Cheese and Crab Soufflés

Successful soufflés stem from the confidence which comes from practice, for a soufflé is one of the easiest dishes to make yet one that never fails to impress. The amounts in the following recipe are for a 1.5-litre / 3-pint soufflé dish. Before trying with crab, which is expensive, make a basic cheese soufflé as your training exercise.

For a crab soufflé, follow the same basic steps precisely but, instead of cheese, stir 175 g / oz flaked cooked fresh white crab meat into the sauce.

Ingredients

  • 45 g/ oz butter, plus more for greasing
  • about 30 g/ 1 oz fresh breadcrumbs
  • 45 g/ oz flour
  • 400 ml/14 fl oz milk
  • 115 g/ 4 oz Cheddar or any other hard cheese, grated
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 eggs

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Butter the soufflé dish carefully, taking care to grease the rim, and dust lightly with breadcrumbs. Tip out any excess.

Make a thick béchamel by melting 45 g/ oz butter and stirring in 45 g/ oz flour to make a roux, then whisk in the milk and cook, stirring from time to time, for 20 minutes over a very low heat to eliminate the raw flour taste, by which time the sauce will be thick and reduced to about 300 ml/ ½ pt.

Beat in the cheese until melted and incorporated, then season to taste with grated nutmeg, salt and pepper and pour and scrape into a mixing bowl.

Separate the eggs and, one at a time, beat 4 of the yolks into the sauce. (Use the remaining 2 for mayonnaise or freeze).

In a clean glass or copper bowl, whisk the whites of all 6 eggs until they form soft peaks. Stir a tablespoon of the whites into the sauce to lighten it and then fold in the rest, scooping and turning to achieve a light mass, but not stirring as this would break down the foam which will lift your soufflé as it cooks. Pour and spoon into the prepared soufflé dish.

Bake for 15 minutes, when it should be risen proud above the rim of the dish. The centre should be moist, the surface golden brown and resilient to the touch. If too wet and undercooked in the middle, give it 2 minutes more. If you find the soufflé too dry, next time cook for 3 minutes less or you could try turning the oven down to 10°C/ 25°F degrees cooler. After you have made 3 or 4 you will know precisely how thick your béchamel should be and how stiff your whites, which is why it is cheaper to practise with a basic cheese soufflé before going to work with more exotic ingredients.

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