Thursday, 2 August 2012

When small is better

Think of a very small dish of something delicious placed in front of you.  It just invites savouring, taking small bites, lingering over every mouthful. 

When I dived back into cooking this year, I revisited old recipes as I dusted off techniques and remembered the tricks I’d learnt over 20 years ago.  A classic lemon soufflé was one of the first recipes I tried, followed by chocolate, then raspberry (if I’d found some gooseberries they would have been next).  The classic way of serving a cold soufflé is to tie a paper “collar” around the soufflé dish, fill to about an inch higher than the dish, and remove the “collar” just before serving.  However, I’ve found some small glass dishes, so I thought I’d try the next soufflé on the list as a very small dish of delicious dessert.
For a cold soufflé recipe, I can’t go past Cordon Bleu Desserts and Puddings – I’ve adapted their recipe here.

Cold Orange Soufflé
Serves 8-12, depending on the size of the serving bowls

3 large eggs
170g castor sugar
6 tbsp freshly squeezed orange justice
Finely grated rind of 2 oranges (make sure that you avoid the white part of the rind, as it is bitter)
300 ml cream
2 tsp powdered gelatine
Juice of 1 lemon, made up to 5 tbsp with water

Sprinkle the gelatine over the lemon/water mix and leave to swell (do this in a small heatproof dish).

Whisk* the egg yolks, sugar and orange rind at high speed until thick and mousse-like.  To really get the maximum amount of air in this step, you can do this over a pan of simmering water – but make sure that your bowl doesn’t touch the water, or you’ll end up with sweet scrambled eggs. 
Once they are lovely and thick, place the bowl on the bench, add the orange juice, and keep whisking until the bowl is cool.  The mixture will thin out quite a bit when you add the juice, but just keep on whisking!
*In case you think I’m mad, I should really say “whisk with electric handheld beater”, but you can use an actual whisk if you prefer.
Place the gelatine dish into a pot of water (the water in the pot should come about halfway up the gelatine dish), and heat gently until the spongy gelatine dissolves.  Set aside to cool for up to 5 minutes – you don’t want it to reset, but it is better to be warm, rather than hot, when you add it to the other ingredients.
Half whip the cream – so that it just holds its shape, but is not stiff – it should be the same consistency as your egg yolk mixture.  Fold together.  Gently stir the liquid gelatine mixture through the mixture.
Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff but not dry.  I use a copper bowl for whisking egg whites, as they hold more air, but an ordinary bowl will be fine.  Whatever you use, make sure both the bowl and whisk are spotlessly clean, otherwise the egg whites will refuse to whisk up nicely.  Place the bowl of soufflé mixture into a sink of ice/water (to assist with rapid cooling/setting) and mix in a good spoonful of the egg whites (this will loosen up the mixture so that you can gently fold in the remainder without losing all the air you’ve just been beating in to them).  Fold in the remaining egg whites.  Slowly stir the mixture once or twice a minute, until it is thickening.  Turn into the bowl or bowls and refrigerate until set.
You could add a blob of whipped cream and some finely chopped pistachios for a bit of colour when serving.  But it tastes great on its own, in a small dish with a small spoon.  A nice dessert wine (even if it does have a rather provocative name) will round out the evening nicely.

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