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.
2 untreated lemons
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.