I've written out each step to making a soufflé in detail to insure success. The steps take less than 30 minutes to prep plus about 25 minutes baking time. Whether you make an individual soufflé for one or want to serve up to four people the method is the same, just scale up the formula for the number of servings. Similarly, you can adjust the formula according to the cup-measure of the baking dish you are using.
- 1 tablespoon vinegar for preparing the bowl
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature (you will use 1 yolk and 2 whites)
- 1 tablespoons All-purpose flour, or 2 1/4 teaspoons Wondra instantized flour
- 1/3 cup cold milk
- Scant 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- Smidgeon cayenne
- A couple of scrapings or a tiny pinch of nutmeg
- About 1/4 teaspoon butter
- About 3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or other hard, pungent grating cheese
- 1 1/2 ounces flavorful medium hard cheese(s) in any combination, such as Gruyere, sharp Cheddar, aged Ossau Iraty, or Manchego (a scant loosely-packed 1/2 cup grated)
- Pinch of cream of tartar (optional)
1. Prepare the bowl and the beaters or whisk for beating egg whites. Wash the bowls and beaters or whisk for the egg whites in warm soapy water; dry carefully. Pour a tablespoon of vinegar into the bowl and rub the inside with paper towels until dry; do not wash. Position the rack in the lower half of the oven and preheat to 375 F.
2. Separate the eggs. Arrange three small, clean, dry bowls on the countertop, along with a large bowl, preferably copper, in which to beat the whites. Holding one egg over the first bowl, crack the egg, letting the white drop into the bowl as you gently hold the yolk in a half shell; place the yolk in the second bowl. (If you break a yolk, discard the egg and start over). Check the white to see that there is no trace of yolk. Pour the white into the large bowl. Repeat with the remaining egg(s), placing half the yolks into the third small bowl (these will be discarded or reserved for another use), until you have 1 yolk and 2 whites per serving. (To speed up cooling, transfer to a medium bowl.)
3. Prepare the base: Place the flour in a small, heavy saucepan and slowly whisk in just enough milk to make a thick, perfectly smooth paste; then whisk in the remaining milk until blended. Set the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking frequently; when it begins to thicken, whisk constantly. Boil 1 minute then turn off the heat. Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time, and then the salt, pepper, cayenne and nutmeg. Set the base aside to cool while you do the rest of your prep.
4. Prepare the soufflé dish(es). Lightly butter the inside of the individual soufflé dishes or one 8-cup (2-quart) high-sided soufflé dish or ovenproof dish. Spoon some grated Parmigiano into each dish and tilt the dish until the inside is completely coated with cheese. (This will help the soufflé to "climb up" the side of the dish.) Invert the dish and knock out any excess cheese back into the remaining Parmigiano. Arrange the dish(es) on a baking sheet and set aside.
5. Grate the cheese. Using a hand grater or a food processor fitted with a shredding disk, coarsely shred the cheese. Set aside. (You can prepare these steps up to 2 hours before assembling the soufflé. Cover the cooled base and the egg whites tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the cheeses. About 30 minutes before you wish to serve the soufflé(s) complete the remaining steps.).
6. Beat the egg whites. Add the cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat just until stiff peaks form, that is, when you hold the beater upright, the egg white peak holds it's shape without falling over; the whites should slip slightly when you tilt the bowl. Do not overbeat.
7. Fold together the base, whites and cheese. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about one quarter of the egg whites into the reserved base to loosen it. Then push the whites aside in their bowl and pour the base mixture alongside—not on top—of the egg whites; sprinkle some grated cheese on the base. Plunge the spatula into the mixture sideways, like a knife, cutting down through the center of the egg whites to the bottom of the bowl. Working quickly, slide the spatula's edge toward the side of the bowl and rotate it so its flat side brings some of the base mixture up over the egg whites. Rotate the bowl slightly and continue the plunging-scooping movement of the spatula 7 or 8 times, alternating with sprinkles of the grated cheese, until all the cheese is used and the mixture is roughly blended (the whites to not have to uniformly incorporated; a few small patches of white are fine). Do not overmix. Spoon the soufflé mixture into the prepared dish(es), mounding it in the center.
8. Place the soufflés in the oven. For individual soufflés, turn the oven up to 400 F. Bake individual soufflés 20 to 25 minutes, a large one 40 minutes, until highly puffed and browned and it jiggles slightly when shaken. Remove from the oven and serve at once.