The souffle has a bad reputation as a difficult thing to prepare. I blame the television. Back in the days of black and white tv, the deflated souffle was a standard family sit-com joke. It went like this: Mom, dressed in apron, heels and pearls would put a souffle in the oven in anticipation of Dad and his boss arriving for dinner. Inevitably, some disaster would happen–a car backfiring, little Timmy running into the stove with his tricycle, the dog barking– and the souffle would comically deflate. Thank goodness for Julia Child, who reassured us the Classic Cheese Souffle was not something reserved for a classically trained chef, but within the realm of any home cook who could do two things: make a bechamel sauce and whip egg whites.
If you’ve never watched Julia Child at work, here’s your chance to admire her making the classic cheese souffle. I’m good at picturing instructions, but there’s really no substitute for a video to illuminate some obscure points.
Can you imagine her on The Food Network today? I’d love to see her on Iron Chef or Chopped!
The recipe I used comes from Food.com who also uses a Julia Child recipe. This is not the same one demonstrated in the video, but very similar. I don’t have a large souffle mold but I do have a smaller bowl and several cup sized ramekins so I used them. They puffed up nicely but lacked the drama of the souffle towering over the mold. I made these on a windy afternoon and they started to deflate almost as soon as I took them out of the oven…sitcom gold!
Don’t despair if it happens to you– your souffle will still taste great– but eat up before the souffle gets cold because it will continue to deflate until you’re left with a rubbery puck like mass of egg and cheese. And if you’re going to post your photos to the internet, don’t delay in taking them or you’ll lose some height as demonstrated in the photos.
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 2½ tablespoons butter plus more for the dish
- 1 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons flour
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- pinch nutmeg
- 4 large egg yolks (between ¼ and ⅓ cup)
- 5 large egg whites (about ⅔ cup)
- 1 cup grated cheese, swiss, gruyere, cheddar are all good choices
- Preheat the oven to 450
- Butter a 1½ quart souffle dish (about 6 cups) and coat with the Parmesan cheese. (Use a collar as shown in the video if necessary)
- Warm milk in a small sauce pan until steaming.
- Melt the butter in another sauce pan, add the flour to the melted butter and whisk for about 3 minutes. Be careful not to overly brown the flour. Reduce the heat to low.
- Add the hot milk all at once and stir constantly for a couple minutes until thickened.
- Season with paprika, salt and nutmeg.
- Remove the pan from the heat and whisk the egg yolks in one at a time.
- Set the base aside while you beat the egg whites in a large bowl until quite stiff.
- Fold about a quarter of the whites into the base to lighten them.
- Fold the mix into the remaining egg whites in batches, alternating with the cheese. Be gentle when folding, you want to mix everything together without losing the air in the egg whites.
- Transfer to the prepared dish.
- Put in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 375.
- Bake undisturbed for 20 minutes.
- The souffle is done when it's puffed and golden on top and the center is almost set. Check every 5 minutes or so. Mine was done in 30 minutes.
- Serve immediately.
You’ll want to serve your souffle with an equally elegant salad, like this Spring Pear and Walnut Salad.