Cheese Soufflé Recipe: Easy Mode & Hard Mode

Soufflé /ˈso͞ofəl/ noun

A mythical French dish that strikes fear into the hearts and minds of all budding chefs.

But fret not, they’re actually super easy to make!

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When we agreed to write about soufflés, we decided to attempt two different versions — a traditional version and an easier version with less steps, because we’re lazy millennials. We wanted to know if all the extra effort was worth it, so we found two recipes, made them both on the same day, and compared them. The easy recipe is courtesy of our boi Chef John, and the more traditional (i.e. hard) version is by Alexandra Guarnaschelli.

You may not know how to check if a soufflé is done, or what they’re supposed to taste like, so we created a quick FAQ to answer all of your soufflé-based questions. Already know a thing or two about soufflés? Skip ahead to our recipe review!

Commonly Asked Questions About Soufflés

We’ve made two different types of soufflés so we’re practically experts, right? Below we answer your questions based on our limited experience. (We’re probably correct.)

What does a soufflé taste like?

Deliciousness. But seriously though, they are very light and airy with a subtle egg flavour that enhances the ingredients that you add — they can be sweet or savoury. In the case of the two recipes we discuss in this blog post, both of our soufflés were cheese-based. (But chocolate soufflés also sound delicious.)

How do you check if a soufflé is done?

A perfectly cooked soufflé has a puffy top and is golden brown. If you’re using a smaller sized ramekin and cooking your soufflé at 375°F, then this will probably take anywhere between 10-20 minutes. Watch your soufflé, and trust your heart (but mostly your eyes).

Don’t be like Sabrina: remember to turn on your oven!

What do you pair with a soufflé?

If you made a savoury soufflé, you can pair it with a light salad. This Chef Talk thread discusses multiple salad ideas if you’re looking for inspiration. If you made a dessert soufflé, you can have it after any meal, really. (With the exception of an egg-heavy dish, preferably.)

Are soufflés supposed to be runny?

When you dip your spoon into your soufflé, you want there to be some sauce — you don’t want the soufflé to be totally set. A perfectly cooked soufflé will have a bit of sauce (some of the batter will still be slightly runny), which you can dip the puffy, light egg in. Mmmm.

half eaten souffle

Why is it difficult to make soufflés?

It’s really not. You’ve probably heard that soufflés deflate easily, that they’re super finicky to make, and that you need to keep the oven door closed the entire time of bad things will happen.

There are truth to all of these things, but they are widely over-hyped. Yes they deflate, but they won’t immediately. Yes, you will need to serve your soufflés as soon as they are out of the oven, but slamming a door or breathing around one won’t make them instantly deflate like you’ve seen on TV.

Soufflés can be fussy to make, I guess? You have to separate egg whites from yolks (you don’t want any yolks in the egg whites), ensure that you have a nice meringue, and fold in your meringue in parts and not all at once. Is this hard to do? No, but it takes time.

Can you open the oven door? Yes, you can. We did while making our second soufflé recipe and it didn’t deflate. However, you want to limit opening the oven door a lot so the heat doesn’t escape. (This is just good baking advice, period.)

 Yes, this pan is really old.

Yes, this pan is really old.

How do you make a cheese soufflé?

Keep reading, we’ll show you how! There’s the traditional way where you make a béchamel sauce as your base, and an easier way which Chef John has introduced us to — his method uses less steps and dishes, which we are very thankful for.


Traditional Cheese Soufflé

Alex Guarnaschelli’s recipe is titled “Best-Ever Cheese soufflé” — with the claim of best-ever, we had to pick it. (Brittany is also a huge fan of Alex, so there was definitely some bias there.) Here is what you’ll need to make fluffy, cheesy egg heaven:

Ingredients

  • ⅛  cup + 1 tbsp freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

  • 1.5 tbsp unsalted butter*

  • 1.5 tbsp all purpose flour

  • ⅝ cup heavy/whipping cream (not whipped cream, whipping cream)

  • 2 large eggs separated into yolks and whites

  • An additional 1.5 egg whites**

  • 1.5 tbsp dry sherry

  • 3 oz Gruyere cheese

  • 1 tbsp sour cream

  • ⅝ tsp kosher salt

  • ½ tsp Dijon mustard

  • ¼ tsp dry mustard

  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper

  • ⅛ tsp cream of tartar

*You can use salted butter, just use less salt later on.

**You need additional egg whites in order to make enough meringue, it’s weird, but trust us.

The first thing you’re going to need to do is to get your oven preheated to 375°F. You’re also going to want to butter your ramekins and coat them with the 1 tbsp of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

🧀 Mediocre Tip: The more finely grated the Parmigiano is, the easier it will be to coat the ramekins. To easily coat, put the cheese in the ramekin and turn it around the ramekin on its side so it sticks to the butter evenly.

