P1090024Cheese soufflé has been on my list of French dishes to master. Done right, it’s like eating a cloud. A creamy cloud. Of cheese. Are you swooning yet? You should be.

P1090029
Like a cloud. Yet creamy. A mind-blowingly delicious combination.

But it seemed so intimidating. All those jokes about the soufflé falling and not turning out. The expression retomber comme un soufflé –to fall like a soufflé–means to suddenly lose interest.

I bought a soufflé dish for €1 at a vide-grenier.  It languished, reproaching me every time I passed it by for some other utensil. Finally, I committed to the act and set out to research.

P1090015
My €1 dish, with just enough butter to grease it.

After comparing many recipes, and not feeling any more confident about the mission, I decided to also watch videos. I just watched one: on 750g.com, a cooking Web site created by two brothers, Jean-Baptiste and Damien Duquesne. The recipe is demonstrated by Damien, who is a trained chef and who has a restaurant in Paris called 750g La Table. In typical fashion, I was listening to podcasts while cooking, so I watched the video with the sound off and it was still very clear. So don’t be intimidated if your French is rusty–the actions speak louder than words.

It was a revelation. It didn’t look difficult. And best of all, there were no fancy gadgets. Just a whisk. Of course. Cheese soufflé has been a revered dish for about 400 years, since the chef Vincent de la Chapelle invented it.

P1090033
Speaking of butter, have you heard about the shortage in France? This is frightening!

The base is béchamel. In my old French cookbook, soufflés are right next to choux pastries and gougères, which also start with a roux paste and then add eggs.

If you want the chemistry of why soufflés puff up, read “Histoire de soufflés.” It’s a battle of water vapor vs. egg whites. Your egg whites need to be very firm–beaten to the point that the whisk can lift the whites as a block. This keeps the vapor–and air–inside like blowing up a balloon.

Cheese Soufflé (serves four)

6 eggs

1 cup (120 g) grated cheese like Comté or Gruyère

nutmeg

salt/pepper (but be careful with the salt–there’s some in the cheese)

1 2/3 cups (40 cl) milk

4 1/4 tablespoons (60g) butter (plus a little to grease the dish)

2/3 cup (60g) flour (plus a little in the greased dish)

Preheat the oven to 360 Fahrenheit/180 Celsius.

P1090017
Basic béchamel.

Make the béchamel: melt the butter completely, then stir in the flour. Let it cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Pour in the milk. I did it like Chef Damien, a little at a time at first, to avoid lumps, then the rest. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Raise the heat a notch. Stir!P1090018When the béchamel comes to a boil, take it off the heat and stir it vigorously for a minute or two. Then put it back on high heat for one minute, continuing to stir. Remove from the heat. Add the cheese. Do like Chef Damien and add the egg yolks one at a time, dropping the whites into a mixing bowl. Stir well between each yolk. Put the mixture into a (separate) large mixing bowl.

P1090021
After egg yolks, before egg whites.

Beat the egg whites. Lazy, I used an electric mixer, but Chef Damien, being a pro, did it by hand. More power to him, especially in his right arm. As noted above, beat those egg whites to stiff peaks. (The French term is so lovely–en neige–in snow.)

Add half the egg whites to the béchamel/cheese mixture. Delicately mix, ALWAYS STIRRING IN THE SAME DIRECTION and gently folding them toward the center. Then  do the same with the rest of the egg whites. This is where the video really helped–to see how homogenous the final mixture is.

Pour the mixture into the greased, floured dish. (You can also do this with individual ramekins). Wipe around the edges. P1090022Turn the oven to the grill/broil setting and put in the soufflé. Leave it at that temperature for 2-3 minutes. Then turn the oven back to 360F/180C. Cook for 20-25 minutes (much less for little ramekins).

Serve immediately.P1090032BTW, in the unlikely event that there are leftovers, they reheat fine in the microwave.

Advertisements

35 thoughts on “Easy Cheesy Soufflé

  1. Heavenly and such good, clear instructions. It is funny how soufflé has become synonymous with difficult because really they aren’t at all. And Béchamel? If you use hot milk you can slam it all in to the roux in one go and you won’t get a smidge of a lump. The butter crisis is unthinkable … I am hopeful that there is an expert think-tank working round the clock in a bunker under the Palais de l’Élysée to resolve the issue 😳

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My understanding is that part of the butter problem is long-term contracts that don’t allow for price rises. Supposedly, when the current contract ends, prices will be reset higher and the entities hoarding what little butter is around will finally decide to sell. Otherwise, this is another effect of global warming–drought reduced forage which reduced milk output.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Plenty of butter in our rayons…but only the expensive brands, not the cheaper stuff. I’m convinced it’s lobbying by the producers to get better prices for their labour – which are entirely well-deserved in my view. Meat and dairy and too cheap considering the real cost of making them. That soufflé looks lovely — reminds me that husband once made a chocolate one that was divine. Must try the cheese one!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, it seems to be getting a lot more attention outre-mer! And this line from the story to me is key: “The absence of certain products on shelves is an indicator of tensions between some large retailers and their suppliers,” the Cniel said in its report, noting that many retailers were refusing to pay the increased market price for butter.”

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You had me at the first picture. OMG squeeeee.
    I used to have a recipe for a lime soufflé, mostly egg whites and sugar and lime juice. Will see if I can find it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The retailers sign contracts for a year. But prices went up sharply because a drought reduced forage and thus production. But the retailers want to pay the contract price, not the market price, so the suppliers refuse to sell.

      Like

  4. Many years ago I found a recipe for individual smoked salmon soufflés (basic cheese soufflé with a bit less cheese and some chopped smoked salmon stirred in). The recipe said to cook them then let them cool and refrigerate. When you want to serve them you turn them out on a baking sheet and top with a spoon of cream, then you heat them in the oven and they rise again! Great for dinner parties and we’ve had them every year since either for Xmas or New Year. Your post will have given a lot of people the courage to try soufflé.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s