Sweet, Sweet Lime Soufflé

There are many things to love about diving in mouth first into the food world. One of my favorites is the discovery of new items that I never even new existed. Lately, this has been about new varieties of citrus. Who knew that there were limes that were completely yellow! Palestine Sweet Limes don’t usually show themselves on the grocery store shelves here in the Northwest, but are quite common in other parts of the world. The juice is oddly non-acidic and sweet without being as sweet as an orange. The overall flavor is much lighter, even drinkable straight from the fruit.

I had a bunch of these, along with some seedless Lisbon Lemons left over after a recent shoot, and decided there could be no better use for them than to participate in Tami of Running with Tweezer’s Hay Hay, It’s Donna Day event, which this month has a fantastically challenging theme of soufflé. I’ve never made a true soufflé before. I’ve always been intimidated enough that I instead would op for equally delicious recipes for baked puddings. In reality, those are really soufflé as well… they are just soufflé with lowered expectations of themselves.

It did not take me long to find the recipe I wanted to adapt… the Meyer Lemon Soufflé in The Sweet Life. As I began to read the recipe, I could not help but laugh. The souffle, it seems, is entirely based up a meringue! Yes, meringue shows itself once again this week, making the theme complete (if also completely unplanned). This soufflé recipe uses an Italian meringue, which spins a hot sugar syrup into the whipped egg whites, making the whole fluffy, silky mixture hold its lightness much longer than other meringues. The soufflé mixture can even be made early and refrigerated or frozen before baking, and still rise up beautifully (at least according to the recipe).

I pretty much followed the recipe as is, and there was only one really tricky part… the part where you had to simultaneously bring the sugar syrup to a very specific temperature while whipping the whites and making sure that they aren’t over or under-whipped. if you have an extra pair of eyes and hands during that part, you’ll keep yourself from accidentally doing the splits running back and forth. The only change I made (beyond making a half a recipe) was to use the sweet limes instead of Meyer lemons, and to top the baked souffle with a Lisbon Lemon and Rosemary Syrup… basically just a reduction of the lemon juice with sugar and a few rosemary leaves. Because the sweet lemons were so mild, I worried that they wouldn’t have the same oomph in the souffle as the original recipe, making a bland dish. In reality, the flavor was mild, but by no means bland… but the lemon rosemary syrup did give it a beautiful kick (plus, I loved the look of golden droplets puddling on the top).

PS: If you are trying to photograph your soufflé, do yourself a favor and check your camera battery before you put the soufflé in the oven. That way, you won’t find yourself with a beautifully risen soufflé popped into place only to not be able to click the shutter, and nearly kill yourself running to the other side of the house to grab a new battery! )

PPS: The Intro to the recipe in The Sweet Life notes that the restaurant often bakes the soufflés freeform, and even has a photo of the finished product. I’m intrigued by this idea, but couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to do it. Any thoughts? The book didn’t give any indication… I thought that perhaps a ring of parchment and a baking sheet, but I wasn’t sure if the soufflé would be removable from the sheet.

PPPS: Yes, the opening shot is meant in homage to the fantastic photos of Petrina Tinsley! It’s my own little take on the Flavours cover.

Sweet Lime Souffle with Lemon Rosemary Syrup
(Adapted from The Sweet Life, p 114)

Makes 8 to 12, depending on the size of the ramekins

5 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 T caster sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Palestine Sweet Lime juice
2 t lime zest
8 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 t salt
2 T plus 1 t all purpose flour
1/8 t lemon juice (or a pinch of cream of tartar)
Lemon Rosemary Syrup (recipe to follow)

Start by coating the inside of your ramekins with melted butter (melt all but 2 T… save the rest for the pastry cream). Refrigerate the ramekins. You should have melted butter left over… save it for later in the recipe.

Combine the cream, lime juice, zest and 1 T of sugar in a heavy bottom sauce pan, and heat through over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Start separating your eggs into the following bowls:

  • All egg whites into a pyrex measuring cup
  • 5 egg yolks into a medium bowl
  • 2 egg yolks into a small glass
  • You can discard (or save for another recipe) the remaining egg yolk.

