“Comté is my home, my village, my county; it gives me a sense of place. Maman Blanc would not cook her soufflé in individual soufflé moulds, but in a large shallow earthenware dish. She would place the delicate dish on the table for all of us to help ourselves. Sometimes the soufflé mixture would fill a flaky pastry tart. Of course, Comté only would be used. Never Gruyère or Emmental!”
Difficulty rating: Moderate
Serves (Yield): 4/6
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Special equipment: 1 x 25-30cm earthenware oval dish, electric whisking machine, pastry brush
The soufflé base can be made up to one day in advance, covered with buttered paper to prevent crusting.
For the soufflé base
- 50g unsalted butter
- 50g plain flour
- 250ml whole milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 100g Comté cheese, grated
- 12g Dijon mustard
- 2 pinches sea salt (*1)
- 2 pinches white pepper
To line the soufflé dish
- 20g unsalted butter, softened
- 20g breadcrumbs, dry
For the soufflé mix
- 6 medium egg whites
- 1⁄4 juice of a lemon
- 1 pinch sea salt
For cooking the soufflé
- 20g Comté cheese
For the sauce (optional)
- 150ml double cream
- 4 turns of freshly ground white pepper
- 70g Comté cheese, grated
- 1 spoonful of Kirsch (optional)
Preparing the soufflé base
- Preheat the oven to 175°C. Place a baking tray on the middle shelf.
- On a medium heat in a small saucepan, melt the butter, add the flour and whisk until a smooth consistency; cook the roux to a blonde colour (*2).
- Gradually add the milk little by little, whisking it to a smooth consistency.
- Lower the heat, add the cheese and mustard, and continue to cook, stirring from time to time for 3-5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
- Add the egg yolks and stir until the mixture is consistent. Keep warm.
Lining the soufflé dish
- Line the earthenware soufflé dish with melted butter and the dried breadcrumbs, reserve.
Whisking the egg whites
- In a mixing bowl add the lemon juice and salt to the egg white and whisk until very soft peaks are formed, then continue whisking until you have firm peaks (*3).
Making the soufflé mix and filling the dish
- For the soufflé mixture, in a large mixing bowl place the warm soufflé base and whisk in briskly 1⁄3 of the whipped egg whites to lighten the base.
- Then, carefully fold in the remaining egg whites; delicately cut and lift the mix to ensure there is a minimum loss of volume and lightness.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary (*4).
- Pour the soufflé mixture into the dish, smooth the top with a long palate knife and push the soufflé mixture away from the side of the dish by sliding your thumb around the edge (*5).
Cooking the soufflé
- Cook in the preheated oven for 21 minutes, sprinkle the cheese on top of the soufflé and cook for a further 7 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and serve immediately.
Making the sauce (optional)
- Whilst the soufflé is cooking (optional) bring the cream to the boil and add the cheese and pepper, stirring continually.
- Once the cheese has melted, remove from the heat, taste.
- Of course a dash of Kirsch would not go amiss.
- Pour the sauce into a separate sauceboat.
- Place the soufflé and the sauce in the middle of the table; and let your family and friends help themselves.
Chef’s notes (*)
*1 Salt does not help the coagulation of the egg white, it delays it. The salt helps to lengthen the whipping process. On the other hand the lemon juice does three things; it helps the coagulation of the egg white, prevents the graining, and makes the whipping of the egg white safe and easy. And, in addition, it helps the flavour.
*2 By cooking the roux you make the flour much more digestible and this also gives a wonderful nutty flavour. In cooking the base for 3-5 minutes you are breaking down the starch molecules in the flour, which in turn will thicken the base and leave a creamy taste and texture.
*3 For the savoury soufflé the egg white needs to be whipped a little firmer. *4 The Comté cheese, like Parmesan, holds quite a lot of salt, you should need little or no additional salt. *5 To achieve a tall, even soufflé, thumb around the edge of the soufflé dish just before placing in the oven, this releases the mix, and helps the soufflé to rise evenly.
The list of different cheeses to use for soufflés is endless; goat’s cheese, Stinking Bishop, Stilton and Gruyère are just a few. As an alternative you can use individual moulds—4, 5.5cm x 9.5cm moulds are perfect for this recipe.
If you use individual moulds, preheat the oven to 200°C and cook for 10 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese and cook for a further 6 minutes to achieve a great soufflé.