Look there she goes that girl is strange, no question, dazed and distracted, can’t you tell? Never part of any crowd, ’cause her head’s up on some cloud. No denying she’s a funny girl that… RACHEL!
Yeah, okay, that’s not the lyrics, but a girl can dream, right?
Today is Day 2 of the Be Our Guest series be sure to check out yesterday’s Instant Pot Beef Ragout if you missed it. Today I’m making an upgraded version of the first recipe I ever made on my own, cheese souffle. For some reason, this dish scares a lot of people. There’s a myth that if you slam the door to hard, or some people even think if you turn the light on, the delicate bubble structure that holds up the dish will fail and it will sync into an abysmal (yet delicious!) pancake. That is just so not true! With a little knowledge of science (like Maurice, Belle’s father – the inventor, would know) you too can be an expert souffle maker.
Henrietta’s Cheese Souffle
When I was a young girl, probably 11-12 years old, I was staying the weekend with my Grandmother. She was tired, and went ot take a nap, and I got curious and decided I wanted to make her a treat. I pulled out her handwritten cookbooks and found a recipe labeled, “Henrietta’s Cheese Souffle”. In the early 30’s Henrietta was my Grandmother’s housekeeper for about five years. My grandfather was a ship’s pilot in the Caribbean and Henrietta helped my Grandmother with things.
There were so many stories of Henrietta that I knew in an instant that this was the recipe I must make, but I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I had been cooking by my grandmother’s side for years, but had never done anything on my own like this. Did she have the ingredients? She did. I pulled them out and got to work. It was a “mell of a hess” in her kitchen (as my father would say) but in the end, a successful cheese souffle came out of the oven.
Grandma Toni praised me and my cooking genius and we ate every bite of that souffle. She never said anything about how I used all her eggs, her cheese, the flour that was all over the floor, etc. It probably took her several days to get her kitchen back to her standard of clean, but I will never forget the experience and how it made me feel.
What Makes Cheese Souffles So Intimidating?
It is the meringue. How are fluffy little egg whites going to hold up a heavy bechamel sauce laced with cheesy goodness? Did I whip the egg whites enough? My egg whites won’t whip, they just hang out in a pitiful little puddle. These are the things I hear the most when it comes to meringue and souffle. But really, there are a few steps that will make any merginue you make so easy that it won’t ever scare you again.
- Just Say No to Fat – There can be NO fat or fat residue on your bowl, mixer or any utensil that touches your meringue. Fat is what most often prevents egg whites from whipping to pretty little clouds. But, you cleaned your dishes, so obviously there’s no fat? Not necessarily.
SOLUTION: Seriously, so easy… white vinegar. Add a little white vinegar to your bowl, about an inch. With a clean paper towel, rub vinegar ALL OVER the inside of the bowl, then the outside (just to be sure) and then with the wet paper towel, wipe down your mixer whisk. Vinegar removes the slightest trace of fat and will give you a guarantee of success.
- Whip It, Whip it Good! Cream of tartar is an acidic salt that is formed when making wine. It isn’t necessary but will help your meringue whip up easier and give you a sturdier end product for a souffle. Other than that, I put my egg whites in a properly cleaned bowl (see #1) and then I slowly increase the speed to the 2nd from the fastest and let them whip. It takes 3-4 minutes, at most and I end up with egg whites that I can put over my head without even batting an eye.
1. No Peaks – Only a few minutes in, the eggs are getting foamy and a little lighter in color and cloudy, but they are still liquid and don’t hold a shape.
2. Soft Peak – When you turn your whisk upside down, everything holds for a second in soft mountains, but they melt back into themselves almost immediately.
3. Firm Peak – When you turn your whisk upside down this time, the little mountain ridges stand up firmer but the tips fold over like the curl of a chocolate chip.
4. Stiff Peak – Now the mountainous peaks stand proud with very little if any folding over. You can actually turn the bowl over your head and nothing will budge. The mixture is thick, heavy, and glossy.
- You Gotta Know When to Hold ‘Em, & Know When to Fold ‘Em – Yeah, okay, that was corny, even for me.The way you combine your egg whites into the cheesy bechamel is essential to maintaining the lift you need for a good souffle. Place 1/3 of your egg whites in the bowl. Using a silicone spatula (cleaned with vinegar!), slice down through the egg whites and the bechamel the bottom of the bowl. Move along the bottom and up the side and fold everything you bring with it over the top of the egg whites. Turn the bowl 1/4 turn, and repeat until you have most of the white incoporated. Then add another 1/3 of the egg white, and repeat.Not everything needs to be properly mixed in, you will still see little streaks of white. That’s okay, I promise. Just incorporate it using that technique until you have just enough added in.
The Air Fryer to the Rescue
So, I bought an air fryer a couple weeks ago to test out and see if it is worth it. The jury is still out, but today – it saved the day.
As I was about to start mixing things up, my husband went to heat up the oven for me… and it wouldn’t turn on. We flipped the breaker and nothing worked. I started to have a mild panic attack because I made a promise to get this post up today and come hell or high water, I was gonna do it! Then I realized… I have an air fryer. And that means, in all reality, I have a countertop convection oven (an oven that moves heat around using forced air, which speeds up cooking and can give a crispy exterior like a fryer with proper fat in the mix).
A little research about what temperature to cook a cheese souffle at in a convection oven… and a few minutes later, in my souffle goes and 25 minutes later – out it comes perfectly cooked. It was a little darker than I usually like it (I lowered the temperature a bit in the final recipe), but it wasn’t burned and it was SO delicious. So, there’s a lesson for you – adapt and ask Google. <3