Put something light and fluffy on the table. (And I don’t mean the cat!) It’s much easier to make a cheese soufflé rising three inches out of the dish and a delicate golden brown on top, than it looks.
As I wrote in my 1974 cookbook: “The mystique surrounding the classic French soufflé au fromage is enough to deter the most daring beginner. But do not be deterred. It’s easier than it looks. And when you make it you will be acclaimed a hero.” Well, those were gushing times and soufflé seems to have gone out of fashion in our rushed society. But in fact, this is a very satisfying dish and a lovely light meal with a simple salad on the side.
In How To Eat Well and Stay Single, I went on: “A word of warning though. Occasionally, something will conspire against you (perhaps the wrong oven temperature or less than fresh eggs) and your soufflé won’t rise much, so for this reason don’t ballyhoo about your prowess in advance. Let the success speak for itself, and put the semi-failures down to experience.” Still true today.
Two things got me thinking about soufflé. The first was when we were dinner guests with new friends recently and they bravely served individual soufflés as an appetiser, and second when I was reviewing my promise to finish uploading all the recipes in my original cookbook to Gentleman’s Portion. I’m being a laggard in the latter effort, as so many new and exciting recipes pop up, but with this story, I’ve knocked yet one more off the list.
I can’t steal Steve and Anne’s appetizer trick, but I have another suggestion. If you are feeling more adventurous, try a chocolate soufflé as a dessert. While this works well in a large soufflé dish, it makes for an even better presentation in individual dishes. Large ramekins should do the trick.
by Nigel Napier-Andrews, “How to Eat Well and Stay Single” © 1974
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
- 4 large fresh eggs, room temperature
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 3/4 cup grated cheese (such as strong cheddar)
- 1 tbsp white flour
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to a moderate 350°F/175°C and put plates in warmer drawer. You must have hot plates when serving a soufflé or it will go soggy before it can all be eaten. TIP: wet the plates and put them in the microwave for a minute or so on high.
- Separate eggs, with yolks in one mixing bowl and whites in another.
- Make 1 1/2 cups of cheese sauce by the ROUX method.
- Beat the egg whites until they are quite stiff. TIP: A copper mixing bowl is said to improve the stiffness of the whites, but stainless seems to work just as well if you use a lot of elbow grease.
- Let the roux sauce cool and then tip it into the egg yolks and stir together thoroughly. Add 1 tsp salt and mix in. Now take a spoonful of egg whites and add to the sauce and yolk mixture. Gently stir in to lighten the sauce so that it doesn’t crush all the air out of the whites.
- Pour the now lightened sauce into the egg whites and very gently mix together. You may find there is too much sauce for the whites to hold. In this case don’t add it all since it won’t harm the finished product if left out, but may prevent it from rising properly if added. (If you are not using a dish with non-stick lining, lightly grease it with Pam cooking oil spray or butter beforehand.) Ladle the sauce mixture into a 8 inch soufflé dish with a wooden spoon to just below the top, and then run the spoon around the inside of the dish to make a sort of furrow about an inch deep.
- Place the dish immediately into the centre of the oven preheated to 350°F/175°C. Cook for 25 min without opening the oven door and don’t make too much noise. I’m not sure if a slammed door would make a soufflé sink, but that’s what they say and I’m not going to wreck a perfectly good soufflé finding out!
- Take the dish to the table and serve immediately onto hot plates. Any delay and it will begin to subside.
Since the timing of a soufflé is so crucial, it would be asking for trouble to serve anything that needed cooking along with it, in case it wasn’t ready at the same time. I suggest you serve it just as it is so nothing fights with the delicate flavour and serve a fresh green salad afterwards in the French manner. You can also serve cheese soufflé as an appetiser course.
A well-chilled very dry white wine.
by Nigel Napier-Andrews
- 1/3 cup sugar, plus more for the ramekin
- 5 oz (about 140g) bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped up
- 6 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/3 cup whipping cream
- Dab of butter to grease the ramekin
- Pinch of salt
- Wipe each of four individual deep ramekins with a dab of butter, sprinkle with sugar and shake out any that doesn’t stick. (Vegetable oil spray is an alternative to butter.) Then put the ramekins in the fridge to thoroughly cool. Make sure the eggs and whipping cream are at room temperature. Chop up the chocolate. Separate the yolks from the whites and put three egg yolks aside for another recipe.
- Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/375°F and bring a saucepan of water to the simmer.
- In a metal bowl held over the simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring frequently. Add the sugar. Take the bowl off the heat and when the chocolate has cooled a little, stir in the egg yolks until well mixed. Stir in the cream and set aside.
- In another large bowl, add a pinch of salt to the egg whites, then beat briskly until they are stiff. Stir about a cup of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten the mix, then add that mixture back into the remaining egg whites, folding in gently until well mixed.
- Put the mixture equally into the cooled, greased ramekins. Scrape off any mix that comes above the rim and run a wooden spoon around inside the rim of each dish, to make a furrow.
- Bake on the middle rack of the oven, without opening the door, until the soufflé is puffed up and crusty on top but still jiggly in the middle. Don’t overcook, or it will taste like cake! Serve immediately.
TIP: Separating eggs
Start with the eggs at room temperature. Crack each egg in half gently over the bowl that is to contain the whites. Hold the halves of shell close together and tip the yolk, without breaking it, from one half to the other allowing the white to dribble into the bowl below. When all the white is separated tip the yolk into the other bowl. If any pieces of shell get in, remove them immediately or you might forget.
ROUX – Basic ingredient of French sauces
Melt 1 tbsp butter over a medium heat and when the butter is just beginning to foam, add 1 tbsp white flour and stir with a wooden spoon for about 3 min until the mixture is crumbly. Then slowly stir in 1 cup of the appropriate liquid to complete your roux, whisking briskly to ensure the sauce is smooth.
Roux as a basis for Bechamel sauce: to the butter and flour mixture, slowly add 3/4 cup of whole milk that has been heated to just before boiling, whisking continuously until very smooth. Season with about 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg and salt to taste. This is the basic white sauce of French cooking. Some recipes also call for a clove and a bay leaf to be simmered in the milk while it is warming up to near boiling. These are discarded before the milk is used in the sauce. Great served over any white fish, with chopped parsley added for a PARSLEY SAUCE.
Roux as a basis for cheese sauce: to the butter and flour mixture slowly add 3/4 cup warmed whole milk, whisking continuously until very smooth. When the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat, add about 1/4 lb or 3/4 cup of grated strong cheddar cheese. Stir together off the heat or over very low heat until the cheese melts. This is the basic sauce Mornay of French cooking. Great served over veggies such as broccoli or cauliflower, or used to make CHEESE SOUFFLÉ, MACARONI AND CHEESE or SCALLOPED POTATOES.
Roux to thicken bœuf bourgignon: use 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp flour for each cup of beef stock. Add strained stock to the roux and stir gently. This is the basic brown sauce of French cooking, which us amateur cooks call gravy. When it thickens add the sauce back into the stew.
This article was originally published on December 12, 2012,
with new photographs and updated recipes March 24, 2016.
Categories: Market to Table