Soufflés don't play the middle ground very well: they're either good or bad. Your success as creator hinges on the height of the rise (assuming it rises), the fluffiness of that rise, the doneness of the middle, and your ability to feed your guests before the inevitable collapse.
With the quaint recipe for one in Judith Jones' new book, The Pleasures of Cooking for One, you not only evade the perilous task of making a souffle for 6 or 8, you can also make it tonight. Really. Just for yourself. And probably from scraps of cheese that you already have sitting around, just waiting to be grated and melted. Here, some tips from The Cheesemonger.
Make your soufflé making more joyful than perilous and take note:
- Decrease the amount of egg whites. Using two made the batter too volumous and overflowed from the ramekin. Try using just one. This way, you won't have to open two eggs, either, since the recipe only calls for one yolk.
- Let it rest. Don't miss pulling the roux off the heat for a moment before adding the milk, and be sure to pull the pot off the heat after the addition of the milk and before the egg yolk. And then, letting the soufflé base cool while you whip your egg white allows for proper cheese and egg incorporation. If the mixture is too hot when you fold in your whites, it'll kill them. And the rise. So resist the inclination to beat your whites before you start.
- Chill your ramekin after buttering and cheesing. This will also help with the rise.
- Be sure to use the size of ramekin that the recipe calls for, or you'll end up with extra batter. It's higher than most (4"). Your batter should come up to about 3/4"-1" below the top. And don't overfill. Put a baking dish on the rack below your ramekin just in case you have some overflow.
- Add a pinch of cream of tartar to the whites before beating to help stablize them. And remember, it's better to underbeat your whites than to overbeat them. Stiff, dry peaks won't make for as fluffy or luxurious a texture, and they won't fold into the soufflé base as cohesively.
- Use good cheese! We used a mix of Rolf Beeler Appenzeller, Borough Market clothbound cheddar, Comte, and Gruyere. You only need a 1/3 cup of cheese (plus about a tablespoon of parm to coat the ramekin), so mix and match from small bits you may have leftover.
- Don't overbake. Go for a nice golden brown, nothing darker. Browning your soufflé will have the same effect as if you were to brown your scrambled eggs. Not so tasty.
- Eat immediately! Or else...
Have fun and enjoy! Even if it's just for one.
Get the recipe: marthastewart.com
Related: Weekend Project: Make a Soufflé!
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a Cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City. She is currently an assistant chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
Images: Nora Singley