The thought of making a souffle can send cooks into a bit of a tizzy. Before classes ended in June, I substitute taught a Home Ec class where the teacher asked me to demonstrate a Cheese Souffle. I've made souffles before, but wanted to make sure this particular recipe would turn out, so I made it at home the night before. Mmmm. Light and fluffy, with cheesy herby goodness! I ate the leftover one (deflated) for breakfast. It tasted just as good.
Basically a souffle is a thick white sauce enriched with egg yolks and seasoned with vegetables, cheese and/or herbs, to which stiffly beaten egg whites are folded in and the mixture is baked until golden and puffy. If you've never tried making a souffle you'll be surprised at how easy it really is. Infusing the milk with a bay leaf adds subtle flavor, but you can easily skip that step.
Cheese Souffle with Chives
1 cup milk
1 bay leaf
3 Tablespoons butter
5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 eggs, separated
1 cup finely grated cheese, Gruyère is good, or Swiss, or Emmenthal
2 Tablespoons minced chives
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 4 cup souffle dish or any straight-sided casserole dish. Alternately, use 8 -1/2 cup ramekins. Dust with flour or finely grated Parmesan cheese. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, heat the milk with the bay leaf until scalded. Remove from heat, cover, and let infuse for about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard it.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter, whisk in the flour and cook, whisking continually, for about 1 minute. Add the infused milk and continue whisking until the sauce is smooth and thickened. In a separate dish whisk the egg yolks until combined, then pour in a little of the sauce, whisking to combine. When about 1/3 of the sauce mixture is mixed into the egg yolks, return the yolks and sauce to the remaining sauce in the pan and whisk until thickened and bubbly.
Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese and chives. Add salt and pepper to taste. The mixture should be quite highly seasoned.
Beat the egg whites into stiff peaks. Stir in a spoonful of the whites into the sauce to lighten the mixture, then fold the mixture into the whites, until just a few white streaks remain. Fill the souffle mold or ramekins to just below the top. Run your finger around the inside edge to form a small trough. This will help the souffles rise evenly.
Place the dishes into a glass baking dish and pour boiling water around the ramekins or mold, to about two-thirds up the sides. Be careful to not spill any water into the souffles. Bake until puffed and golden. Individual souffles should take 18 - 25 minutes, a larger one 25 - 30 minutes.
Remove from the water and serve immediately.