I am a fairly casual person and am most comfortable in jeans, eating homemade macaroni and cheese, baking good ol’ chocolate chip cookies and not having someone scrape crumbs of the crisp white table cloth while “I dine”. Don’t get into my chocolate preferences though because my whole theory on my own unpretentiousness just may sail right on out the window.
So when I decided to make Lemon Souffles for our Valentine’s dessert, it seemed a bit over-the-top for me, and intentionally I started to refer to my dessert as a lemon sooful. It made my daughter laugh and me feel like it was an attainable silly little dessert rather than a fancy schmancy something or other that only a pastry chef could succeed at.
It worked. I managed to fool myself with the misnomer and never felt intimidated by the reality that it most likely would fall and may not turn out. But I thought, if done right, it would be the most perfect ending to steak and lobster and would not be so heavy that all we would want to do later is nap.
And if you are thinking what kind of regular gal eats steak and lobster…I’ll let you know that when it was requested for a birthday dinner awhile back, I happened to serve it on paper plates. Gasp! And last night WAS Valentine’s day after all and I’m no schlep. Scroll through my blog—I have proof.
The baking soofuls, trapped in their 350 degree stainless steel armour, were almost more than my antsy self could handle. I turned the oven light on…of course. Then, half way through, I started to wonder, “Are they rising?”, and decided to plant my butt right on the floor in front of the oven. I squinted, tilted my head just so and practically pressed my nose against the glass. My daughter sat down next me. She is quite my second hand in the kitchen and definitely an empathetic supporter. Then my Golden Retriever thought we were having a kitchen floor party and gave us both a big lick and sat down with us.
Finally, when these babies came out of the oven, THEY HAD RISEN! I shouted with joy. My husband said, “Sh…aren’t you supposed to be quiet around souffles?”. They fell a millimeter. Of course, being the graceful ballerina-like baker that I am NOT, I accidentally landed the cookie sheet a little roughly on top of the stove. I gasped. They fell another millimeter. Note slightly fallen souffle in above photo. Then I tripped, just a little bit, while gently carrying them to the table, and they fell another millimeter. Note fairly squashed souffle in photo below.
Oh, in the excitement of telling you all about their height, I forgot to tell you about their taste and that would be quite a disservice to them. They were perfectly and puckeringly tart, but just slightly sweet, airy and when you scooped a spoonful, with a touch of the whipped cream, a dust of the powdered sugar and a bit of the raspberry, it was complete and utter Nirvana; kinda perfect for the evening ahead…
Martha Stewart’s Lemon Souffles
Makes 8 small ramekins or 6 average sized ramekins
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for dishes
8 large egg yolks plus 10 large egg whites, room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for dishes
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons),
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
Garnish: confectioners’ sugar, raspberries and freshly made whipped cream
To Make the Souffles: Prepare your ramekins by smearing a little butter on the bottom and sides and then sprinkling a smattering of granulated sugar in each one. Spin the ramekin slowly over the sink so that the sugar coats the sides and the bottom of the ramekin.
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Separate your eggs. Important helpful hint; When separating large quantities of eggs, make sure to separate each one over an empty liquid measuring cup, then drop the egg yolk into a small bowl (with all of the other egg yolks as you go) and pour the white into another bowl (with all of the other egg whites as you go). In my younger and more novice days, I would think that I could just separate them over the egg white bowl and then, sure enough, one little bit of yolk would fall in and ruin the whole batch. Don’t do that. It’s too sad. You will only need 8 egg yolks but 10 egg whites so just toss your two leftover yolks or be creative and add them to a Caesar salad dressing if you like.
Whisk together yolks, flour, lemon zest and 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar. Set aside.
On the stove, heat the milk in a small sauce pan on medium heat until it boils. Keep an eye on it and stir now and then because milk burns easily. Once it is boiling, pour it slowly while whisking the yolks, just a bit at a time, into the egg yolk mixture so that you don’t curdle your eggs. Once the hot milk has been amply whisked into the egg yolks, pour the egg and milk mixture back into the sauce pan and cook on medium heat whisking constantly until it becomes thick like a pudding. This will take about 1-2 minutes.
Martha will tell you to “strain through a sieve” at this point. I did NOT for two reasons: 1)I am impatient and 2) I was skeptical if I would end up with enough of the egg mixture after pushing it through a sieve. You can decide what is best for you. I do believe it would have been even airier if I had done this (Smidge-fellow blogger in comments above-, if you make it and sieve it, let me know how it goes so I can update the instructions here). After straining it (or not), stir in the lemon juice and butter and whisk gently.
Beat your egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with A BALLOON WHISK (paddle attachment will not do the job folks) until foamy. Start with your mixer on low and then gradually increase as they thicken until you have it up to a higher speed (not necessarily the highest speed). When foamy, add one tablespoon at a time of the granulated sugar (1/4 c. + 2 Tablespoons). Beat until stiff peaks form.
Oh so gently, like a ballerina, fold your egg whites- just 1/3 of the whites at a time-into your egg yolk mixture. Folding means gently using a rubber scraper and bringing the bottom of the batter over the top and repeating with a very light touch until everything is incorporated. See how it should look?
Place the ramekins on a rimmed cookie sheet for ease of moving them when filled. Fill the ramekins to the top with your batter, using an ice cream scoop. Bake for 16 minutes on the middle rack of the oven. DO NOT PEEK! They will fall if you do. When the timer says they’re done, they’re done. Don’t second guess it. Gently, with the utmost of care, take the cookie sheet out of the oven. Serve IMMEDIATELY! Dust with powdered sugar, top with a raspberry and serve with a dollop of whipped cream. YUM!