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.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • http://foodblogga.blogspot.com Susan at Food “Blogga”

    I just love visiting your blog; it’s so engaging to read and delicious to view.

    I’ve never heard of Palestine sweet limes before, but I’ll definitely look for them.

    P.S. I can’t believe you lived in Cranston, RI. I grew up Providence.

  • http://www.bakingandbooks.com Ari (Baking and Books)

    This sounds lovely and your photos are gorgeous as always. I wish I knew how you produce such brilliant images! :)

  • http://llcskitchen.blogspot.com Lisa

    They sound delicious and look even better! I wanted to participate but ran out of time, so my husband offered to try the recipe I had picked while I was at work.. unfortunately they turned out more like pancakes. hehe

    Beautiful pictures as always! =)

  • http://www.gildedfork.com/pastryprincess monica

    Hi! Very nice souffle…although all of the souffle recipes in The Sweet Life call for an Italian Meringue, they would just as well, and are easier, using a basic French meringue. How did this on taste? To answer your question about freeform souffles (although I’ve never made one this is what I would do) — butter some freeform tart rings and place on a silpat lined baking sheet, put the souffle mixture into a piping bag and pipe into the tart rings, freeze, unmold from the rings and bake as freeform souffles. Hope this helps!

  • http://scribbit.blogspot.com Michelle

    I think there is no better smell in the world than the smell of fresh-cut limes so a lime souffle could only be terrific. I didn’t know anything beyond the limes in the grocery store and the occasional key lime. Last time I made a souffle the aluminum foil I’d used to reinforce the sides collapsed in the oven leaving one horrific mess. I nearly cried.

  • http://definitelynotmartha.blogspot.com mrbunsrocks

    Looks gorgeous! Found your site through flickr and I LOVE your photos – great work!

  • http://www.tartelette.blogspot.com Helen

    Lara, your post has become by far one of my new all time favories. Explanations, education, photography and I feel like I now can die happy! What a great tribute to this lovely dessert.
    Yours look absolutely amazing.
    About the batteries: mine were new but put in the wrong way and I now kick myself silly! Oh well, it was fun participating!

  • http://rachelsbite.blogspot.com Rachel

    Oh wow – I never thought of trying a sauce with my souffle. Your looks amazing!

  • http://homemades.blogspot.com arfi

    Lara, this looks fantastic!!

  • http://take3eggs.com Tim

    It sounds great – souffle has always been a challenge for me.

  • http://www.invisible-jet.net/nosh Mia

    Just amazing. Sooo tempting and beautiful, and I looooove the additional syrup. I hope that when I make this it comes out as lovely as yours. What an excellent way to use limes….so different. Thanks!

  • http://80breakfasts.blogspot.com joey

    That looks delicious…your souffle is beautiful! :) This round of Donna Day was my first time to make souffle, but I must say, the best part is all the tips I am getting from the entries!

  • http://www.cookandeat.com/ L

    Susan – what a small world! I haven’t been there in many, many (too many!) years, but I always have had fond memories of RI.

    Ari – Thanks! BTW – I do blog a bit about how I get my images… that blog is Still Life With… if you are intersted or have questions.

    Lisa – oh well! You’ll have to try yourself sometimes, but I sure do know how life can get in the way!

    Monica – thanks for the tip! I’ll have to give it a try. The souffle tasted wonderful. I quite like the Italian meringue… and actually found it just a simple as the other type I had made during the week.

    Michelle – oh… well, I think it happens with everyone. No use crying over flattened souffle :-)

    Mrbuns – Thanks!

    Helen – It does seem like the time the most things go haywire is when the souffle is just perfect. I suppose that is the fun of them… they are there to remind us of those fleeting moments. Thanks so much for the kind words!

    Rachel – Thanks! I was worried that the souffle might be too bland with the sweet limes, which lack the kick of their green-brethern, hence the sauce. Turns out, I really loved the rosemary lemon syrup, so I think I’ll be looking for other uses.

    Thanks arfi!

    Tim – I think it just takes practice. Either that, or you could do what I usually do and just go for the baked pudding. They taste just as heavenly.

    Thanks Mia!

    Joey – Thank you! There were some amazing looking souffles, weren’t there! How hard it will be to choose!

    -L

  • http://www.trifles.nl Marieke

    Hi Lara,

    This is the first time I see your beautiful blog and I just love your photo’s, recipes and overall style. Very brave with the souffles and the result is great

  • http://teaandcookies.blogspot.com Tea

    This is gorgeous (as always!). I picked up a sweet lime for the first time last week–haven’t had a chance to cut it open and check it out yet, but plan to soon. I love the idea of a less tart lime flavor.

    And my favorite line, the best I’ve read in awhile: “baked puddings…are just soufflé with lowered expectations of themselves.”

    Classic.

  • anita

    Hello,
    Its probably a little too late, but could you tell me where in the Pacific NW you found the Sweet limes. I am desperate to find some.
    Thanks
    Anita

  • Isabelle

    anita: sweet limes are sold at New Seasons markets in the Portland, OR area. I buy them regularly.

  • Lezleigh

    Just learned about sweet limes when someone wrote in to MS to inquire. Found some this weekend at Central Market in Dallas. Scouring internet for recipes and found this. Can’t wait to try. Photos are gorgeous.