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One French word: soufflé, a French recipe: soufflé au fromage

soufflé, adjective (soufflé (m.), soufflée (f.), soufflés (, soufflées ( = blown up, expanded, risen …

or a masculine noun: un soufflé

Well everyone knows what a soufflé is, don’t they?

The word comes from the verb souffler = to blow (le vent souffle = the wind blows, je souffle mes bougies = I blow out my candles) and from the noun souffle (without an accent on the e) = breath (un souffle de vent = a breath of wind).

The expression souffler quelque chose can mean to whip away, to steal something, and laisse-moi souffler means give me breathing space, time to breathe.

Soufflés rise because they are made of thousands of tiny bubbles of air. No bubbles, no soufflé. They are not complicated to make; there are just one or two golden rules: firm egg whites, and a hot oven that you do NOT open during the cooking time. Hot soufflés must be served very rapidly, because they sink down again. So people must be disciplined and be at table when the soufflé is removed from the oven. It is very impolite to the cook not to be.

Soufflé au fromage

My recipe is for a basic soufflé au fromage = cheese soufflé, in my opinion the best one. It is a very spectacular meal to prepare when one has virtually nothing in the fridge. All you need is a few eggs, some grated cheese and some milk.

For four people you will need :

  • 3 eggs
  • 125ml milk (1/4 pint)
  • 30gr flour
  • 30gr butter
  • 90gr grated cheese
  • salt, pepper

The basis of a soufflé is a béchamel (in my recipe index, but I will go through it again here), to which you add egg yolks and cheese. Followed by the stiffly beaten whites.


  1. Heat the oven to 180°.
  2. Grease a soufflé dish.
  3. Put the milk to warm (it doesn’t have to boil, just warm it).
  4. In a saucepan, put a heaped tbs of flour (which is about 30gr) and 30gr butter. As the butter melts, incorporate the flour gradually and let it cook for a minute, stirring.
  5. Whisk in the warmed milk, little by little ( a whisk will avoid lumps). When the mixture is smooth, leave to cook for a minute or two, gently.
  6. Add the grated cheese (good quality gruyère or emmenthal), stir to melt and mix well. Add four grinds of the pepper mill and half a teaspoon of salt.
  7. Off the heat, add the egg yolks, one at a time, stirring briskly.
  8. Leave this mixture off the heat while you beat the egg whites, with a pinch of salt, to stiff peak. Make sure the bowl you are using is scrupulously clean, no trace of grease, and that there is no yolk in the whites, or they will not whip up well. You should be able to turn the bowl upside down and the whites will stay in the bowl if they are beaten enough.
  9. Fold half of the whites into the béchamel mixture, stirring delicately with a metal spoon, so as not to break them. But at the same time, the mixture must be homogenous. Lift from the bottom to make sure all the mixture is being incorporated.
  10. Transfer the remaining whites to the soufflé dish, and fold the mixture in the saucepan into them gently. The mixture should only reach three quarters of the way up the soufflé dish. Place into the middle of a hot oven with no bars above to stop the soufflé rising.
  11. Cook for about 30 minutes, without opening the oven. When the soufflé is golden, remove it and serve it from the dish immediately, but only after everyone at table has admired the way it has risen. It doesn’t matter much if it is still a bit goopy right in the middle.

The béchamel mixture

Cheese added

Cheese stirred in

Adding the egg

Eggs added

Folding in the whites

Ready for the oven

My mother used to do a mean cheese soufflé, one of our favourites. But just after the war, when cheese was rationed, she also did a version where she mashed up a tin of sardines and added it to the béchamel in place of the cheese. I preferred the cheese, but this one was ‘interesting’. You can also, instead of the cheese, add some finely chopped ham, some flaked haddock or just lots of chopped fresh herbs.

Bon appétit.


About OneFrenchWord

I was a professional linguist and have been a life-long foodie. I am now lucky enough to be retired and free to roam the beaches around my home at the tip of the Finistère (Brittany, France). Writing is occupying a larger place in my life, with this blog and a children's book in preparation. I shall feel much happier calling myself a writer when I have published a book. And so posts on OneFrenchWord will be published first as an e-book, my ambition being to see a glossy volume on French language and cuisine in print some day. So keep reading, and snap up the book when it appears!

7 responses »

  1. I want to make this!!! Your series of photos of each step really helps. Why don’t more cookbooks do that???

  2. Well to be honest I don’t always think of it, I’m so lost in what I’m doing! This just worked out that way.

  3. I agree with Carolee. I have never made a soufflé, with your pictures and instructions I might try! In that case I would use Vaesterbotten, the “Swedish Emmenthaler” from the very north.

  4. I have to say that chocolate soufflé has to be my favourite but I’m very partial to savoury ones as well. The simpler the better: “Faites simple,” as Escoffier said, although actually his recipes were rather elaborate. I made a nice savoury chestnut and parmesan soufflé years ago from a super book by Anna Thomas, The Vegetarian Epicure, now sadly out of print and my copy is falling apart.

    • I think I had that book, but I may have chucked it out in a fit of anti vegetarianism… I do that occasionally and always regret it afterwards. I must have a better search for it. I love chestnuts and the combination sounds delicious – chestnuts and parmesan – did you purée marrons au naturel? Or did you start from scratch with raw chestnuts?

      • Sorry, only just getting round to replying. If you have the time and the patience you can certainly start with raw chestnuts. However, as you will know, you can buy the shelled unsweetened variety and just purée those, which is what I did. Anna Thomas’ recipe says to use 1/2 lb (about 250g I suppose) and 2-3 tbs of grated parmesan (fresh, naturally) but she uses 6 eggs and says it serves 4-6!

        She also says you can turn this into a sweet soufflé by eliminating the parmesan, substituting 2-3 tbs sugar and adding a few drops of vanilla to the purée. I haven’t tried this. Sounds good, though.


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