Okay, now that we're past hating on soufflé for its nature, let's boil it down to the essentials: soufflé is just a mixture of heavy, fat-laden components (the aforementioned béchamel sauce, egg yolks, and grated cheese) that is lightened in texture with whipped egg whites. The result is all those glorious flavor elements we love presented with a light texture that we tend to associate with meringues and angel food cake. So take a deep breath, get all your ingredients together, read the recipe twice, and give it a go. Even if it doesn't turn out perfectly, it's delicious!

I love serving soufflé with a light salad and a glass of chilled white wine. That's it. That's all that it really wants anyway. Not so fussy after all, is it?

Cheese Soufflé

  • 3 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing the soufflé dish
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 ½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon grainy French mustard
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 5 large cold egg whites
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 ounces freshly grated aged cheddar

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Set the oven rack in the lowest position. Grease the interior of 48-ounce ramekin with softened butter. Add some grated Parmesan, rotating the ramekin all around so that the cheese sticks to every part of the buttered surface. Wipe the rim of the soufflé dish and transfer the prepared ramekin to the refrigerator until ready to use.

In a small saucepan, melt the 3 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat until just melted. Add the flour and whisk to form a paste. Continue to cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Whisking constantly, add the milk and cream in thin, steady streams, whisking to maintain a smooth texture.

Heat, stirring, until the sauce comes to simmer and begins to thicken slightly. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring and scraping the sides and bottom of pan, until the sauce is nicely thickened, about 3 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to a large heatproof mixing bowl and allow it to cool slightly.

Whisk the grainy French mustard into the slightly cooled béchamel sauce. Then, while whisking constantly, work in the egg yolks one at a time until thoroughly blended. Set the soufflé base aside.

Using a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar and beat until firm, glossy peaks form.

Add ⅓ of the beaten egg whites to the béchamel base and stir well until the egg whites are thoroughly combined and the soufflé base has a looser consistency. Mix in the aged cheddar cheese and then add the remaining beaten egg whites. Using a silicon spatula, gently fold them into the soufflé base just until well combined.

Remove the soufflé dish from the refrigerator and set it on rimmed baking sheet. Scrape the soufflé batter into prepared baking dish, filling it up to the inner ridge, not to the top (any excess can be used to make an absolutely delightfully fluffy omelet later). Gently smooth and level the surface of the soufflé batter.

Transfer the soufflé to the oven and bake until risen and very nicely browned on the top, about 35-40 minutes.

Immediately transfer the soufflé to the table and serve right away.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: About an hour

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