There was no meat in the fridge, no ingredients for making sauce for pasta or noodles and nothing else inspiring. We did, however, have a lot of eggs, flour and milk (it had been Shrove Tuesday the day before). As well as cheese of course. We loooove cheese.
With few other options, I decided that the time had come — to try making my first ever soufflé.
It was with some trepidation that I set out on this task. Watching contestants on Masterchef, The Great British Bake Off and other televised cookery competitions try and fail to make their soufflés rise and stay risen had taught me that mastering the souffle is no easy task. But loving cooking as I do, it was about time I gave it a shot.
Here is the recipe I used, adapted from BBC Good Food and the Masterchef Bible:
Cheddar soufflé (serves 2/3 as part of a main meal)
- 220ml milk
- pinch nutmeg
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp salted butter, plus extra for greasing
- 3.5 tbsp plain flour
- 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 4 eggs, separated
- 80g extra mature cheddar, grated
- Preheat the oven to 190°C
- Put milk, bay leaf and nutmeg in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then set aside to infuse
- Gently melt butter in another saucepan and gradually stir in the flour
- Remove from the heat and add the milk (minus bay leaf) little by little, stirring all the time to combine it completely (whisk for smoothness)
- Heat mixture until it thickens, then stir in the mustard, cheese and egg yolks
- Whisk egg whites until white and stiff enough to form peaks (electric whisk recommended)
- Gently fold spoonfuls of foamy egg white into the mixture
- Pour mixture into greased ramekins (two-thirds full) that are placed inside a slightly larger roasting tin
- Pour boiling water into the tin until it reaches half-way up the ramekins
- Carefully put into the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the tops are going brown. Serve immediately.
How I got on
The recipe I was using requested an onion be put in the milk to infuse, then discarded, but I thought this was a waste so ignored this. Separating the eggs was easier than I thought, especially as I already break open eggs by tapping them sharply with a big knife (rather than haphazardly knocking them against the side of the bowl). As I try to explain to Steve, repeatedly, this method may require an extra implement but it causes less mess, less dispersion of egg shell and never fails! Seriously, try it. Anyway, I found that once the egg was broken down the middle, it wasn’t difficult to carefully pass the yolk between the two halves until all the white had poured out — then leave the yolk inside one of the halves until needed.
Egg white palava
I hate whisking egg whites. Failed attempts at making meringue (why must it always turn out chewy?) have taught me to avoid any recipe that requires egg whites magically forming ‘stiff peaks’. This could be because I don’t own an electric whisk, which I assume must be the secret to this elusive stiffness. Whisking egg whites by hand takes a long time. And even then, the best that Steve and I could achieve with our combined 10-minute effort was a thicker, frothier white liquid. When I stopped whisking, it just about crossed over from liquid to foam — but foam that had liquid underneath. I ignored this liquid as I spooned the foam only into my mixture.
My final problem was not having ramekins. Come on, who does, except frequent dinner-party throwers (or people who keep the ramekins that Gü desserts come in)? However, I figured that my floppy silicon muffin tray (never previously used, despite my greatest muffin-baking intentions) would suffice. This created six mini soufflés rather than fewer bigger ones, but I thought they were cute!
Happily ever after
And guess what? They turned out really well! It was exciting watching them rise in the oven and, although they sunk a little after a few minutes out of the oven (which is to be expected, apparently, hence why they must be served at once), still retained that soufflé shape and felt spongy and light. They tasted deliciously creamy and smooth, yet not noticeably cheesy — so I would increase the amount of cheese for a cheesier-tasting souffle.
Overall, I’d say these were lovely but perhaps not worth the effort, unless you were wanting to impress guests by serving them as a starter at a dinner party. And it’s definitely something every amateur cook should try — if only for the satisfaction of watching these babies grow.