Golden, airy and fluffy like a cloud, here is the undisputed king of all soufflés: the cheese soufflé, Soufflé au fromage in French, a purely French artistic performance.
The soufflé has a very specific origin in the history of gastronomy, that started in France in the first half of the 18th century. Soufflé comes from the French verb souffler to indicate its characteristic “inflated” consistency. Initially, the term “soufflé” was used to define a type of preparation softened by the presence of beaten egg whites, such as “omelette soufflée” or “crème soufflée”. Over time, the word became a noun and took on a broader meaning by acquiring other ingredients in addition to the eggs in the preparation.
Antoine Beauvilliers, former chef of the Sun King, who wrote in details how to prepare perfect soufflés in his 1814 book, L’art du cuisinier, made history as the inventor of soufflé and as the chef who opened the very first gastronomic restaurant Le Beauvilliers, in 1782. At the same time, in the book The French Cook written by Louis Eustache Ude, the most famous French chef and author in London, wrote about soufflé: “… a new method for preparing elegant dinners …” After them, chef Antonin Carême is said to have invented, in the 1820s, the Rothschild soufflé, an iced soufflé, with kirsch and candied fruits, which was a favorite of the English court. It is therefore with this famous Monsieur Carême that the soufflé reached its popularity. He codified all the types of soufflés and presented them in individual portions, thus guaranteeing an excellent result.
The most popular soufflés include cheese soufflé, but also chocolate soufflé or lemon soufflé. Whether sweet or savory, soufflé is considered one of the most refined and classical dishes of French cuisine, and it is nowadays appreciated worldwide.
THE PREPARATION TECHNIQUE FOR CHEESE SOUFFLÉ
As you open the oven door, you worry and wonder: will it deflate? The soufflé has always been the most feared preparation of chefs; the result can give as much satisfaction as a feeling of failure. Preparing a soufflé is not easy, as they have developed a reputation of being unpredictable creations, but they are not hard to make. The secret lies in beating the egg whites to the right stiffness and serving the soufflé straight from the oven to table. When successful, it is always a source of great pride almost as if it were a business card that proves great skill in cooking. It is said that in the past, great chefs, for fear of bad luck, preferred not to prepare soufflé often because they always felt tension, and feared that a hypothetical failure would jeopardize their career forever. That said, a cheese soufflé that does not collapse very quickly does not exist. It is impossible for us to give the miracle recipe for a soufflé that will not deflate but we can at least share some step by step recommendations, in order to obtain a perfect result.
HOW TO MAKE A PERFECT CHEESE SOUFFLÉ
- Use Le Creuset pot to make your Béchamel sauce.
- Make sure that all the equipment you use is meticulously clean and free of any grease that will prevent the egg whites from rising enough, which can cause the soufflé to collapse.
- Béchamel is one of the essential elements of the cheese soufflé recipe. It forms its basis, although there are variations, such as mashed potatoes for example. Make sure the béchamel is perfectly smooth, free of lumps, which would prevent the cheese soufflé recipe from rising properly in the oven. If necessary, you can smooth it out using a hand blender. Also, allow the béchamel to cool before incorporating the egg yolks, to prevent heat from cooking them and turning them into a shapeless or compact mass.
- The whites must contain absolutely no trace of yellow. Beat the whites with an electric mixer and in a very cold bowl until they form a “soft beak” on the whisk. No need to have the whites beaten too firm. Also, it is recommended to carefully incorporate the egg whites into the mixture with a movement from the bottom up to avoid the dispersion of the incorporated air.
- The cheese to use for the cheese soufflé recipe is traditionally Comté. But you can still choose the cheese according to your taste buds. We personally prefer Gruyère. You can also use Fol Epi or Chaumes for example, for a cheese soufflé with sweet notes or even Blue Bresse or Saint Agur for a more full-bodied taste. It is strongly recommended to grate the cheese, finely dice it, or even mash it with a fork before incorporating it into the hot béchamel sauce, so that the cheese melts.
- The choice of mold is very important for cooking the cheese soufflé. Cheese soufflés cooked in individual molds tend to rise better than those prepared in a large mold. Choose molds with straight and tall edges. Their inner wall must be perfectly smooth to facilitate the rising of the cheese soufflé during its cooking.
- The mold should be well greased and dusted with flour. It is a very important step. Grease the soufflé dish with a brush, applying the fat (soft butter or margarine) from top to bottom. To make it easier for the cheese soufflé to rise, sprinkle the inside of the buttered mold with flour by tapping the molds to remove the excess.
- To fill the molds, pour the dough up to ¾ of the height slowly, so as not to create air bubbles. Using a small spatula, smooth out the surface, taking care not to leave a trace of the mixture on the edges of the mold. Note that the soufflés tend to rise better when subjected to thermal shock.
- The cheese soufflé rises from the bottom of the mold. To help, preheat the oven for a long time so it will be very hot when you put the cheese soufflé and it will rise all the better.
- Never open the oven door during cooking.
- All the guests must be installed and ready to eat before the soufflé is even put in the oven. Only start cooking it if you know you can serve it immediately, because in a very short time, a soufflé slowly begins to deflate. Remember the golden rule: it is the guests who have to wait for the soufflé because the soufflé never waits!
- Recommendations for sides: white asparagus, green salad.
- What wines to serve: Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley, light red wines like Pinot Noir and Beaujolais match up nicely.
Preheat the oven and the baking tray to 350F / 180C
- In a saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour
Remove from the heat and stir well to obtain a lump-free mixture
Add the milk gradually, keeping the heat on low, stirring to obtain a slightly thick mixture
Remove from the heat and add the egg yolks. Mix well
- Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to your liking
Add the grated cheese
Beat the egg whites until stiff
Gently incorporate them into the cheese preparation
- Sprinkle remaining cheese on the top of the Béchamel before putting in the oven
For a single mold
Butter and flour a soufflé mold, taking care not to touch the inside of the mold after this process
Pour the preparation into it, put the mold on the hot baking sheet and bake at 350F / 180C for 40 minutes
100g/3.5 oz shredded cheese
150g (2/3 cup) of flour
1/2 l (2 cups) of milk
125g/4.4 oz of butter
salt, pepper, nutmeg
Nutmeg for the foodie in you!
In the video I used the powdered nutmeg for simplicity, but in reality I prefer to grate my own from the seed itself. Whole nutmeg is stronger tasting and has considerably more flavor.
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