The JC100: Cheese Soufflé

JC 100 Julie ChildWelcome to Week 13 of the JC100 Celebration! With only two weeks left in the countdown, we are finally taking on one of Julia’s most famous recipes, Soufflé au Fromage, a show stopper of a dish that practically demands to be served with a flourish! In Julia’s own words, “The soufflé is undoubtedly the egg at its most magnificent, the egg in all its puffing power. How impressive is the chocolate or cheese soufflé, its head rising dramatically out of its dish, and swaying ever so slightly as it is borne to the table.”

Baking a soufflé can be intimidating for a novice cook but I’m here to tell you it’s downright terrifying for an amateur photographer/blogger. Even a perfectly executed soufflé will begin to deflate almost immediately once it comes out of the oven, leaving just a few short minutes to capture an image of it in all its towering glory.

White souffle dish on a white linen napkin with a bright turquoise backdrop Julia Child’s Master Recipe for Cheese Soufflé

 

The JC100: Cheese Soufflé
Author: Julia Child
Serves: 4
Excerpted from The Way to Cook by Julia Child. Copyright © 1989 by Julia Child. Reprinted with permission from the publisher Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
Ingredients
  • 2 Tbs finely grated Parmesan or other hard cheese
  • 2 1/2 Tbs butter
  • 3 Tbs flour
  • 1 cup hot milk
  • Seasonings: 1/2 tsp paprika, speck of nutmeg, 1/2 tsp salt, and 3 grinds of white pepper
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 5 egg whites (2/3 cup)
  • 1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) coarsely grated Swiss cheese
Instructions
  1. Preliminaries: Roll the grated cheese in the buttered baking dish to cover the bottom and side, and fasten on the aluminum collar (see Notes below). Preheat the oven to 400 F, and set the rack in the lower third level. Measure out all the ingredients listed.
  2. The white sauce – béchamel: Stir and cook the butter and flour together in the saucepan over moderate heat for 2 minutes without colouring. Remove from heat, let cool a moment, then pour in all the hot milk and whisk vigorously to blend. Return to heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, and boil slowly 3 minutes. The sauce will be very thick. Whisk in the seasonings, and remove from heat.
  3. Finishing the sauce base: One by one, whisk the egg yolks into the hot sauce.
  4. The egg whites: In a clean separate bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites to stiff shining peaks.
  5. Finishing the soufflé mixture: Scoop a quarter of the egg whites on top of the sauce and stir them in with a wooden spoon. Turn the rest of the egg whites on top; rapidly and delicately fold them in, alternating scoops of the spatula with sprinkles of the coarsely grated cheese – adding the cheese now makes for a light soufflé.
  6. Ahead-of-time note: You may complete the soufflé to this point 1/2 hour or so in advance; cover loosely with a sheet of foil and set away from drafts.
  7. Baking – 25 to 30 minutes at 400 F and 375 F. Set in the preheated oven, turn the thermostat down to 375 F, and bake until the soufflé has puffed 2 to 3 inches over the rim of the baking dish into the collar, and the top has browned nicely (see Notes below).
  8. Serving: As soon as it is done, remove the collar, then bring the soufflé to the table. To keep the puff standing, hold your serving spoon and fork upright and back to back; plunge them into the crust and tear it apart.
Notes

For drama, you choose a dish that’s a little too small, so that the soufflé puffs into a collar. When the collar is removed the puff holds itself 2 to 3 inches over the rim of the dish. Use a double thickness of buttered foil that will rise 3 inches over the top of the dish; secure the collar by inserting a straight pin head down – for easy removal.

When is it done? A soufflé baked in a dish should puff 2 to 3 inches over the rim, and the top should be nicely browned. The puff should hold up when you release the collar just a little bit to check – if the puff sags, rapidly refasten the collar and bake a few minutes more. If you want the puff to hold and the soufflé to stand a reasonable time, test it by plunging a skewer down into the side of the puff; if wet particles cling to it the soufflé will be creamy inside and will not hold as long as if the skewer comes out almost clean. The fateful decision is up to you.

 

Folding egg whites into sauce base

I was so busy thinking about how to carry out a photo session at breakneck speed (planning a nimble route from the oven door to the sun deck where I could take advantage of the natural light, laying out linens, setting up my camera and adjusting the tripod’s height,  plotting out the camera angle from below the edge of the table pointing up to emphasize the soufflé’s soaring splendour) that it never even occurred to me that my soufflé might not rise – not even a smidge!

Cheese Souffle that did not rise

“One of the secrets, and pleasures, of cooking is to learn to correct something if it goes awry; and one of the lessons is to grin and bear it if it cannot be fixed.”
― Julia ChildMy Life in France

Oven-Baked Gruyere Omelette

So here I am, grinning and bearing it (and without apology, I might add).  What my soufflé lacked in stature, it more than made up for in taste. In fact I would say it was the absolute best Oven Baked Eggs with Thyme and Gruyère that I’ve ever eaten.

Oven-Baked Gruyere Omelette

 

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8 Comments

  1. Loved this. Looks yummy.
    Puffiness is overrated. Anyway, if no one knows that soufflé means blew/blown, then they won’t know what to expect. I like your alternate name.
    I’m so impressed that you’re attempting all these recipes. Well done, Laura.

    Reply
    • Thanks a lot Trish! You’re so kind :-)

      When I went to take the souffle out of the oven and saw that it didn’t rise I figured I had three choices: skip this week’s post completely, start over and make another one, or follow Julia’s advice and just grin and bear it (which, in my opinion, is a much nicer way of saying “suck it up”).

      Reply
  2. It does look delicious! I’m always having to photograph my food at lightening speed because the minute I’m done cooking, I am ready to eat! Probably why my photos never look that great. ;)

    Reply
    • Thanks Laura! I usually fiddle around for the better part of an hour trying to get one decent shot of a finished plate so having all the time in the world to photograph my not-so-puffy souffle was a nice change.

      And by the way, you’re photos look pretty terrific. I can’t look at those Vietnamese Meatballs without getting hungry :-)

      Reply
  3. Excellent spirit! Haven’t all of us been there before. A fallen, or barely-risen cheese soufflé still tastes delicious. I’ve had a few seafood ones that failed to make it to mushroom-cloud status. But, when it happens, it is kind of magic. Good photos none the less. Ken

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for the kind words Ken. It’s reassuring to know that I’m not the only one :-)

      Good luck in the race this weekend. Go Team Rialto-Trade!

      Reply
    • Thanks very much Tara and congratulations to you on your 6 month blog-iversary :-)

      Reply

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