There are some recipes that make you feel like more of a cook.Those recipes that seem daunting or undoable, but, once mastered, make you feele like you put your big girl pants on when it comes to your kitchen skills.
From the time I first traveled to France, cheese souffle was that recipe for me. As I cooked more and more, I realized that eggs were that thing, though I loved eating them, weren't second nature for me to cook. So I tapped my French stepmother for all her tips and after many fails, finally got the hang of it. The truth is a successful souffle comes down to a few key tips. Stay within those culinary guardrails and you can riff all you want within it.
Here are all the tips I've learned along with a recipe for a super classic cheese souffle that's sweet, savory, and uber airy and can be made in under an hour.
Yes, it is totally possible to make a souffle ahead of time. Well, let's be 100% clear: you can prepare the souffle base ahead of time and then just bake it when you're almost ready to eat.
To make the souffle ahead of time, you have a couple options. You can just make the base with the egg yolks added up to 1 hour ahead and keep at room temperature then whisk and add the eggs when you're ready to bake the souffle.
Or, more commonly what people do is they make the complete souffle but put it in the refrigerator or freezer (just defrost fully before baking it). The souffle will definitely deflate a bit as it sits but it will still rise a bit and, of course, it will still be delicious.
Now you're armed with all the top tips you need to know to make your own souffle. We like to have our Potato Leek Soup as a first course then have this souffle with a vinegar-y salad as a main course. Or serve it as a twist on Mother's Day brunch along with some bubbles and a fruit salad. No matter how you serve it, we can guarantee you it will be delicious!
plus more to coat the baking dish
plus more for coating the baking dish
or parsley or marjoram (optional)
or 2 garlic cloves (optional)
or gluten free all purpose flour
or Comté cheese
To Prepare The Souffle Dish: Heat oven to 400°F, arrange rack in lower third, and place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack. Generously coat a 1.5 quart souffle dish or 6-cup baking dish with butter. Add a spoonful of the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (above and beyond the measured amount), rotate the dish to fully coat the inside with flour, then turn over and tap to get rid of any excess. Place the souffle dish in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For The Souffle Base: Place the milk and 1 teaspoon of the salt in a small saucepan and add in any flavorings you'd like (such as a few sprigs of thyme, marjoram or parsley, a grating of nutmeg, a bay leaf, a few garlic cloves or shallots, or even a few peppercorns). Heat over medium-high until it just comes to a boil, about 5 minutes, then set aside.
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once it foams, sift the flour over the butter and whisk it in and cook until the raw flour taste is gone, about 2 minutes. While continuously whisking, slowly pour the milk or half-and-half in a constant stream. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the mixture is as thick as Greek yogurt and pulling away from the sides, about 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the measured cheeses and stir until all the cheese is melted. Add the egg yolks one and a time and whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool while you whisk the egg whites.
Place egg whites in the impeccably clean bowl of an stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cream of tartar, if using, then increase the speed to high and beat until peaks are stiff but not dry, about 1 minute more.
Add 1/3 of the whites into the cheese mixture until blended and no white streaks are visible. Add remaining whites and gently fold until thoroughly combined.
Make sure the bowl and whisk you use for the egg whites are impeccably clean as any fat or oils will keep the whites from keeping air. Older eggs whip up more easily and consistently than fresher eggs.
To Bake The Souffle: Immediately turn the mixture into the prepared dish and, if desired, use an offset spatula to even out the top of the souffle. Place the soufflé on the heated rimmed baking sheet and bake until it is well risen, the top is browned, the edges appear dry, and the center is just set (it will just a bit when lightly jiggled (like J-ELLO), about 30 minutes if you want it slightly custard-y or more like 35 minutes to have it fully set.
Serve immediately along with a vinegar-y salad and crusty bread.
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