Basic Cheese Souffle

  • Serves: Makes one 8-cup (2-quart) extra-large souffle; Serves 6
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  • Comments: 4

Variations: Cooked Chicken, Seafood, or Vegetables, etc Souffle; Lactose-free Souffle

Souffles have made a comeback in my kitchen today; I became fascinated obsessed with them and started making them for my birth family when I was 16 years old - all the time - and, somehow stopped making them up until in my late twenties. Souffles are economical to make, can easily accept left-overs, and can be made savory or sweet, served hot or cold, and make a fine meal or side dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Dessert souffles are always popular, too, and welcomed at any table or event.

A hot souffle are made from cheese, fish, chicken, vegetables, fruit, chocolate and other flavorings, bound in a sauce. The sauce is usually enriched with egg yolks, lightened with beaten egg whites and then, baked in a hot and well-preheated oven. The souffle should reach the rim of the dish before baking and rise two to three inches above during baking, to form a light fluffy cloud in the oven that always looks spectacular, magical and like you-have-done-alot-of-work-in-the-kitchen when served. This one needs a paper collar made from from wax or parchment paper; tie it around the rim of the souffle dish to support the souffle as it rises. The collar is quickly removed after baking and the souffle supports itself for a few minutes, during the time they must be served quickly. Then, hot souffles deflate quickly because they have delicate structures and the hot air from the oven, which keeps their air bubbles inflated, no longer exists!

2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese 

1 1/2 cups milk; 2 % or whole; can be cold from the fridge
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter; can be cold from the fridge
4 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon prepared Dijon mustard, optional
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper or 1/4 teaspoon paprika or dash of cayenne pepper
pinch ground nutmeg

6 large egg yolks, lightly beaten; can be cold from the fridge

8 large egg whites; can be cold from the fridge
pinch salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar, optional

1 cup packed (about 4 ounces) grated hard cheese; preferably a combination of sharp Cheddar and Gruyere or Swiss, or Parmesan or French Roquefort; can be cold from the fridge

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, in addition, optional; can be cold from the fridge

1. Position and oven shelf in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

NOTE: This recipe rises very high. You need an 8-cup souffle dish (extra-large), best with a depth of 7 1/2-inches, otherwise the souffle's contents will run over the side of the pan during baking. If not, prepare a stiff paper collar, making sure it will be high enough, so that the souffle can rise about 1 to 1/2-inches above the rim of the collar:
A. Tear off a piece of wax or parchment paper large enough to encircle the souffle dish and allow for a 2-inch overlap;
B. Fold the paper in half lengthwise. Make a 1/2-inch fold at folded edge for additional rigidity;
C. Butter and flour the paper; and,
D. Tie the paper around the souffle dish.

Spray the souffle dish and inside of the paper collar with nonstick cooking spray.

Sprinkle Parmesan cheese evenly into the dish, including the sides, and then tilt dish, helping to coat the bottom and sides. Set aside in a cool part of the kitchen.

2. Warm the milk in heavy-bottomed small saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming, taking care it does not burn.

3. Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy-bottomed large saucepan over medium-high heat.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, and sprinkle in the flour and continually whisk together until the mixture begins to foam and loses its raw taste, taking about 2 to 3 minutes (do not allow mixture to brown).

4. Pour in the warm milk, whisking until smooth. Turn up the heat to medium and cook the mixture, whisking constantly until the mixture becomes very thick, taking about 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Remove saucepan from heat; whisk in the mustard, white pepper, and nutmeg.

6. Temper the egg yolks: Add a small spoonful of the milk mixture to the egg yolks and quickly whisk in. Add a larger spoonful of the milk mixture top the egg yolks and whisk in. Repeat a few times. Return the tempered egg yolk mixture back into the milk mixture in the main saucepan.

Whisk in the cheese, and mix until smooth.

Set aside and let cool to lukewarm. Stir once or twice.

SARAH SAYS: Step I can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. To use in the recipe, warm slowly in the top of a double boiler, stirring constantly. Cool to lukewarm to use in the recipe

1. Using an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, place the egg whites in a mixer bowl; make sure both the whisk and bowl are clean and grease-free.

Beat on medium-low speed until foamy and cloudy, about 2 minutes.

Add the salt and cream of tartar. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high.

When you see lots of bubbles forming at the edge of the egg white foam, increase the mixer speed to high.

Beat until the egg whites are very stiff and glossy. Then, STOP!
SARAH SAYS: If egg whites are beaten to dry and dull, they are overbeaten -- Watch carefully, because egg whites can go from stiff to dry and overbeaten in as little as 30 seconds.

2. Fold 1/4 of whites into the lukewarm or room temperature soufflé base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites in 2 additions. Place prepared souffle dish on the parchment-paper lined rimmed baking sheet.

Transfer batter to prepared dish. Optionally, sprinkle the top of the unbaked souffle with 1/4 cup greated Parmesan cheese.

3. Place the filled souffle dish, in the rimmed baking sheet, in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Do not open the oven door during the first 30 minutes of baking!

4. Bake until soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and center moves slightly when dish is shaken gently, about 35- 45 minutes. Do NOT overbake. You should hear a few air bubbles popping.
SARAH SAYS: I "shake" the souffle dish by tapping it with the long end of a wooden spoon.

Remove from the oven. Present it at the table and serve immediately from the souffle dish with a large serving spoon.
SARAH SAYS: Leave on the paper collar when showing off your souffle; if removed, sometimes the souffle top falls to the side if it has risen quite high and your pan has low sides.

SARAH SAYS: Baked soufflés can be repuffed if necessary in a 400 degree F preheated oven 10 to 12 minutes; serve quickly, as they will deflate a little faster the second time around.

STORAGE: Store left-overs in the fridge overnight. Reheat in the microwave for one more meal, but it won't be the same as freshly baked! Soiuffles are meant to be eaten the moment they come from the oven for the first time!

Chicken, Seafood, or Vegetable, etc.
For anyone wanting to add in cooked chicken or seafood, cooked vegetables, etc, to the souffle, I recommend about 1 cup chopped (chop and then, measure). Stir it into the completed smooth egg yolk mixture, Step #6. Proceed to Step #7. A few tablespoons fresh chopped herbs are a welcome addition to any souffle.

Substitute the milk with Unsweetened soy milk
Substitute the butter with soy butter

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