Make-Ahead Cheese Soufflés

With a few smart tweaks, you really can make this ephemeral first course in advance.

Published Oct. 3, 2022.

Ballooned, fragrant, and crowned with a bronzed and delicately crisped top, a cheese soufflé is a dramatic first course. Its dual consistency of rich creaminess and light airiness seems to defy the laws of physics, and cooks who can pull off this apparent contradiction are admired for their prowess. 

But peek behind the curtain, and you’ll see that most soufflés are actually pretty easy to whip up. And the recipe I’m sharing here, for single-serving soufflés that are baked only halfway, unmolded, refrigerated for hours or days (or frozen), and then puffed in the oven before serving? They’re just as delicious as the traditional type, but their flexible timing makes them even more approachable.

First, a primer on making a traditional cheese soufflé: Stir flour into melted butter in a saucepan, and then whisk in milk. As the milk heats, it thickens; just like that, you’ve made a béchamel sauce. Add grated cheese, and whisk in some egg yolks. Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks, and then fold them into the cheesy yolk mixture before transferring it all to a single large soufflé dish for baking. 

In the hot oven, the water in the mixture turns to steam, which inflates the egg whites’ millions of air bubbles, causing the soufflé to rise. After a while, the exterior proteins and starch set, so even though the interior is still moist and soft, the soufflé can’t expand any more. That’s when you hurry it to the table to receive your accolades, because it will soon deflate; it’s what soufflés do. 

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Soufflés: The Rise and Fall

During the first bake, the soufflés puff slightly. Then, as they cool, the soufflés deflate. During the second bake, the soufflés reinflate, expanding dramatically and browning all over. 

With some adjustments, you can make the recipe in advance: Divide the batter among small ramekins instead of a large dish (a big soufflé would be difficult to unmold without breaking), and parbake them in a water bath to ensure that the soufflés cook evenly and retain plenty of moisture as they partially rise. Then, let the soufflés cool before unmolding and refrigerating them. After that, there’s no rush. Perhaps while your guests are enjoying a predinner drink, pop the soufflés into the oven, where their remaining moisture will help them majestically expand and their exteriors—not just the tops—will crisp and brown. 

For the cheese, I’ve called for nutty, fruity Comté as well as Parmesan, which enhances the flavor but, because it’s dry, doesn’t weigh down the structure. 

So fear not: It’s time to make soufflés—on your schedule.

Make-Ahead Cheese Soufflés

With a few smart tweaks, you really can make this ephemeral first course in advance.
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