There’s a stand at my local market that sells the most beautiful free-range eggs; the farmer’s name is David Emmett but it’s usually a woman or a boy manning the stall. I’m not sure what they feed their chickens but the yolks are consistently a gloriously, rich orange that I’ve not seen in any of the supermarket free-rangers. While they usually sell their eggs (medium or large sizes) by the dozen or half-dozen, about two weekends ago, they had small eggs. And not only that, they were selling them by the tray (30 eggs!) for only £2! I couldn’t help myself and walked, no, skipped off with a trayful.

But at home, where my tray seemed to take on mammoth proportions, there was the problem of what to make with them all. Well, for a start, cheese soufflé, one of the few dishes that Blai’s actually requested for me to make. I’ve made individual chocolate soufflés in the past but never a big one and so I turned to a blog whose recipes have never done me wrong: Orangette. Molly’s recipe is that of Julia Child’s, the doyenne of French cuisine, and with two such ladies backing this soufflé, I knew it should turn out reasonably well. Incidentally, I looked up the recipe in the Larousse Gastronomique and it’s pretty much the same.

Cheese Soufflé

We ate the light and fluffy, yet deceptively rich, cheesy soufflé with a simple salad on the side, with lots of vinegar in the dressing to cut through the creaminess from the main dish. Despite the richness, the two of us somehow managed to put away the whole thing, normally meant for four.

Soufflé and Salad

Cheese Soufflé
adapted from The Way to Cook, by Julia Child via Orangette.
serves 3-4.

2 tbsps finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano (I used another hard cheese – Grana Padano)
2 1/2 tbsps unsalted butter and more for buttering
3 tbsps plain flour
1 cup (250 mL) milk
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper
6 small egg yolks (or 4 large yolks)
7 small egg whites (or 5 large whites)
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese

Preheat your oven to 200C, with the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Prepare your baking dish – I used a deep, round stoneware dish about 20cm in diameter. Butter the inside well and then dust all over with the grated hard cheese.

Now make the bechamel. Heat the milk and keep hot. Heat a small pot over medium heat and melt the butter in it. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and cook for a minute or two, taking care to keep stirring and not letting the mixture burn. Take off the heat and pour in all the hot milk at once. Stir furiously, you don’t want lumps! Place back on the heat, reducing it to low, and slowly cook for a few minutes until the bechamel is thick. Stir in the salt, pepper and nutmeg. When thick, take it off the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Beat in (you can still use the wooden spoon) the egg yolks one at a time, incorporating well.

In a large clean bowl, beat the egg whites until firm peaks are formed. Fold about a quarter of the egg whites into the bechamel mixture to lighten it first and then fold in the rest, alternating spoonfuls of egg whites with small handfuls of the grated gruyere. When everything is incorporated well, gently pour the souffle into the prepared baking dish. Use your spoon or a spatula to trace a circle in the souffle along the side of the dish.

Gently place the soufflé dish into the oven, closing the oven door as carefully as possible (do not slam it!). Now follow all the primary rule for good soufflés: do not open the oven door while it is baking! Bake for 25-30 minutes. The top should be golden brown and the souffle risen at least a couple of centimetres, maybe more – of course, if you’re unable to see through your oven door, I guess you’ll just be timing.

Take it out of the oven, marvel at the soufflé’s puffiness and serve immediately! A soufflé waits for no one! But really, if it doesn’t work out this time, a fallen soufflé is just as delicious as a risen one. As you can see, mine didn’t rise very evenly; there’s always room for improvement!

Cheese Soufflé

More excellent soufflé tips can be found at 101 Cookbooks. And also a thank you to Kim Kian for the lovely stoneware dishes!