Many of my friends fear soufflé. Not the eating of it. The making. They fear it the way I fear SARS, or being caught DUI and locked up for the night with a bunch of dudes with bad haircuts and worse attitudes.
I reckon that anybody with half an active brain cell has good cause to fear the last two. I’ve never been locked up, but I have visited someone in Pretoria Central (don’t ask) and it didn’t look like much fun. I’m being audited by SARS (merry Christmas, now drop’em and spread ‘em) and I can tell you, that’s not much fun either. Being an upstanding, honest sort of citizen, I do, in theory, have nothing to worry about. But I’m a worrier by nature. Thanks guys and merry Christmas to you too.
Soufflé however, is not a thing to be feared. Obey the basics and it’s as meek and mild as a day-old kitten. Get a bunch of air into egg white, fold it into a base sauce that packs loads of flavour, chuck it in the oven and 15 minutes later you have something that’s puffed up, light and yummy. It’s cheap to make, real quick, and real easy. I cannot stress this enough – REAL EASY.
Best of all? It’s great for holiday entertaining because you can do most of the prep well beforehand, even the day before. A quick 5-minute nip into the kitchen is all it takes once your guests have arrived. While you’re looking glamorous, in control and unstressed sipping champagne, magic is happening in your oven.
So this is a can’t-fail, 1-2-3, basics-of-soufflé post for all you soufflé virgins out there. And, just because I couldn’t resist, I’m giving it a bit of a twist by adding bacon and onion marmalade. You could leave this out – but it’s bacon, cheese, onion! Can’t really go wrong there.
All you need is…
4 tbs butter
4 tbs plain cake flour
1¼ cups of milk, warmed
¼ cup cream
2 cups extra mature cheddar, grated (spend a bit extra here, you want the strongest, oldest cheddar you can find as this is the key flavour profile of your soufflé)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp fresh thyme, chopped
4 jumbo or extra large free range eggs (NB: at room temperature)
200g bacon, diced and fried until cooked
4tbs store-bought onion marmalade (you could make your own, but this is all about quick and easy)
extra butter for preparing your ramekins
1 cup dry breadcrumbs (the really fine store-bought one in a box works best) for preparing your ramekins
Prepare your ramekins by melting some butter and brushing the insides and bottoms of the ramekins with the butter. (You can either make one big soufflé or individual ones. I prefer individual ones purely because of the impress-the-socks-off-people factor.) Coat the sides and bottom of each ramekin with breadcrumbs and shake out any excess. This buttering and coating routine helps your soufflé to rise evenly. Set your ramekins aside.
Next, separate your eggs. Yolks go in one bowl, whites in another. Now you’re ready to make your base cheese sauce for your soufflé. Melt 4 tbs butter in a saucepan and add the flour. Stir for a minute or two over a low heat. Gradually add in the warm milk and cream, whisking all the time. I use a balloon whisk, but you could use an electric one. Cook over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring all the time. Remove from the heat and add the cheese, mustard, thyme and salt. Stir until cheese has melted. Finally beat the egg yolks and add them to the cheese mixture (still off the heat) stirring constantly until thoroughly mixed through and silky smooth. Set aside.
Whisk the egg whites until firm-peak stage (i.e. it holds its shape when you make little peaks with the whisk). Gently fold three large spoons of the egg white into the cheese sauce to lighten it. Then add the rest of the egg white to the cheese sauce and fold in until mixed. (The operative word here is gentle! You want to retain as much of the air as possible. Vigorous stirring is to egg white what Kryptonite is to Superman – deadly.)
Place a tablespoon of onion marmalade and 50g of cooked, diced bacon in the bottom of each ramekin. Then fill them to the top with the soufflé mixture. Use your thumb to run a ring around the top of each ramekin making a slight indent in the edge of the soufflé. This will help it to rise prettily and evenly. Pop the ramekins on a warmed baking tray into an oven pre-warmed to 200 degrees Celsius.
Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the ramekins. This recipe makes four generous main-course sized individual soufflés and needed to cook for 17 minutes. Much smaller ones will be ready in as little as 12 minutes and one large one will take about 35 minutes. Keep an eye on them. When they’re nice and puffed and golden brown, they should be done. Serve immediately!
Domestic Goddess stuff: You can prepare the cheese sauce for this recipe the day before. Just cover it with cling film and keep it in the fridge. Cover and keep the egg whites in the fridge as well. Remove the cheese sauce and egg whites and allow them to reach room temperature before you continue this recipe. Prepare your ramekins before your guests arrive. Once you’re ready for dinner, quickly whisk the egg whites, fold into your cheese sauce and into the oven they go.
Some more options:
- Leave the bacon and onion out and just make a plain cheese soufflé.
- Play with the cheese you use, add some freshly grated parmesan or pecorino to the mix
- Add loads of fresh herbs likes parsley and chives, finely chopped, of course