Last week when were down at our weekly walk, we were chatting with some people about various restaurants around town. Apparently, one has a cheese soufflé that people rave about. Immediately we came up with the idea of making a soufflé using goat cheese. Sounds good, right? There was only one problem, we don’t own a soufflé dish. Well, maybe two problems, as we’ve never made a soufflé. Okay, three problems, one of us, the one who was going to make the soufflé, had never even eaten soufflé and had no idea what the finished version should be like.
Well, to tell the truth, he did know something about soufflés, but it was limited to television and cartoons showing various soufflé disasters for comedic effect. Hmm. Was that enough? Or should one have some idea how a dish should turn out before attempting it? If so, we’d have to find someplace that serves soufflé. We took a poll here at Scracthin’ Central and decided to go forth, with no apologies, and make a soufflé, no matter how difficult and tricky it might seem.
As it turns out, it wasn’t difficult; feel free to scratch one up right along with us. And, for complete honesty, we used The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Roumbauer and Marion Roumbauer Becker as a guide.
We give a range on the amount of goat cheese to use, partly because we used a mixture of goat cheese and feta cheese. You can use a mixture, too, if you wish. We did, only because we had some feta that we needed to finish up. Get in the habit of using unsalted butter for all your baking and cooking. After all, who wants a complete stranger salting his or her food? Since this dish is all about the eggs, make it all about the eggs, and get some from happy, healthy hens. Oh, and a tip: separate the eggs when cold, then let them warm to room temperature.
Procedure in detail:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place a rack in the lower third of the oven, leaving at least 8 inches of space above. After all, who knows how high this soufflé will get? Butter and flour a 7-inch soufflé pan if you have one. If not, improvise with another baking dish with straight sides. We used a loaf pan and it turned out just fine.
Make roux. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. When melted, add the flour, the bay leaf, and a few gratings of fresh nutmeg. Stir until smooth, and continue to cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Make bechemel. Stirring all the while, slowly add the milk to the roux. Once it’s all mixed in, increase the heat to medium and cook, stirring, until it thickens and just starts to boil. Remove bay leaf, and remove pan from heat.
Mix yolks and cheese. In a medium bowl, blend the cheese and egg yolks until you have a nice yellow paste. Add a few grinds of freshly-ground black pepper and stir to combine.
Mix in bechemel. Ah, the moment of truth; well, one of them anyway. You need to get the hot bechemel sauce into the egg and cheese mixture without cooking the eggs. So, start stirring the egg cheese mixture and drip in just a bit of becehmel. Continue adding bechemel, little by little, increasing the amount as you go, until all the bechemel is mixed in. Not so bad.
Whip egg whites. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sprinkle a bit of cream of tartar over the egg whites and start whipping. Start on medium-low speed and gradually increase the speed of the mixer as the egg whites get frothy. Continue whipping until the egg whites will hold stiff, but not dry, peaks.
Fold in egg whites. Another moment of truth. Fold the egg whites into the cheese mixture in three additions. We always use three or four additions, as it can be difficult to start folding in the egg whites, especially if the batter is thick, but it gets easier as you fold in more. Once the egg whites are folded in, scrape the soufflé batter into the prepared pan.
Bake. Slide the soufflé into the oven and bake until puffed, golden on top, and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 30 minutes. The soufflé will still be a bit jiggly, but it shouldn’t jiggle as though it has liquid in the center. Without knowing what a soufflé should look like, this was the most difficult part, but we managed.
Serve immediately. Since the soufflé will collapse in a few minutes — it doesn’t matter what you do, it will collapse — bring it out to the table immediately. Half the fun of a soufflé is seeing that it’s risen out of the pan, so don’t spoil it for the other diners by plating it for them. Instead, just place it on the table with a large serving spoon and a flourish. Ta da!
Hmm. Soufflé is pretty good. This one was like a very light, moist, version of scrambled eggs, with a mild cheesey taste. But, we have no idea where it gets the reputation that it’s difficult to make. It’s basically egg whites folded into egg yolks, strengthened with the addition of something to help bind it together. In this case, it was the flour in the bechemel. We liked using goat cheese this way; it makes for a nice mild flavor in the soufflé, and, while it’s enough to taste, it isn’t enough to weigh down the soufflé. We definitely think this is worth four stars, and we can’t wait to try the dark chocolate soufflé that we’ve read about.