This recipe makes a soufflé that will serve 2-3 people, depending on whether you’re serving it as a starter or a main course. French cheese soufflés are traditionally made with a flavorful cheese from regions in or around the Alps, like Comté or Gruyère. But other hard cheeses, such as cheddar, deliver fine results.
The key to success is timing. Every soufflé will fall en route to the table — there is no way to avoid this. And it’s not a problem, as the soufflé will collapse in any event when you cut into it. But presentation means a lot with a soufflé, so be sure your guests are seated at the table before making your grand entrance. Be prepared for applause.
You will need a soufflé dish with a capacity of about 6 cups, or 1-1/2 liter. Alternatively, you can use a charlotte pan of the same capacity, or a number of smaller soufflé dishes.
The tiny air bubbles trapped inside beaten egg whites are what make a soufflé rise. For best results, remove the eggs from the fridge at least an hour before embarking on the recipe, as the whites will beat up better at room temperature.
If you’d like to make a smaller version of the soufflé, reduce the ingredients proportionally — but always use one more white than the number of yolks. So to halve the recipe, for example, use 2 yolks, 3 whites, and reduce all the other ingredients by half.
5 eggs (you will use 5 whites and 4 yolks)
3-1/2 ounces (100 g) Comté, Gruyère or another hard cheese
2 tbsp. butter, plus a little extra for buttering the soufflé dish
2 tbsp. flour
3/4 cup (15 cl) milk
1/2 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic
Begin by assembling your equipment. In addition to the soufflé dish, you will need a medium-size bowl for the egg whites, a small bowl for the yolks, a medium-size heavy bottomed saucepan, a wire whip, an electric beater and a rubber spatula.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (400 F, 210 C). Place the rack in the lower third.
Thoroughly butter your soufflé dish.
Separate the eggs, placing the five whites in the medium bowl and four yolks in the small bowl — discard the fifth yolk or set it aside for another use.
Grate the cheese, using the medium holes of your grater. It will come to about 1-1/2 cups of loosely packed cheese when thickly grated.
Measure out the flour and milk and have them standing ready. Peel and halve the garlic.
Melt the butter in your saucepan until it is bubbly. Do not let it brown. Add the flour and stir to blend — you now have a roux. Allow the roux to cook over medium heat for about a minute, without stirring. Then pour in the milk and whisk with the wire whip until the mixture thickens. It should have the consistency of a thick custard.
Remove from heat and immediately add the grated cheese. Stir until it has completely melted. Add the salt and grind in some black pepper. Bury the garlic halves in the sauce.
Allow the cheese sauce to cool for 5 minutes. Remove the garlic halves. Now stir in the yolks, working quickly to ensure that they do not coagulate.
Beat the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry. If they hold their shape when you remove a beater, they are firm enough.
Transfer about one-quarter of the beaten egg whites into the cheese sauce. Stir to blend — this lightens the sauce.
Now pour the lightened sauce over the beaten whites and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold in: Run your spatula around the sides of the bowl and beneath the mass, lift up and fold over. Repeat until the mixture is well blended, being careful not to deflate the whites.
Transfer the mixture to your soufflé dish. Smooth the top and place in the oven.
Bake for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat to gas mark 6 (350 F, 180 C) and continue baking for 20 minutes more. Resist the temptation to peek — if you open the oven during this period, the soufflé could collapse.
After 25 minutes total baking time, open the oven door a crack to take a look. The soufflé is done if it is high and thoroughly browned on top. If so, remove and serve. If not, close the oven door and cook 5 minutes more.
Bring the soufflé to the table as soon as it comes out of the oven. Serve on its own or accompanied by a salad of tender greens. Serves 2-3.
This soufflé may be partially prepared in advance. Follow the recipe up to the point where you have added the yolks to the cheese sauce. Set the sauce and the unbeaten whites aside, keeping them at room temperature. About 35 minutes before you plan to serve the soufflé, preheat the oven. Then beat the egg whites and proceed with the recipe.