Barbara has chickens and brought us 18 fresh eggs. Jan suggested that I make a soufflé to use some of them up.
Karl’s Cheese Soufflé
I have never made a soufflé before, but it is rumored to be very finicky. Looking online for a recipe, I found it was really not so difficult. One trick that makes it much easier is to use cream of tartar to stabilize your egg whites—⅛± teaspoon per egg white.
Note: Authentic French recipes do not use cream of tartar—perhaps the source of the rumor that they are hard to make—but even Julia Childe’s recipe uses it.
Cream of tartar—potassium bitartrate—is powdery acid that is a byproduct of wine making. When added to egg whites, it lowers the pH and inhibits the albumin proteins from linking up. This prevents the foamy bubbles of egg white from popping and collapsing your meringue.
Note: Cream of tartar mixed with baking soda is called baking powder.
The only unusual thing you need for this dish—at least for most American kitchens—is a soufflé mold/dish or individual soufflé ramekins. These are round ceramic baking dishes with strait sides and that are taller than they are wide. While you can make soufflé in another type of casserole, you must be sure that it is large enough to contain the expanding eggs—odd shape vessels may also inhibit the dish’s signature lift.
After Dinner Note: Daughter Eilene’s response was, “The fluffiest omelet I’ve ever eaten.”
Karl’s Cheese Soufflé
Serves 4-5 as a main dish
Preparing the soufflé dish
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, for the soufflé mold
3 Tbs. Parmesan cheese, for the soufflé mold
6 large eggs
½ tsp. cream of tartar
7 Tbs. AP flour
4½ Tbs. butter
2 cups milk
¾ cup (3 oz.) Gruyère, finely grated
½ cup green onions tops, sliced finely
½ tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. pepper, finely ground
Pinch nutmeg, ground
1. Melt the butter and brush it over the inner surfaces of the baking dish—all the way up to the top edge.
2. Sprinkle the Parmesan so that it sticks to the butter.
Tip: When you pour in the egg mixture it is critical—for the proper lift—that there are no globs of the mixture left on the exposed sides of the dish—these will harden in the oven’s heat and create snags that will block the gentle lift of the expanding gas bubbles.
Note: The butter and cheese coating prevents the rising soufflé from sticking to the sides of the dish as it rises.
3. Pre-measure and set aside all of your ingredients before you start making the soufflé.
Tip: Once you start assembling the soufflé you will not have time to measure and grate.
4. Remove all but the lowest rack of the oven and pre-heat it to 450º F.
5. Separate the eggs, whites in one bowl and yolks in another.
Tip: It is vital that the egg white bowl be absolutely clean and dry. Any contaminates may prevent the eggs from whipping properly.
Note: Many recipes call for discarding one of the egg yolks. Some people claim that the extra yolk reduces the proper lift as the soufflé rises, but others claim that it makes no difference. The farmers of Canada recipe calls for discarding some of the whites. I have yet to find any good reason for not simply using whole eggs.
6. Whisk the cream of tartar into the egg whites.
Note: You will not be whisking the whites into meringue at this point, but you want it to be ready to go when you need it.
7. Grate the cheese into a bowl and set it aside.
8. Measure the flour, pepper, salt and nutmeg into cups, set them aside.
Tip: The pepper, salt and nutmeg may go into one cup, as they will be added all together.
9. Melt the butter in a 3 quart pot, over a medium high heat, and add the flour.
10. Cook the fat and flour to a blond roux.
Tip: The roux should be a thick paste. If it is too thick add a bit more butter. If it is to thin, add a bit more flour.
11. Add the milk, altogether, to the roux and whisk constantly, until you have a smooth sauce.
Tip: If your sauce is too thick add a bit more milk. If you think the sauce is too thin, do not sweat it—the melted cheese will thicken it a bit more.
Note: This is called a béchamel or white sauce.
12. Whisk in the cheese, green onion, and spice cup until they are melted and blended in.
13. Take a whisk full of the warm sauce and beat it into the egg yolks, to temper them.
Tip: Repeat this 2-3 times to thoroughly warm the yolks.
Note: If you just dump the yolks into the warm sauce some of it might cook, rather than be evenly blended in.
14. Scrape sides of the pot and set it aside to cool slightly.
Tip: So that it is just warm to the touch.
15. While the sauce is cooling, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Tip: You may use a hand whisk, but a hand or standing blender is easier.
Note: Do not over whisk you eggs. After a certain point you will be breaking up the bubbles—a dry meringue—rather than beating more air in.
16. Thoroughly fold a third of the stiff egg whites into the cheese sauce.
Tip: This thins and lightens the sauce, making it easier to fold in the rest of the egg whites.
17. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites in two stages—the remaining two thirds at a time.
Tip: While you want the sauce and egg whites blended you do not want to break up the tiny bubbles in the eggs. A little unblended egg white is just fine.
18. Scrape the soufflé batter into the prepared mold.
Tip: Do not fill the mold more than ¾ full. I found that I had made too much batter for my mold. Quickly preparing a second small bowl I made a second small soufflé.
Note: Make sure there are no drips on the top edges of the mold. These will harden as they bake and disrupt your soufflés rise.
19. Place the mold in the oven on the bottom rack and reduce the heat from 450º to 400° F.
Note: The soufflé will start to collapse about 10 minutes after it is removed from the oven. You should use the baking time to make any other dishes you are serving—a green salad is nice—and set your table.
20. Bake the soufflé for 25-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
Tip: Stick a skewer into the soufflé, when it comes out clean the dish is done—an internal temperature of 160º F.
Note: Do not open the oven until the soufflé has baked undisturbed for at least 25 minutes.
21. Transfer the soufflé from the oven to a trivet and serve immediately.
Tip: Try not to joggle your soufflé too much in transferring it to the tables, as it might collapse.
Note: If your soufflé does collapse it is still edible, it just won’t be as pretty.
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