Here’s a tip: crack your eggs into an empty bowl, and drop your white into that. Then, dump that white into the pyrex before cracking the next egg. That way, if you mess up and loose a bit of yolk, it doesn’t pollute all of your whites.

Check on your cream mixture… is it too hot? It shouldn’t be boiling. If it is, turn it down a bit.

Now, back to your eggs. Whisk the bowl of the 5 egg yolks with 2 T of sugar and the salt until they are somewhat smooth. Then whisk in the flour and making sure to incorporate it fully and break up any lumps.

Remove the pot with the cream mixture, and slowly, while still whisking, pour about half of the mixture into the egg yolks. Whisk, whisk, whisk. When that’s all combine, whisk the contents of the bowl back into the lemon cream in the pot. Then, bring that mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking continuously. Once it boils for 20 seconds (it will become quite thick), remove it from the heat. Stir in the remaining 2 T of butter, and then using a spatula, scoop it all out into a large clean stainless-steel bowl to cool. This is your pastry cream. Lightly cover with plastic to prevent it from forming too much of a skin.

Take your ramekins out of the fridge, and add another coat of melted butter. Then sprinkle them with a bit of sugar. Stick them back into the fridge.

Ok… here’s where it helps to have a helper.

On the stove, in a clean heavy bottom pot, combine 1/2 cup plus 2 T of sugar and 3 T of water. Attach a candy thermometer to the pot. You need to monitor the temperature carefully. Turn the heat onto medium, give it a quick stir.

Then, immediately, head to your egg whites. Place them into your mixing bowl and whisk (medium-high if using a mixer). When they start getting foamy, add the 1/8 t of lemon juice. When the whites start to hold the lines of the whisk, quickly go back and turn up the heat on the sugar to high. (you are still whisking!) Watch the sugar syrup, and when it gets to 225F, go back to your whites. Add more sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time, to the whites, up to 2 Tablespoons (that should be 6 teaspoons…). The whites should get shiny and start to gain volume.

If the whites are beading (ie, small lumps of egg white on the side of the bowl), slow down the whisking as you add the remaining sugar.

Now, go back to your syrup (still whisking). Once the sugar has reached 248F, remove it from the heat, and start pouring in a slow continuous stream into the whites (still whisking). The whites should become satiny white and get even bigger and fluffier. Continue to whip on medium-high until it stiffens and cools, about 3 to 5 minutes.

When the meringue is done whipping, whisk the remaining two egg yolks into the pastry cream. Then, using a spatula, fold in about 1/4 of the meringue to the cream, lightly stirring to combine and lighten it up some. Then, add the remaining meringue on top. Fold in by placing a spatula in the center, scraping the bottom, and then bringing the bottom over the top. Rotate the bowl and repeat until the mixture is well incorporated, but still beautifully light and fluffly.

Remove the ramekins from the fridge. Fill each ramekin to the top, trying to avoid any air pockets. Then, flatten the top with a metal spatula or the back of a knife. Clean off any excess that may have dripped onto the sides.

You can now bake them immediately, or store for later. Cover and store in the fridge for up to four hours or in the freezer for up to 24 hours. If freezing, be sure to remove the ramekins from the freezer one hour before baking and let them sit at room temperature.

To bake, preheat the oven to 375F. Bake until they have risen over the rim by about 1/2 their original volume and are beautifully dark golden brown on top. Carefully, carefully remove them from the oven. I find that resting the ramekins on a baking sheet and using that to put them in/take them out helps this whole process a ton.

Serve immediately, lightly drizzled with the Lemon Rosemary Syrup.

Lemon Rosemary Syrup
It’s best to make this while the soufflé is baking, so it doesn’t harden before you need to use it.

In a heavy bottom pot, combine 1/2 cup lemon juice, 2 T of sugar and about 6 rosemary needles. Bring to a boil. Boil for about 1 minute, and then run the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the rosemary needles.

Bring the liquid back to a boil, stirring constantly, until it just starts to turn a tiny bit golden and thickens just a touch. Remove from the heat. Pour the syrup into a small pitcher for serving with the souffles.

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