Forget everything that you have heard about souffles being difficult to make. This recipe will change that misconception forever. Sure, some souffles can be a little tricky, especially dessert versions, like chocolate souffle that is meant to be a little runny in the centre. But this one is a different beast entirely.
I'm not sure where the idea originated that these delightful light meals were tricky to prepare, but as long as you use fresh, quality ingredients and follow the method carefully there is really nothing to it. And that is just for regular souffles. This one is even simpler as it is twice cooked. What that means is you can prepare your souffles a day or so in advance and simply reheat them for a few minutes when you are ready to serve. They can also be cooked in any type of ramekin or cup as they are removed from the mould before serving.
I tend to use goat's cheese when making this souffle, but any highly flavoured cooking cheese could easily take its place. Try cheddar, gruyere, raclette, tilsit, parmesan or pecorino.
As long as you remember that souffle is simply a white sauce that has had beaten egg whites folded through it, you can't help but succeed. Don't be intimidated, anyone can make souffle.
Separate the eggs, keeping the yolks and whites separate (you would be surprised, I have seen a young chef mix them back together). Melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan and stir in the flour. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. This is known in kitchen speak as a roux. Cooking it for a few minutes serves to drive off the raw flour taste.
Using a whisk, beat in the milk whilst pouring in a steady stream. Don't add all the milk at once as this will form lumps. Whisk constantly until all the milk has been added. Still over medium heat, stir the sauce for 5 more minutes. Add the cheese, stir until it melts and remove from the heat. Add the egg yolks and using the whisk again, immediately beat them into the sauce, mixing very well. Season with the salt and pepper and set aside.
Beat the egg whites until they have gone white and foamy and the leave soft little peaks when you lift the whisk out. This is known, funnily enough, as the soft peak stage. Using a kitchen spatula, mix 1/3 of the egg whites into the cheese sauce and stir well to combine. Now add the remaining egg whites and stir thoroughly, but a little more gently this time. The egg whites give the souffle its rise and you don't want to pop all the air you have beaten into the albumen structure. Adding the whites in two stages like this is a good general tip. When you mix a little egg white in first, it lightens the more dense mixture a little, allowing the rest of the whites to be added more gently and with little damage to the foam structure.
Preheat your oven to 180 °C (360 °F). Grease 6 150 ml (1/4 pint) ramekins or any heatproof vessel, such as cups, with a little butter. Ladle the mixture into the cups. Choose a high sided baking tray and place a tea towel in the bottom. Place the souffles on top and pour hot water around to come halfway up the side of the ramekins. This is known as a water bath or bain marie. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Run a knife around the ramekins and gently ease out the souffles.
At this stage, they can be covered well and refrigerated for a day or two. When ready to serve, simply place them on a lightly greased tray and pop them into a pre heated 180 °C oven for 5 or 6 minutes. They will puff up again and be ready to serve.
At the restaurant, we serve these little delights with some roasted red capsicum and grilled artichoke, but the would be just as happy with a simple green salad. Serve with a herbaceous dry white wine. Sauvignon blanc would be perfect.