Comté cheese soufflé
Comté is my home, my region; it gives me a sense of place. Maman Blanc always cooked her soufflé in a large shallow earthenware dish, rather than individual moulds. She would place the dish on the table for all of us to help ourselves, or sometimes the soufflé would be encased in a flaky pastry tart. Of course, only Comté cheese would be used, never Gruyère or Emmenthal. Everyone assumes that soufflés behave like prima donnas, but I will show you how easy they can be. They are usually inexpensive, yet create a wonderful drama at the table.
|For lining the soufflé dish|
|20g unsalted butter, softened|
|20g dried, fine breadcrumbs|
|For the soufflé base|
|50g unsalted butter|
|50g plain flour|
|450ml whole milk, warmed|
|160g young Comté cheese, grated|
|1 tsp Dijon mustard|
|3 organic/free-range medium egg yolks|
|2 pinches of sea salt, or to taste|
|2 pinches of white pepper, or to taste|
|To finish the soufflé|
|20g young Comté cheese, finely grated|
|For the sauce|
|150ml double cream|
|70g young Comté cheese, grated|
|4 turns of freshly ground white pepper|
|1 tbsp kirsch (optional)|
Special equipment: 25–30cm oval or round earthenware dish (*1), electric mixer or whisk.
Planning ahead The soufflé base can be prepared up to a day ahead and kept in the fridge, the surface closely covered with buttered greaseproof paper to avoid crusting. It will need to be warmed before the egg whites are incorporated (see note 6, below). The sauce can also be made a day in advance and reheated at the last moment, but you will need to whisk in 2 tsp cold water to stop it splitting.
To line the soufflé dish Using a pastry brush, grease the dish with a thin, even layer of softened butter (*2), then coat with the breadcrumbs, shaking out the excess; put the dish to one side. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4 and place a baking tray on the middle shelf to heat up.
To prepare the soufflé base In a small saucepan over a medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, whisk until smooth and cook to a nutty blond roux (*3). Lower the heat, then gradually add the warm milk, little by little, whisking to keep the consistency smooth. 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 silky and smooth.
Season with salt and pepper to taste (*4) and keep warm.
To whisk the egg whites In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites (*5) with the lemon juice to medium peaks.
To incorporate the egg whites into the base Transfer the warm soufflé base (*6) to a large bowl and briefly whisk in one third of the whipped egg whites (*7) to lighten the base. Then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites with a spatula or large metal spoon, delicately cutting and lifting the mixture to ensure minimum loss of volume and lightness. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Pour the soufflé mixture into the prepared dish, to three-quarters fill it.
To cook the soufflé Slide the dish onto the hot baking tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes (8). Meanwhile, make your cheese sauce.
To make the sauce While the soufflé is cooking, bring the cream to the boil and add the cheese and pepper, stirring continuously. Once the cheese has melted, remove from the heat and taste for seasoning (9). A dash of kirsch would not go amiss. Pour the sauce into a warm sauceboat.
To finish and serve Sprinkle the grated cheese over the surface of the soufflé and bake for a further 5 minutes. Serve immediately, placing the soufflé and sauce in the middle of the table so everyone can help themselves.
Use another cheese in place of Comté. There are many different options: goat’s cheese, Stilton, Emmenthal and Gruyère are just a few.
As an alternative, use individual soufflé dishes, 9.5cm in diameter and 5.5cm tall. These quantities will make 4 individual soufflés. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C/Gas 6 for 10 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese on top and cook for a further 5 minutes.