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Passionfruit souffle June 5, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Fruit, Sweet things.
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In our food ‘tour’ of Europe for Eurovision, I conceived the fantastic idea of making a souffle. I’m not sure where the idea came from, but soon enough, I was looking for recipes, thinking of flavours, and worrying about ingredients. Maybe it was Eurovision itself that put the idea in my head? After all, Eurovision is a bit like a souffle – it looks really impressive but is mostly full of hot air! Which is not to say I don’t love both Eurovision and souffles.

Anyway, onto the recipe! After some searching, I decided on this recipe for passionfruit souffle by Neil Perry. I wanted to do a fruity flavour, rather than chocolate, and we’d already had fondue, so a cheese souffle was out. Passionfruit sounded a bit different, and I thought the texture with the passionfruit seeds would be interesting.

To start with, I prepared the flavouring / filling part. I separated 2 eggs and added some sugar to the yolks. I mixed them around until it the yolks were creamy and the sugar had dissolved. Next, I added some passionfruit juice and seeds – Perry calls for just the juice to be used but I wanted the textural contrast of the seeds too. I mixed this into the yolk mixture.

I then turned to my nemesis: the egg whites.

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I do not own a magical device to whip my egg whites for me. I know nothing of these so-called Kitchen Aids and Bamixes. I do, however, own a whisk. So whisking I began.

When the egg whites had begun to congeal but had not yet formed soft peaks, I added half of the remaining sugar. I continued to whisk until they’d formed soft peaks and that’s when I added the rest of the sugar. A while longer, and I declared my egg whites well and truly beaten.

Incidentally, if you have a copper bowl, they are the best for beating egg whites in. I don’t, and have never had a problem using a clean, glass bowl, but copper apparently provides more consistent results and better egg whites. I’ve also never used cream of tartar but again that’s meant to help strengthen the egg whites while beating them – particularly if you’re not using a copper bowl.

Next, I folded the egg whites into the egg yolk and passionfruit mixture. I didn’t want to mix them too much, but I needed to ensure they were properly combined. I do have a tendency to undermix because I’m paranoid about overmixing them!

I had decided to make individual servings rather than one large souffle, so had prepared some ramekins by buttering and sugaring them. After the mixture was combined sufficiently, I spooned it out into the ramekins and put them in the oven for 12 minutes at 190°C. Please note that while I followed the quantities listed in the recipe, which says it serves 1, it definitely made enough to serve 2 and maybe even 3 (I filled 3 ramekins about 3/4 of the way up – if I’d used 2 they would have been full to the very top).

Of course, for the entire 12 minutes, I was peering through the (closed) oven door, trying to see if they were rising properly! I was a bit worried when I saw they were going brown on top, and they were definitely ready to take out after the 12 minutes were up.

I was ridiculously pleased with the finished result! They had puffed up perfectly, and didn’t fall the second I took them out of the oven (they did begin to fall about 5 minutes after I took them out but from my reading about souffles I think this cannot be avoided). As you can see from the photo, they didn’t rise 100% evenly, so I’m not sure if that was due to my oven or the preparation of the mixture – but they certainly had risen!

And as for the souffles themselves – they were light and fluffy with a great texture. I was glad I added the passionfruit seeds as I could have done with more overall passionfruit flavour and the seeds helped provide this – as well as the textural difference.

While I was making this I was thinking why souffles have got such a reputation for being difficult? I realise that I made a very simple souffle and probably dumb luck played a part in my being successful as much as anything else. However, there are no fancy techniques to master before preparing this and not even any super specialised ingredients (although this does depend on what flavour souffle you’re making, of course). Timing to me seems to be the key to this dish – you can’t prepare it in advance so need to have the time to beat the egg whites and cook the souffles and serve them immediately so your guests eat them before they fall.

Souffle also seems like a very Nero Wolfe-like dessert (there is a fig souffle recipe in the Nero Wolfe Cookbook) and something that is certainly easier to accomplish when you have Fritz waiting in the kitchen for the signal that Nero Wolfe is ready for his souffle!

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