Raise your hand if you've ever actually made a soufflé. Yeah, me neither. Not until, that is, I took a class with Paule Caillat in Paris and realized what a cozy, simple, weeknight dish a soufflé can be. It's really perfect for a fall night: an immensely satisfying dish of cheese and eggs, whipped into a melting cloud that sighs on your tongue. And it's easy — not fussy, not so elusively French as I had supposed it to be. Here's how to make a soufflé — why not whip one up tonight? This recipe is the one I learned in Paule's class — a simple 3-cheese soufflé. It's very reliable; I've made it several times now, and oh it's delicious. Just look at that melting, savory bite! It's like a pudding or a cloud of cheese — so warm and comforting on a cold evening.
What You Need
4 eggs (3 whole eggs + one egg white)
1/4 cup (50 grams) grated comté cheese
2 tablespoons grated French Gruyère cheese
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan, divided
6 tablespoons (50 grams) flour
3 1/2 tablespoons (50 grams) butter
1 1/2 cup (350 grams) milk
Salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne or Piment d'Espelette to taste
Butter and grated parmesan for the molds
1 1/2 to 2-quart oven-safe bowl or soufflé dish
Stand mixer or handheld mixer
Large stiff spatula
1. Separate the eggs into white and yolks. Put the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large clean bowl. Discard one yolk (you can refrigerate it for later use). Set the eggs aside. Turn your oven on to BROIL and move an oven rack to the bottom position.
2. Grate all the cheese into a bowl and set aside. Put about 1 tablespoon of Parmesan in a separate ramekin.
3. Butter your oven-safe bowl or soufflé mold and sprinkle lightly with the reserved tablespoon of Parmesan. Set the mold aside.
4. Use the flour, butter, and milk to make a béchamel sauce (white sauce). Here is a specific how-to tutorial on doing this: How To Make a Béchamel Sauce (White Sauce).
5. Remove the finished béchamel from the heat and scrape it into a large bowl. Let it cool slightly, just so it's warm to the touch.
6. Stir in the egg yolks.
7. Stir in the grated cheese. Taste and add salt, pepper, and nutmeg or cayenne to taste.
8. Time to beat the egg whites! In the stand mixer, or using a handheld beater, beat the egg whites until they are quite stiff — but not dry. If you tip the bowl, they shouldn't all slide out in one mass. But they should stand up stiffly if pull the whisk straight up from the bowl.
9. Fold a spoonful of stiff egg whites into the batter, incorporating them thoroughly. The batter should lighten by one shade.
10. Now fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter. Spread them through the batter using a stiff spatula, running the spatula straight down the bottom of the bowl, then flipping the batter over.
The egg whites should be all mixed in, but there ought be some lumps of stiff egg white still visible.
Obviously this is the most delicate part of the procedure; any small variations in stiffness of egg whites or how they are incorporated into the batter will affect the final outcome. But don't worry too much about it; the souffle will be delicious even if it doesn't rise as high as you would like it to!
11. Scrape the batter into the prepared mold.
12.The batter should fill the mold about halfway.
13. Place in the oven on the bottom rack and broil for 3 minutes. Without opening the oven door (!!!) turn the heat down to 400°F and continue baking for 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
14. While the soufflé is baking, make sure the table is set and your guests are ready! As soon as the soufflé is out of the oven, serve and enjoy! As you can see, our soufflé didn't rise as much as I would have liked, but it was still that melting cheesy cloud inside. (I think I may have overbeaten the whites slightly, or folded them in too firmly. I also forgot to bake this particular soufflé on the bottom rack. Whatever, though — it was still absolutely delicious. It's not all about the puff!)
• Make sure to wipe up any drips on the inside of the soufflé dish as you pour in the batter. They'll hold the soufflé back from rising properly as they harden in the oven.
• Any additional ingredients in a soufflé will inhibit its rise as well; be careful with adding other ingredients. Also, any other ingredients should be cooked before adding to a soufflé. (Meat, seafood, mushrooms, etc.)
Have you ever made a soufflé? Do you have any favorite recipes or foolproof tips?
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(Images: Faith Durand)