Next up, it’s béchamel time! Béchamel sauce is one of the French mother sauces and is formed by making a roux, and then adding milk, or, in this case, cream. So add your butter to a small pot and start melting it gently — low heat only. When the butter is melted add in the flour (notice how there are equal amounts of flour and butter? That’s not a coincidence, that’s the definition of a roux.), stir to combine, and allow the paste to cook out. You want to get rid of the harsh raw flour taste, so let it cook for a minute or so.

Once the roux has cooked out add in the cream. This is the part where everything can go very wrong if you aren’t careful. You want to add the cream in a little bit at a time — too fast and you’ll split the sauce or end up with lumps. So slowly add in the cream (⅓ at a time) and stir constantly.

 Look at dat sauce.

Look at dat sauce.

🧀 Mediocre Tip: Using a whisk or a rubber spatula will make your life so much easier when making a béchamel sauce.

Once the cream has been added and no lumps exist, remove the béchamel sauce from the heat to cool and get ready to dump in the two egg yolks, sherry, Gruyere, sour cream, salt, Dijon mustard, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, and the remaining Parmigiano. Stir everything until a nice and (mostly) homogeneous mixture forms.

The last step is to make a meringue. Place the 3.5 egg whites (yes, we know that’s annoying) and the cream of tartar into a bowl, grab the hand mixer and start going to town. You want to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. What’s a stiff peak? That’s just an old-timey way of saying that the meringue should hold its own shape. The cream of tartar will help your egg whites become a stiff meringue — don’t skip it.

 A very beautiful and shiny meringue.

A very beautiful and shiny meringue.

Once you have your meringue ready, it’s time to add it to the soufflé batter. Now, you don’t want to add all of it all at once, or else you risk deflating dem stiff peaks. So add a third or so of the meringue at first. Gently (fucking, gently) fold the meringue into the batter until everything looks homogeneous. Then carefully add the rest of the meringue in. If you deflate the meringue then it’s game over — and there are no save points, you’ll have to start all over again.

Pour the completed soufflé batter into your dish (it should be filled up close to the lip) and place it on a baking sheet. Pop it in the oven and try to calm the butterflies as you watch half an hour of work gently rise and brown. When the soufflé is puffed and the top is golden brown, remove the soufflé from the oven, admire your puffy creation, and dig in! You’ve earned it.

Ignore the pile of dishes and focus on savouring your delicious treat:

 It’s beautiful!

It’s beautiful!

Side Note: We halved this recipe for one main reason: the original recipe yields 1.5 US Liquid Quarts of batter and our ramekins were only 9 fluid ounces. Doing some quick maths, that works out to be approximately 5 ramekins worth and we didn’t have that many ramekins. We opted to halve the amount so we would have enough to make two —  one for the post, and one as backup just in case something went horribly wrong while baking.


Easy Cheese Soufflé

If you tell us there is a cooking shortcut to make something of the same quality with less steps, we’re going to try it. And in this case, Chef John’s Easy Cheese soufflé recipe delivers. We didn’t know that cheese souffles could be a dessert, but it works surprisingly well. That being said, the base of the recipe can easily be modded to become a savoury cheese soufflé if you’re looking for a quick and meal.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 tbsp flour

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • ½  tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 tsp lemon zest*

  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened

  • ⅓ cup cheddar cheese

  • 1 pinch of salt

  • 2 tbsp melted butter and 2 tbsp white sugar to coat the ramekin

*You may want to use a bit less lemon zest, as we found the lemon to largely mask the cheddar flavour. That being said, this soufflé was still 100% delicious. We love lemon!

As always, the first step is to preheat your oven. This recipe has a slightly higher heat (400°F vs 375°F compared to the previous recipe), so your soufflé should take slightly less time to cook.

Prep your ramekin by brushing the butter all along the inside and then put some sugar in there and turn your ramekin on its side to coat the entire inside.

 It’s recipes like these that keep your dentist employed.

It’s recipes like these that keep your dentist employed.

Once that’s prepped, you’re going to want to separate your eggs. You can separate eggs a few different ways:

  • Crack an egg and hold it in your hand. Gently pull the egg whites through your fingers and into a bowl. Transfer the yolk to another bowl. This method is Martha Stewart recommended.

  • Crack and egg and use the two halves of the egg shells to transfer the yolk back and forth until you’ve managed to free it from the egg white. Watch how to do this. (This guy is French, so he knows what he’s doing.)

  • Buy one of those contraptions that cracks the egg and has a piece that catches the yolk. Or one of the less-gimmicky yolk catchers that don’t do the cracking for you. (Something like this.)

