This recipe first appeared in the April 2018 issue of Culinaire Magazine, courtesy Renée Kohlman.
A soufflé is like magic. Eggs and a few pantry ingredients are transformed into a lofty masterpiece just by incorporating air. Puffed to perfection, a soufflé really is quite the sight to behold before it collapses with the first spoonful.
While there are a few rules, a cheese soufflé is quite simple to prepare, and makes an impressive brunch dish, whether it is for Easter Sunday, or a lazy weekend morning.
The soufflé has two components: a base, which includes the yolks; and glossy, beaten egg whites. The two parts are gently folded together before baking. The word soufflé means “to breathe” or “to puff”, which is what those beaten egg whites do to the base once the soufflé hits the high heat of the oven.
The base of the soufflé can be sweet or savoury. If it is sweet, it can be made from a fruit purée or melted chocolate. These make a spectacular, showstopping dessert. Savoury soufflés usually incorporate cheese, vegetables, and seafood, and are fabulous for brunch or a light lunch. The base for a savoury soufflé is a cooked sauce of butter, milk, egg yolks, and some sort of starch, like flour.
Regardless of whether the soufflé is sweet or savoury, jaws will drop as you present your dish to the table.
Soufflés are so spectacular they have their very own baking dish created for them. A deep ceramic dish with straight sides holds the heat evenly so the centre will cook at the same time as the edges. Expanding air moves upward, thus we get the coveted poof.
While you may want to flex your muscles and beat those whites by hand (kidding - who ever beats whites by hand anymore?), it is best to use an electric mixer, either handheld or stand mixer, which will get the most volume out of the egg whites. But be sure not to overbeat the whites as they will make the soufflé grainy. They should be able to hold stiff peaks (when you lift the whisk out of the whites, it will create a little curl that stays upright without drooping), but still look glossy.
When incorporating the beaten whites into the base of the soufflé, a light touch is imperative. You want to work quickly but gently, and a few streaks of whites remaining is more than fine.
I like to bake my soufflés in a preheated oven, on the very bottom rack, with a baking sheet inside warming up with the oven. Placing your soufflé on this hot baking sheet will give it an initial blast of heat, which will expand the air trapped inside the batter.
Do not open the oven for the first 25 minutes of cooking, as you risk deflating it. A soufflé is done when it is puffed, nicely browned and barely jiggly in the middle. Take a few seconds to admire your handiwork, then serve it to those you’ve gathered round your table. Be prepared for the gasps of joy.