Cheese Soufflé

Souffle We were just about ready to walk out the door the other night, when my daughter’s vocal instructor phoned, begging for a “make good”, due to a sore throat.

We’d planned on stopping for a quick dinner, after lessons, at a favorite Vietnamese restaurant for Pho, a traditional bone-broth soup. Tempted to say, “No, we don’t mind germs”, I instead minded my manners, wishing her well.

Hanging up the phone, looking at my cold oven and stove, which usually had something tasty, bubbling or braising, I saw panic flash cross the faces of my children. “What’s for dinner, Mom?”, my son asked.

My daughter gently elbowed him, stage-whispering, “Don’t pester. She’ll do her usual Top Chef thing.” When she expresses such faith and confidence in me, I can move mountains!

Surveying the refrigerator, my eyes landed on a new smoked Spanish cheese I’d been saving for something “special”. Souffle’! My answer to ‘fast food’! Slicing off bites of the cheese, I popped them into my darlings’ mouths. “Oh, that’s very, very good cheese”, my 14-yo said, her eyes squinting as she analyzed its flavor. “There’s a….smoky component…a bit of a bacon-y edge. Let’s go with that.” Excellent! Game on!

The 9-yo is sometimes tougher to convince, especially when there is a change-in-plans, something which requires spontaneity, not one of his better skills. His typical Aspie response, after rolling the cheese around his mouth was, “Yep, that’s cheese”.

“But do you think you’ll like it”, I asked.

“Mom, how can you ask. You know I like whatever you make”. Well, if nothing else, all these years of explicitly teaching him proper responses, other than Autistic-tendencies toward stubbornness and rage, was finally bearing some fruit.

Most souffle’ recipes are rated “Difficult” or “Expert”. But they shouldn’t be intimidating because they’re nothing more than a a basic Béchamel, or pâte à choux.

My favorite souffle’ recipe is a simple, basic Alton Brown version. The way to make it your own, is through your cheese selection, and also having a care for your ingredients, usually only those that local farm-fresh.

Within an hour, from start to finish, we were enjoying every bite of our souffle’, my youngest informing me, “You should consider making this for every dinner.”

Souffle Close Up
Basic Soufflé Tips

The base of any good Soufflé is nothing more than a white sauce (bechamel) from butter, flour and milk, carefully whisking into the egg yolks, and then ever-so-gently folding the yolk mixture into the egg whites. This is the crucial step that makes or breaks the rise of the souffle’, so have a care to not overwork this step, or you’ll smash all the air out of the egg whites, and end up with a flat omelet.

Generously rub the bottom and sides of a souffle’ dish with room temperature butter. Then, “roll” finely grated (not chunky, not chopped, but finely grated) hard cheese around the Soufflé dish, where it will adhere to the buttery sides.

This creates a ladder which the soufflé batter “grips”, climbing up the sides of the dish.

Cheese SouffléAlton Brown

  • Butter, room temperature, for greasing the souffle
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/3 cups milk, hot
  • 4 large egg yolks (2 1/2 ounces by weight)
  • 6 ounces sharp Cheddar
  • 5 egg whites plus 1 tablespoon water (5 1/2 ounces by weight plus 1/2 ounce water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions

  1. Use room temperature butter to grease an 8-inch souffle mold.
  2. Add the grated Parmesan and roll around the mold to cover the sides.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap and place into the freezer for 5 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  5. In a small saucepan, heat the butter over low heat. Allow all of the water to cook out.
  6. In a separate bowl combine the flour, dry mustard, garlic powder, and kosher salt.
  7. Whisk this mixture into the melted butter. Cook for 2 minutes.
  8. Whisk in the hot milk and turn the heat to high. Once the mixture reaches a boil, remove from the heat.
  9. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks to a creamy consistency.
  10. Temper the yolks into the milk mixture, constantly whisking.
  11. Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Whisk until incorporated.
  12. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until glossy and firm. # Add 1/4 of the mixture to the base. Continue to add the whites by thirds, folding very gently.
  13. Pour the mixture into the prepared souffle dish.
  14. Fill the souffle to 1/2-inch from the top.
  15. Place on an aluminum pie pan. Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.