1-2-3 Cheese Soufflé

   Three Steps to Delicious

        We love a soufflé for supper! One of our family’s favorites. Break the prep down into three steps – one simple, one simple but pay attention so you don’t forget anything, and one that needs a bit of care.

            Traditionally, this dish is made with Gruyère cheese, but since I live in Vermont, I use the Cheddar. You can use whichever you like. I also add the chives, which are not traditional, but really delicious, and sometimes other herbs. Although there are quite a few steps to this recipe, if you get all your ingredients measured and gathered together, it goes rather quickly.

            Then, it is a waiting game. As with any soufflé, the thing you have to take the most care with is not deflating the egg whites when you add them to the base. Go slow here, be gentle, and you’ll be fine. However, this is not a dish you want to make ahead of time. The old adage is that the guests wait for the soufflé; the soufflé does not wait for the guests. Serve with simply dressed salad greens on the side, and pour a glass of crisp white wine to accompany.

As easy as One, Two, Three

            Now, take a deep breath, gather your ingredients together, and get started!

Step One: Make your base. This can be made an hour or two ahead of time if you like and stored in the refrigerator. It is a simple roux with the addition of some egg yolks and seasonings. I also add the cheese at this time because it will mean less of a chance of deflating the egg whites later on.

This is the pay attention so you don’t forget anything step.

1 1/4 cup half and half

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

3 tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. sweet paprika

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

8 ounces Cheddar cheese

4 large egg yolks

Place your half and half in a pot over low heat and warm just until you see little wisps of steam. Set aside. Place butter in a sturdy saucepan and melt. Add the flour and whisk for a couple of minutes to cook off the flour. An old trick with this is to use Wondra flour which is already pre-steamed, but this is not essential. Add the half-and-half slowly, whisking all the while, then add the paprika, pepper, salt, nutmeg, mustard, and Cheddar.

Place in a bowl, and let cool to warm. Separate your eggs, and reserve the whites. Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time until well blended. This can be made earlier, refrigerated, and brought back to room temperature just before you are ready to assemble.

Step Two: Prepare your baking dish and oven

2 tbsp. Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Butter a straight-sided six-cup soufflé dish, and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

This is the easy step.

Step Three: Whip your egg whites, fold them into your base, and bake!

6 large egg whites, room temperature

8 ounces Vermont Cheddar, grated

1 tbsp. fresh Chives, finely minced

This is easiest in a stand mixer, but you can use a hand mixer as well.

In addition to the four egg whites you have saved, you will need two more.

Beat your egg whites until soft peaks form, peaks that flop over. Then turn down the speed of your mixer, pay attention, and continue beating until slightly stiffened peaks form, peak that just about stay upright. Don’t overbeat to the dry stage. Overbeating is the most common problem with making a souffle. If your meringue breaks into clumps, it is overbeaten.

Fold about a fourth of the whites into your room temperature base to lighten it up a bit. You don’t have to be gentle here, just loosen up the base. Then gently fold in the remaining whites in a couple of batches, using a careful folding technique running the spatula through the eggs, scraping on the bottom, and gently turning the mixture upwards while rotating the bowl.

This is the take care step.

Sprinkle the top with a little more Parmesan, and run your finger around the edge. This will encourage a nice upward journey for your soufflé.

Place dish in oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. You don’t want to open the door to check for at least 25 minutes, so if you have an oven with no window, you may have to sit on your hands.

Check your creation at 25 minutes. It should be beautifully puffed and a lovely brown on top, with a slight jiggle to the middle.

Serve immediately!

Apple Soufflé: I’ve served these individual soufflés as a starter for brunch, but they can easily stand in for dessert.

Butter eight individual ramekins and sprinkle bottom and sides with Parmesan cheese. Chop golden delicious apples to make two cups, and sauté in a little butter just to soften slightly. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon and sugar and a sprinkle of Calvados or other apple-flavored liquor.

Add soufflé mixture to the top of the ramekins, scatter coarsely grated Cheddar on top, run a finger around the top edge, place them all on a cookie sheet, and bake as above, but check at 20 minutes.

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