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Souffles were once a very popular culinary delight, particularly in the early 19th to mid-20th centuries. These stunning confections – both savory and sweet – were baked in a large, round souffle plan and because of their temperamental nature, became the crux of a “good” baker. Leavened with highly sensitive whipped egg whites, the delicate cake was rather complicated to get just right, and a fallen souffle was the end result of many souffle tragedies. Souffles are a little bit fussy but they’re well worth the effort. This particular souffle L’orange is a refreshingly light treat at the end of a beautiful meal.

Souffles are a bit “fussy” but well worth the effort. I start by coating the ramekin with a generous layer of butter and demerara sugar; this will add a subtle crunch to the soft orange-flavored spongy cake. I’ll set these aside and begin to work on the souffle custard. The ingredients are quite simple. Flour, butter, and milk begin the process of making the custard. Once warmed and thickened, the egg yolks are whisked in. It can be helpful to first whisk in some of the warmed milk mixture to the egg yolks; this is called tempering and helps to bring the eggs to a temperature even with the warm milk so as to avoid scrambled eggs. Now, I’ll add the vanilla, orange zest, and Grand Mariner to flavor the custard, then set it aside to work on the remaining steps.

We have our custard but to make this a souffle, we need whipped egg whites to make this rise and achieve that golden crown that is the hallmark of a good souffle. Whipped egg whites are gently folded into the custard to as to retain their airiness and lighten the custard. My sugar-lined ramekins are now ready to receive this luxuriously pale-colored custard. I’ll refrigerate the ramekins, giving the custard time to set up for success.

As far as timing goes, towards the end of the main meal, I’ll heat up the oven and get the ramekins in to bake. At this point, no peeking! The heat must be retained and the ramekins remain undisturbed for the 10-15 minutes it takes for them to rise to glorious golden perfection. A spoonful-scoop of the souffle will reveal how that pale-yellow custard has been transformed into a light, airy cake, soft and warm on the inside with just the right amount of sweetness to make it feel elegant, and the flavors have that “je ne sais quoi” quality to them (and you’ll suddenly be able to speak in French colloquialisms now that you’ve mastered the souffle).

Souffle a L’orange is a part of the Midnight in Paris menu at Table for 12. It was served with Salade Paysanne, French Braised Short Ribs, and Pommes Puree.

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For custard:
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 6 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
For meringue:
  • 10 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
For assembly:
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened for ramekins
  • 1/2 cup demerara sugar
  • 1 pint vanilla bean ice cream
  • Powdered sugar, for garnishing
Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 and prepare 8 ramekins with softened butter and sugar.
  2. In a large sauce pot over medium - low heat, add butter and flour. Cook for 1 minute.
  3. Whisk in milk until sauce thickens and add sugar. Cook for 1 minute and turn off the heat.
  4. Add in egg yolks to the sauce and immediately whisk them into the sauce.
  5. Flavor souffle batter with vanilla, Grand Marnier, and zest.
  6. Using a stand mixer, whisk egg whites until peaks start to froth and peaks start to form. Add in powdered sugar and whisk until the peaks are firm but soft.
  7. Fold egg whites into egg custard and divide amongst prepared ramekins. Refrigerate to hold souffle for baking after dinner.
  8. Bake for 12 - 15 minutes or until well risen, golden brown, and just set.
  9. Serve souffle on a plate with vanilla bean ice cream & powdered sugar. Enjoy!