It’s quite out of fashion, the soufflé. And it’s got a bad reputation to boot; difficult to make, difficult to cook and not worth eating. Wrong on all counts! Bear with me just a little longer and you will show you how easy it is to make and how rewarding it is to eat. Well, the last one I can’t really show you unless you make it.
I wasn’t really planning on making soufflé at all, but I had all these bits and pieces of cheese left over and I was too lazy to make béchamel, which is the traditional base for our soufflé, so I started thinking… and once I had thunk for a while, I figured I could make the same kind of base texture by using cream cheese and then adding a little corn starch to replace the binding flour in the original recipe. Guess what? It worked like a dream and so here it is:
Cheese Soufflé for Lazy Cooks
enough for 2 lazy cooks
- 40g Philadelphia cream cheese
- 2 eggs
- 4g corn starch
- ½ Tbsp water
- 2 Tbsp cream
- 50g grated cheese, plus extra for the moulds
- butter to grease the moulds
- a little freshly grated nutmeg
- a little salt
- two 200ml-250ml ramekins
Allow the cream cheese to come to room temperature. Separate the yolks from the whites. Whisk the cream cheese to cream it up a little, then add the eggs and whisk to stir in. You need to make sure this is a pretty smooth mix, so keep on whisking until it’s smooth. Now add the cream and stir to mix. Dissolve the corn starch in half a tablespoon of water and mix it in. The starch will help the soufflé keep its shape and not collapse too fast. You can leave it out, but them you better run from the oven to the table and make sure there’s no draft.
Grate your cheese and stir it into the mix. I use a fork for this, as a whisk tends to get all clogged up with strands of cheese. Leave this mix to rest for about 10-15 minutes. You need to use hard cheese, such as gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar or similar. Soft cheeses will not work at all, so no brie or camembert. Check the seasoning and add a little salt if necessary and a little white pepper, if you like and definitely a good grating of nutmeg, unless you hate it. I find that nutmeg once grated goes very stale very quickly, so I only use freshly grated. Added advantage; the whole nutmeg keeps almost indefinitely. You can prepare this mix in advance and just keep it at room temperature if you plan to bake it within the next hour or so.
Heat your oven to 200ºC, butter your ramekins and line them with a little grated cheese. I use parmesan for this, because it gives a nice, rich flavour. You will need about one heaped tablespoon to line your ramekin. Clean the rim of each pot with a paper towel to make sure the soufflé doesn’t stick.
Just before baking, add two pinches of salt to the egg whites and quickly whisk them to stiff peaks. Lift half the egg whites under the cheese mix, then lift the second half under. Make sure you have a relatively smooth mix. Fill your ramekins with the soufflé base and bake them at 200ºC for 20 minutes. Do not open the oven while you bake, or disaster will strike. Apart from that, you’re going to be fine. Carefully remove the soufflés from the oven. Remember, they are very hot and if you burn yourself you have but two choices; sacrifice yourself or the soufflé. Once you have successfully managed to navigate the hot soufflés to the table, you’re ready to enjoy!
I used a mix of Spanish Manchego and some no longer identifiable Italian hard cheese, which worked very well. Traditionally, it’s Gruyère, but you can really use just about anything, as long as it has a strong flavour and can easily be grated. I say that because if it can’t be easily grated, it’s probably not hard enough to give you a decent soufflé. A younger Parmesan should do well too. I’m thinking to break my own rule and use a good Greek feta, so watch this space.