Puffed and pillowy when prepared right, the soufflé is a French classic made with a base of bechamel sauce and egg whites. The soufflé template lends itself to endless savoury and sweet formats – all of which can be tricky to prepare to perfection, the cheese soufflé, soufflé au fromage, is the version most commonly served in France. There are some fundamentals to getting it right. One is ensuring that every ingredient added to the soufflé mix gets sufficient time to cook well. Another is ensuring that the ingredients added do not contain excess moisture. Serve fresh from the oven to showcase this heavenly cushion at its fluffiest best.

Planning ahead: The soufflé base can be prepared up to a day ahead and kept in the fridge, with the surface closely covered with buttered greaseproof paper to avoid crusting. It will need to be warmed before the egg whites are incorporated. The sauce can also be made a day in advance and reheated at the last moment, but you will need to whisk it in 2 tablespoons of cold water to stop it from splitting.

1.  Line the soufflé dish
100 gm  Unsalted butter, softened
20 gm    Dried fine breadcrumbs
Using a pastry brush, grease the dish with a thin, even layer of softened butter, then coat with the breadcrumbs, shaking out the excess; put the dish to one side. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas 4 and place a baking tray on the middle shelf to heat up.

2.  Prepare the soufflé base
50 gm    Unsalted butter
50 gm    Refined flour
450 ml   Warm whole milk
160 gm English Cheddar grated
20 gm    Dijon mustard
3   Egg yolks
10 gm    Salt (or to taste)
10 gm    White pepper powder
In a small saucepan over a medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, whisk until smooth and cook to a nutty blond roux. Lower the heat, then gradually add the warm milk, little by little, whisking to keep the consistency smooth. Add the cheese and mustard and continue to cook, stirring from time to time, for 3–5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little. Add the egg yolks and stir until the mixture is silky and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and keep warm.

3.  Whisk the egg whites
3   Egg whites
5 ml  Lemon juice
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites and lemon juice, to medium peaks.

4.  Incorporate the egg whites into the base
Transfer the warm soufflé base to a large bowl and briefly whisk in one third of the whipped egg whites to lighten the base. Then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites with a spatula or large metal spoon, delicately cutting and lifting the mixture to ensure minimum loss of volume and lightness. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Pour the soufflé mixture into the prepared dish. Fill to three-quarters.

5.  Cook the soufflé
Slide the dish onto the hot baking tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make your cheese sauce.

6.  Make the sauce
70 gm    Grated English Cheddar
150 ml   Double cream
10 gm    White pepper powder
While the soufflé is cooking, bring the cream to boil and add the cheese and pepper, stirring continuously. Once the cheese has melted, remove from the heat and taste for seasoning. A dash of kirsch would not go amiss. Pour the sauce into a warm sauceboat.

7.  Finish and serve
20 gm    Finely grated English Cheddar
Sprinkle the grated cheese over the surface of the soufflé and bake for a further 5 minutes. Serve immediately.