By Vida Gustafson
I stayed away from soufflés for a long time, wishing I’d avoided them for longer every time I flopped one.
The good news is that all the bugs have been worked out and these need not be the feat of engineering sprinkled with magic that they once seemed to be.
I’ll break it down with a couple of tips: Don’t be distracted, and have a solid one hour that you can spend in the kitchen.
Prepare your mis en place completely. This means getting your ingredients in the forms and quantities you need them, getting your equipment lined up, your baking dishes buttered, an uncluttered work surface, and your oven preheated before the actions starts.
Keep in mind that a soufflé has to eaten (or devoured, in my family’s case) as soon as it is out of the oven, so use the time while it’s baking to prepare whatever you are serving alongside, to set the table and to hunt down the people you’re feeding.
Even though these are not really magic, they are pretty impressive to look at and an absolute joy to eat.
2 1/2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour (or gluten-free flour substitute)
1 c milk
2-3 tbsp grated Parmesan
Pat of butter, for greasing
1 c strong cheese ( I used a sharp cheddar and an aged gouda)
4 egg yolks
5 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp paprika, or cayenne pepper if you prefer
1 ½ quart baking dish or 4 to 5 oven-safe ramekins (125-150 ml)
2 large mixing bowls
Rubber or silicone spatula
Prepare your baking dish(es) by buttering thoroughly and then sprinkling with Parmesan, knocking out the extra that doesn’t stick to the butter. Set them aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grate one cup of cheese.
In a small saucepan melt 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter and then add 3 tablespoons of flour. Cook on medium/low heat while stirring for 3-4 minutes; mixture will bubble but should not brown.
Add the nutmeg and paprika. Stir in the cup of whole milk, one half at a time. The mixture will thicken and clump slightly, but these are easy to get out with vigorous stirring. (Preheating the milk minimizes this).
Continue cooking for a further 5 minutes after stirring in all the milk until the mixture is thick and smooth. (This is called a béchamel.) Then add your cheese, still stirring, until it is all melted.
Set this aside and separate your egg yolks and whites into two large bowls. Keep in mind you need one more white than yolk, so you’ll have an extra left over.
Whisk the egg whites with the salt; you are looking for a peak that will hold its shape, but not as hard as for a meringue. The egg whites should still look slightly foamy and “wet.” Using the same beaters, whisk the egg yolks for a minute or two until they become pale in color. Now it’s time to add the béchamel to the egg yolks. It doesn’t need to be completely cooled down; just stir while you combine.
Lastly, add 1/3 of the beaten egg whites and fold in until no whites remain visible. Then add the remaining whites, folding in gently. You don’t want to beat or whisk at this point.
When all the egg whites have been incorporated, pour the batter into your baking dish or dishes, filling them two-thirds to three-quarters of the way. As soon as you’ve put them in the 400-degree oven, turn it down to 375 degrees.
One large soufflé will take between 25 and 30 minutes to cook, and individual ones will take 14 to 16 minutes. Do not open the oven at all for at least 20 minutes for a large one and for the first 10 in the case of the smaller ones.
I would serve this with a green salad for a simple lunch or as a first course to a celebratory meal. This recipe serves four.