Sunday, February 17, 2008

Five minute soufflé

Soufflé is the quintessential show-off dish, so it's no wonder the French have kept quiet all these years about how easy it really is to make.
This version from chef Christian Plumail in Nice is one of the simplest and best I have ever eaten. It calls for only four ingredients - lemon, eggs, sugar and a pinch of salt - and comes together ridiculously quickly with the help of an electric mixer.
You can bake the soufflés in ramekins, but I've found that my tapas glasses withstand the heat of the oven and create an even more dramatic result.
The only secret to this recipe is to fill the ramekins or glasses right to the top and smooth them off with a knife before baking. If you get the timing right (the recipe below works perfectly for me), they will hold their shape for a good two or three minutes after coming out of the oven.
Of course, as the French say, "A soufflé waits for no-one." Be sure your guests wait obediently for their soufflés, and not the other way around: soufflés are not known for being docile.
I'm lucky enough to have heaps of local lemons in my kitchen as the lemon season is at its peak here. If this isn't the case where you live, look for organic or untreated lemons so that you can use the zest without having to scrub the fruit.
I often serve this soufflé with an apple and star anise compote, but have also paired it with raspberry sorbet: lemon and raspberries are made for each other, I think.

In Paris, the soufflé is the little black dress of the dessert world. Here are a few of the most spectacular that I've encountered (so far):

- Grapefruit soufflé with grapefruit sorbet at Le Jules Verne.
- Grand Marnier soufflé at the St-Germain bistro Chez Dumonet - Joséphine.
- Vanilla soufflé at the Le Troquet in the 15th arrondissement (the pastry chef made a collar of butter around the top of the ramekin so that the soufflé would rise evenly).
- Chartreuse soufflé at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon.
- Valrhona chocolate soufflé at Paule Caillat's cooking class.

Lemon soufflé
Serves 4

2 untreated lemons
3 eggs
50 g + 1 tbsp white sugar (1/4 cup + 1 tbsp)
A pinch of salt
Butter and extra white sugar for the soufflé dishes
Icing sugar (Confectioner's sugar)

Carefully butter four individual soufflé dishes and sprinkle with sugar to coat each dish evenly.

Zest the lemons and chop the zest finely. Squeeze one of the lemons and set aside the juice.

Separate the eggs. In a mixer, whisk the egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar until the mixture thickens and lightens in color. Add the lemon zest.

Clean the whisk and beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with the pinch of salt until stiff but not dry. Add the 1 tbsp sugar, then the lemon juice bit by bit.

Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the egg yolk mixture and beat with a whisk to lighten the mixture. Add the rest of the egg whites, folding them in gently with a spatula.

Fill the soufflé dishes right to the top, smoothing the surface with a knife. Sprinkle with icing sugar. Place the dishes on a baking sheet and bake in a 375 F (180 C) oven, preferably on the convection setting, for 8 minutes, until well risen and lightly browned.


Lucy said...


I've never made a souffle...but I do feel heartened by a recipe that actually works!

That apple and star anise compote sounds rather good, too!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Wow - way to go! And you did fantastically well to capture it at its highest!

Divina said...

Baby, baby. baby...
I am so there!
tomorrow will make a souffle for my boy too!

teeth whiteners said...

Souffle has always been so intimidating for me, but you make it seem so easy. The French are going to be really mad at you!

Rosa said...

Lucy, you really can't go wrong with this recipe - unless you forget to add the lemon juice, like I once did!

Thanks, aforkfulofsphaghetti! I was surprised at how long the soufflé held its shape - I must be getting good at this!

Hi Diva! I bet you have lovely lemons where you live, too.

Teeth whiteners: There are plenty of difficult French dishes. Soufflé isn't one of them!

Susan said...

Too cute! That's a great tip to use a glass for more drama.

jpcalkins said...

That is a great recipe. I made soufflé in a French restaurant in college twenty years ago.

apnea mom said...

This looks wonderful. I was wondering, though, how large a tapas glass is - how many ounces?

glutenfreeforgood said...

Oh, I'm so excited! I love lemons and this is gluten-free by default. Yippee, I don't have to figure out the flour subsitutions. What a treat! Thank you, thank you.

Nora B. said...

This looks stunning! I like how it only uses 4 ingredients, seems healthier then some other recipes. I can't wait to dig my spoon into one of those :-)

Rosa said...

Susan, I was nervous about putting those tapas glasses in the oven, but I've now done it many times and they have held up!

JP: Sounds like it's about time you made one again!

Apnea Mom: If you fill a tapas glass all the way to the very top it holds exactly 1 cup of liquid! But the size of your dish doesn't matter so much, as long as it has straight sides and you fill it to the top.

Glutenfreeforgood: So glad you can enjoy this dessert! The socca in my previous post is also gluten free.

Nora: there is not very much sugar in this recipe, and less than one egg per person, for that matter!

veronika said...

Rosa, Dahrling,

I am in the middle of making your beautiful souffle but I am confused about the sugar. Do you divide the 1/4 cupof sugar between the egg whites and yolks? It says add sugar to both.

Rosa said...

Veronika: I'm so sorry, there should have been an extra tablespoon of white sugar to go with the egg whites. I've made the correction now! Hope this mistake didn't get in the way of a fluffy soufflé.

Vegeyum: Thanks for your comment, though it seems to have disappeared, I don't know why!