There’s nothing quite like a dish you can prepare in advance for making you feel competent and put together. Even better if it’s the kind of dish that will impress. These dishes are rare little pearls that, once you discover them, you have to clasp to your bosom, keep safe and wheel-out at every possible opportunity. This twice-baked cheese soufflé is one of those dishes. This recipe comes with a gold-plated guarantee that if you make these soufflés, your diners will be hand-clapping, plate-scraping, table-banging impressed.
Once the soufflés have had their first bake, you leave them to cool, before popping them out of their ramekins. They’ll solidify and become quite firm, almost rubbery, and very portable (I’ve carted these little cheesy pucks across London before, and they’ve arrived in perfect condition). But when you drizzle them with a little cream, add a final grating of parmesan to them, and pop them in the oven, magic happens. Those pucks transform into puffed, golden clouds, soft and rich, and ridiculously cheesy. They have all the delight and deliciousness of normal soufflés, but without any of the risk or serving-panic.
Twice-baked cheese soufflé
Makes: Four large soufflés, or six more modest ones
Takes: 20 minutes
Bakes: 60 minutes
To line the moulds
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
125g parmesan, grated
125g mature cheddar, grated
1. Heat the oven to 180°C. Grate 25g parmesan and add a generous grinding of black pepper. Line each ramekin or mould by rubbing it generously with butter and then dividing the grated cheese and pepper between the dishes. Turn the dish so that the cheese sticks to all of the butter, forming a coating of the dish.
2. Make a roux by melting the butter and cornflour together, and cooking until it begins to sizzle. Remove from the heat and add the milk bit by bit, whisking it into the roux until smooth, then add the grated cheese. Allow to cool for just a couple of minutes and then whisk in the egg yolks.
3. In a scrupulously clean bowl, and using a clean whisk, whisk the egg whites until they reach soft peaks: the whites will be thick and firm, and hold their shape, but when you pull the whisk out, the tips of the whites will flop over. Take a dessert-spoon of the whites and mix it vigorously into the rest of the mixture. Fold the rest of the egg whites in in two batches: folding carefully will ensure you retain as much air in the mix as possible.
4. Put the kettle on. Divide the mixture between your moulds, leaving about a centimetre free at the top. Place in a large baking tray, and fill with boiling water until it reaches about half way up the sides of the moulds. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from the baking tray and allow to cool for five minutes, before running a knife carefully around the edge of the moulds and then refrigerating until you’re ready to serve.
5. Heat the oven to 200°C. Carefully turn out each of the soufflés and place in a baking dish. Drizzle with cream and grate a little parmesan over each. Bake for 20 minutes until puffed and proud, with a golden crust. Leave to cool for five minutes, and then ease each out of its mould and place on a plate. Serve while hot, and accompany with a green salad and fresh, sharp dressing.