Sauce Béchamel: Cheese Soufflé

We’re egg eaters. We eat a lot of them. Lucky for us, we also love a good sauce béchamel. Béchamel is one of the “mother sauces” in French cooking (Hollandaise is another). It is the base white sauce from which many other sauces are created. Adding cheese to béchamel creates sauce Mornay, another classic sauce. Béchamel, Mornay, or Hollandaise can be served over asparagus in the spring,  over poached eggs for Eggs Benny (or Benedict),  on top of bread with vegetables or ham ala croque monsieur and can also be used as the basis for a gratin in the cooler months. And at anytime of year, we love it folded with fluffy egg whites and shredded cheese then baked into a toasted cloud. Poof, it’s a soufflé.

It took us years to take the soufflé plunge. We didn’t talk about it, but soufflé recipes seemed overly complex. But once we figured out just how quickly béchamel comes together – 10 minutes max – and how easy it is to hand whip egg whites, the rest of the work of a soufflé seemed a snap.

While simple enough, a soufflé requires that we all pay attention to a few little details to ensure that a lofty puff of pillowy custard comes out of the oven. The right sized cooking dish, properly beaten egg whites, a tasty base sauce and a hot oven are all that is required for soufflé success. If there is one soufflé rule etched in stone, however, it is that a soufflé waits for no one. It must be eaten piping hot and straight from the oven, served at the table in its baking dish.

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Cheese Soufflé Recipe:

Béchamel Sauce:
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 onion, skin and roots removed
1 bay leaf
1 clove
5 black pepper corns
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 Tbsp flour
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg

For the soufflé:
5 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup grated cheese (Gruyere, cheddar, Parmesan)

Salt and pepper to taste

To make the béchamel sauce:

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the milk with the onion, bay leaf, clove and peppercorns.

While milk is warming, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is completely melted, and before it browns, add flour and whisk thoroughly making sure no lumps form. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until lightly browned in color.

Strain warmed milk and pour into roux while whisking, again being careful not to let lumps form. Grate a tiny amount of nutmeg into the sauce and salt to taste. Cook, whisking regularly, until sauce thickens, approximately 2 – 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set-aside until ready to use. At this point the sauce bechamel is complete and can be used many different ways.

To complete the soufflé:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Position the oven rack to the lowest setting.

Using a 2 quart soufflé dish and butter and coat the interior with two tablespoons of shredded cheese, fit the soufflé dish with a buttered baking collar made of parchment paper. Set aside.

Beat egg whites in a large bowl with a hand-held wire whisk (OK, or in your KitchenAid stand mixer or with a hand-held blender) until they just begin to foam. Add a pinch of cream of tarter and a pinch of salt. Continue beating until whites form glossy peaks being careful not to overbeat.

Whisk the egg yolks into prepared béchamel sauce.

Fold one cup of the egg whites into the béchamel and egg sauce until just mixed. Pour the sauce into the bowl of whipped egg whites and gently fold until just mixed. While folding, sprinkle remaining grated cheese into the batter.

Pour soufflé batter into prepared dish. Set dish on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Bake until the top is a deep brown, 30 – 40 minutes, depending on the shape of your dish. Test the soufflé with a skewer, it should be clean.

Serve the moment it comes out of the oven by digging into the top at the center using two serving spoons. After all, Soufflé waits for no one.

A UK Soufflé

Our Stout and Cheddar "UK Soufflé"

When going on a vacation there are certain things you must do to prepare. Of course, there is the obvious packing, getting a cat sitter, and stopping the mail, but there’s are the little things like eating what ever is left in your fridge to avoid having to toss it out. You become a little creative in the dishes you prepare and sometimes, if you’re really lucky, the dish comes out tasting very good.

Rosemary Scented Pan Roasted Veggies

The night before we traveled to London we had very little left in our fridge – some vegetables that we pan roasted with rosemary and some fixings for a souffle, or so we thought. We were short on milk and didn’t think it would be wise to go purchase more since whatever we bought would be past its prime when we returned, but we did have some flat stout beer in the fridge from a leftover Beach Chalet growler. So, after doing a little research and thinking, hell, why not, we created a souffle using a mix of the last of our milk, stout beer and Irish Cheddar. The result was a UK, French mash-up that was one of the best souffles we’ve ever whipped up. The coloring was a nice tan though not as pristine as a typical souffle, but the taste was uniquely delicious, and the souffle rose higher than any we’ve tried before. The resulting souffle is a sort of fluffy ‘rarebit’ that pairs perfectly with toasted crusty bread and a nice salad. Give this one a try and tell us what you think!
Jason & Steve

Recipe: UK Soufflé

Soufflé Prep

4 Tbsp butter, plus 1 tsp

¼ cup flour

¾ cup whole milk

¾ cup stout beer

6 eggs, separated

¼ tsp dry mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dash of Cayenne

½ cup grated English or Irish cheddar

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for dusting soufflé dish

Pinch of cream of tartar

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 2-quart soufflé dish well (or several small ramekins of your choosing) then lightly dust the interior with grated Parmesan cheese, set aside.

Place a medium saucepan over medium heat and melt the 4 tbsp butter. When it begins to foam, add flour and whisk constantly until mixture begins to darken slightly. Add milk and stout while whisking to avoid creating lumps. Continue to whisk for a couple of minutes until mixture begins to thicken. Remove pan from heat and stir in salt, pepper, cayenne, mustard and cheeses. Next, whisk in egg yolks one at a time, again being careful to incorporate them quickly to avoid scrambling them.

Beat egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in a spotlessly clean bowl until soft peaks form. You can do this by hand or with an electric hand or stand mixer. Once whipped, stir a few tablespoons of egg white into the cheese mixture until completely incorporated. Add remaining egg whites and fold them in gently with a rubber spatula to avoid breaking their volume (Bittman uses his hands).

Pour the batter into your prepared soufflé dish and bake in the center of your oven for 30 – 40 minutes (less if you’re baking small soufflés). Bake until a rich golden brown. To test, insert a wooden skewer into the center. The skewer should be just lightly moist. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Remember, a soufflé waits for nobody. Everything you plan to eat with it should be ready and on the table before you take the soufflé out of the oven. It will lose volume almost immediately after leaving the heat of the oven so time is of the essence. Use a couple of large spoons to scoop it from its dish and plate it while steaming hot!

Bon Appetit!