Sunday, March 9, 2014

ChezCindy: Cheese Souffle

With all my years of cooking experience, I had never made a soufflé.  Unusual for me.  As a teenager I made crepes, doughnuts, chicken Kiev, any recipe that seemed interesting to me, without fear of failure.  On a recent visit to the one of the local cookware stores, I found a soufflé dish on clearance, with an extra 50% off.  I paid $3 for a full size soufflé dish.  It was time to make a soufflé. 

As always, I did a little research of various recipes.  The process is not too difficult.  There are a few key tips to learn, but very simple ingredients.  I decided to make a classic cheese soufflé as my first experiment.  Simple ingredients, eggs, cheese, milk, butter and flour, with stunning results. 

A few tips to follow:
You will need to make a foil "collar" to assist with the soufflé rising far above the walls of the soufflé dish.  Pull out a sheet of foil that is 3 times longer than the diameter of the soufflé dish.  Fold it over lengthwise with the dull side folded on the inside.  Rub the shiny side of the foil with softened butter.  Wrap the foil, butter side in, around the soufflé dish pinching it together to stay in place. 

A cheese soufflé is made by folding beaten egg whites into a white bechamel sauce.  When you separate the egg whites from the yolks, it is important to have a clean separation.  The tiniest bit of fat, either in the bowl or the beaters, will prevent the egg whites from fluffing up. 

Bake the soufflé on the bottom rack in the oven so that the heat rises from below.  Preheat the oven, and then turn up the temperature 25 degrees higher once the soufflé goes in the oven.  This gives the soufflé an extra push of heat to get things started. 

Cheese Soufflé
For lining the dish and collar:
2 tablespoons softened butter
4 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano cheese

For the white béchamel sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of white pepper
very small pinch of nutmeg
5 large egg yolks

For the final steps:
8 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Using a large 6-8 cup soufflé dish, generously butter the inside.  Butter the inside of the foil collar, attaching the foil collar as described above.  Sprinkle the Parmigiano cheese in the dish and turn the dish around until the cheese and foil collar are covered with a layer of cheese.  Place the dish in the refrigerator until ready to fill.

Make the white béchamel sauce:  Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan; stir in the flour with a whisk until smooth.  Gradually stir in the milk while whisking; bring to a simmer over high heat while continuing to whisk.  Boil for 30 seconds, whisking until the mixture is smooth.  Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmigiano cheese.  Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time.  Set aside.

Finals steps for folding in the egg whites:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the egg whites into the bowl for whisking.  Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites to stiff peaks starting at slow speed, gradually increasing the speed to high. 
Whisk about 1/4 of the egg whites into egg yolk béchamel, combining to lighten the sauce.  Pour the bechamel sauce down the side of the bowl containing the egg whites.  Fold the sauce and the egg whites with a rubber spatula, while sprinkling the Gruyere cheese over the mixture.  Be sure to reach down into the bottom of the bowl to combine the sauce that may have pooled at the bottom.  Being careful not to over mix the contents, leaving a few bits of egg whites is okay. 

Gently pour the egg/cheese mixture into the prepared soufflé pan.  Place the soufflé dish onto a sheet pan and place into the preheated oven.  Turn the oven temperature up to 375 degrees.  Set your timer for 40 minutes.  There should be no reason to check on the soufflé during this cooking time.  After 40 minutes, open the oven door.  The soufflé should have risen by half of the original size and the center should have minimal movement.  If the center has too much movement, continue cooking for another 10 minutes. 

To serve the soufflé:  Take the sheet pan out of the oven.  Remove the collar.  Scoop out portions, being sure to include some of the bottom "crust" and some of the creamy center.  Serve for breakfast, brunch or dinner. 

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