Looking for something light, fluffy?

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 3, 2008

It has been many years since I have baked soufflés. I read an article about them in a recent Gourmet magazine and decided it was time to renew my acquaintance with them.

For those of you who do not know about soufflés, a soufflé is a light, fluffy, baked dish made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert. The word soufflé is the past participle of the French verb souffler which means “to blow up” or more loosely “puff up”—an apt description of what happens to this combination of custard and egg whites.

A basic soufflé is made up of two components: a flavor base and beaten egg whites. The base is usually a white sauce made from butter, flour, and milk, cooked together on top of the stove until creamy and thick. To this base you add egg yolks for richness and flavor, as well as seasonings: salt, nutmeg, and paprika. Don’t forget to add the paprika because it does add a nice depth of flavor. Then you whip the egg whites until they hold smooth, stiff peaks, and you fold them gently into the base, along with some coarsely grated cheese. I like Gruyre, but any Swiss-style cheese will do, or even a nice cheddar.

In the heat of the oven, the air bubbles in the whipped egg whites expand, causing the whole lovely mass to climb skyward. When the soufflé starts to rise, it is quite fragile, so it is important not to disturb it by opening the oven door, which could let in a draft of cold air. So sit down and have a glass of wine and do not open the door for at least 20 minutes. You will know dinner is ready when the soufflé is nicely browned and has puffed a couple of inches above the rim of the dish.

I used to do soufflés for breakfast for my Bed and Breakfast guests. But timing is critical. This is one dish that doesn’t work if your diners are late. And mine often were so I learned not to do soufflés unless I knew my guests would be on time.

There is really no great mystery to making a soufflé. It should be as easy as pouring milk for cereal in the morning. The beauty is the fact that the base can be made two hours ahead and the eggs whipped at the last minute and then put in the oven. Just make sure you do not whip your whites until they are dry.

I have made these soufflés in the past week and they are easy and delicious.

Only Julia Child should be trusted to really know how to do a soufflé so the first recipe is adapted from her version in “The Way to Cook’”

Classic Cheese Soufflé

2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup whole milk

2½ tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon salt

Pinch of ground nutmeg

4 large egg yolks

5 large egg whites

1 cup (packed) coarsely grated Gruyre cheese (about 4 ounces)

Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Butter a 6-cup (1 ½ quart) soufflé dish. Add Parmesan cheese and tilt dish, coating bottom and sides. Warm milk in heavy small saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming.

Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk until mixture begins to foam and loses its raw taste, about 3 minutes (do not allow mixture to brown). Remove saucepan from heat; let stand 1 minute. Pour in warm milk, whisking until smooth. Return to heat and cook, whisking constantly until very thick, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in paprika, salt, and nutmeg. Add egg yolks one at a time, whisking to blend after each addition. Scrape soufflé base into a large bowl.

This can be made two hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold ¼ of whites into lukewarm or room temperature soufflé base to lighten. Fold in remaining whites in 2 additions gradually sprinkling in Gruyre cheese.

Place dish in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake until soufflé is puffed and golden brown on top and center moves only slightly when dish is shaken gently; about 25 minutes (do not open door during the first 20 minutes). Serve immediately.

This recipe was taken from the May 2008 issue of Gourmet magazine. It has a little different texture than the classic cheese soufflé but we found it delicious as well.


Soufflé with

Brown Butter

For soufflé

3 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

1¼ cup finely chopped cauliflower florets

¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

White pepper to taste

½ stick unsalted butter

4½ tablespoons all-purpose flour

1½ cups whole milk

6 large egg yolks

8 large egg whites

For Brown Butter:

1 stick salted butter

Equipment: a 2-quart soufflé dish

Make soufflé: Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle.

Generously butter soufflé dish, then sprinkle with cheese, knocking out excess.

Stir together cauliflower, parsley, ¼ teaspoon salt, and white pepper to taste in a large bowl.

Melt butter in a 2-3 quart heavy saucepan oven medium heat. Whisk in flour, then cook, whisking until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add milk, a little at a time, whisking constantly until very smooth. Bring sauce to a boil, whisking, then simmer, whisking, until quite thick, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in yolks, ¼ teaspoon white pepper, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir into cauliflower mixture.

Beat egg whites in a bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until they just hold stiff peaks (they should not look dry). Stir a heaping spoonful of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then gently fold in remaining whites until just combined.

Gently spoon into soufflé dish (leave at least 1½ inches of space at top) and bake until golden brown and top appears set, 35-40 minutes.

Make brown butter:

Cook butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it turns golden with a nutlike fragrance and flecks on the bottom of pan turn a rich caramel brown, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat.

Serve soufflé immediately, drizzling with warm brown butter.

Dessert soufflés are so impressive. This dessert soufflé can be assembled up to 30 minutes before baking.

Chocolate Soufflé

Makes 2-4 servings.


1/3 cup sugar plus additional for sprinkling

5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped

3 large egg yolks at room temperature

6 large egg whites

Accompaniment: lightly sweetened whipped cream

Equipment: a 5 1/2 or 6 cup ceramic soufflé dish

Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter soufflé dish and sprinkle with sugar, knocking our excess.

Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and stir in yolks (mixture will stiffen).

Beat whites with a pinch of salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Add 1/3 cup sugar, a little at a time, continuing to beat at medium speed until whites just hold soft peaks. Stir about 1 cup whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, then add mixture to remaining whites, folding gently but thoroughly.

Spoon into soufflé dish and run the end of your thumb around inside edge of soufflé dish (this will help soufflés rise evenly). Bake in middle of oven until puffed and crusted on top but still jiggly in center, 24-26 minutes. Serve immediately.

Now it is time to impress your friends or husband! Enjoy!