  • Use a water bottle because you’ve watched one of those life hacks videos and your entire life is a life hack. Way to be original. (#lifehacks)

Can’t crack an egg? Maybe you shouldn't be making soufflés. But you’ve made it this far down the blog post, so you might as well continue reading.

Combine the egg yolks with your sugar, flour, ¼ tsp salt, vanilla extract, lemon zest, softened cream cheese, and cheddar cheese.

🧀 Mediocre Tip: Ensure that your cream cheese is super soft! If your cream cheese isn’t soft, you won’t be able to incorporate it into the batter nicely. Yes, it will melt a bit in the oven, but not much.

Once that’s done, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Is your arm getting tired? You can use a hand blender to whisk your egg whites to make things easier. (When we made this recipe we decided to follow Chef John’s instructions and had very sore arms.) Fold half of the egg whites into your egg yolk mixture, and then fold in the other half until combined. GENTLY.

Fill up your ramekins and pop them in the oven. Huzzah! You’ve just made a soufflé in half the time it should have taken you.

 Look at that puff!

Look at that puff!


Our Mediocre Thoughts

👨‍🍳 Trevor: When Brittany and I got together to make the soufflés that this blog post is about, it was the first time I had ever made a soufflé. Ever. Most other things here on Mediocre Chef I’ve made at some point or another (except for maybe the garbage plate, but even then, I had made the components of the garbage plate). So I was really excited to try this classic French dish.

And I must say, I was underwhelmed — but in the best way possible. Both soufflés tasted great, though I prefer the taste of the savoury one as opposed to the sweetness of Chef John’s soufflé. Nothing against the guy or his recipe, I just personally found the lemon and vanilla a bit too overwhelming (which could easily be remedied by reducing the amount and/or introducing another cheese). What was underwhelming was the cooking process. Is it involved? A bit. Is it some ridiculous, highly technical process that only the best chefs can do? Hell no. Take your time, and work with confidence. If you’ve never made a béchamel sauce before, have a practice run. If you’re not comfortable making meringue, make some beforehand.

Both recipes are good and have their strengths and weaknesses. The traditional method is good if you have some spare time and want to make a more complex tasting dish. The quick method is good if you need to pump out some soufflés quickly and don’t need to have a super nuanced flavour profile.

👩‍🍳 Brittany: There are so many soufflé tropes out there, that I was brainwashed into thinking that soufflés were hard to make — a difficult dish that only master chefs could create. We call ourselves mediocre chefs, because we are, but I was up to the challenge of making soufflés, thinking that they would be tough to make. Boy, was I wrong. As Trevor mentioned, there are a few steps involved, but it was pretty easy and the result was amazing.

If you don’t know if you can make a soufflé or not, ask yourself:

  • Can I crack an egg?

  • Can I make a béchamel sauce?

  • Can I use a hand beater to whip up a meringue?

  • Can I control myself and gently fold in the meringue, and not dump it all in the bowl?

  • Can I identify the colour of golden brown?

If you answered yes to all of these questions, you can make a soufflé and impress yourself, and your friends! All sassiness aside, I really enjoyed making these soufflés. I can’t decide whether I like the savoury or the sweet one more… So I guess I just have to make more soufflés until I can come to a decision. (Or just love all soufflés equally.)


Our Final Review

Taste: 5 sacrebleus out of 5 🧀🧀🧀🧀🧀

Presentation: 5 golden brown puffs out of 5 💖💖💖💖💖

Affordability: 🤔🤔🤔

Both of the soufflés we made were delicious! For the savoury soufflé, the cayenne worked well together with the Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano. If you make this recipe, don’t omit the cayenne if you don’t like spicy things — add a little bit less if you’re afraid, but the cheese really does mix magically with this spice. For the sweet soufflé, the lemon zest and vanilla are the stars of the show. While we felt the cheddar was less pronounced, you could add more cheese or less lemon to balance the flavours to your liking. Nonetheless, both soufflés hit the spot. Although they’re light and airy, they’re very satisfying! We felt rich while eating ours.

Presentation wise, what’s not to like? It’s in a cute little ramekin, puffs up, and gets a nice golden brown colour on top. 5/7 — perfect score. The affordability of this dish really depends on what you put into your soufflé! Eggs are cheap, but cheese can be expensive. For example, Alex Guarnaschelli's recipe uses both Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano, as well as some sherry (if you don’t have a bottle of sherry and decide to omit it, let us know how it turns out). If you’re doing a simple cheddar soufflé, it’s a lot more affordable! Soufflés can be as cheap or expensive as you want them to be.


We hope that this post showed you that soufflés aren’t a dish that’s so hard to make that you need to sacrifice your first born to Gordon Ramsay. All you have to do is have a basic level of kitchen competency and you too can eat a soufflé while wearing a beret and drinking French wine. Or you know, just impress your friends and family by making them a puffy, golden brown soufflé that tastes divine.

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