In yesterday's post for Cranberry-Tangerine Cinnamon Rolls, I mentioned the shortage of good locally-grown produce that we have here in Las Vegas. I didn't mean to imply that we can't grow anything. There actually are a few kinds of produce that grow surprisingly well here in Sin City, and once I discovered this, I got to work planting them in my backyard (O.K., I might have had a little bit of help from Eric with this).
A few years ago, we planted a tiny little rosemary shrub on one side of our backyard. Today, we have a rosemary jungle. To say that rosemary grows well in the Las Vegas climate is like saying that Tom Brady is a "decent" quarterback. I'm not even sure why the grocery stores bother to sell rosemary, because you really can find it on every street corner in the city. So, if anyone needs any rosemary.......
The other thing that we grow quite a bit of, and this one surprised me, are Meyer lemons. Most citrus fruit grows very well in this climate, but our Meyer lemons grow extremely well, and I have a bountiful crop to cook with every year. Meyer lemons are a hybrid of a true lemon and a Mandarin orange, and they are thought to have originated in China. The fruit is a deeper orange-yellow in color, and it is rounder than a normal lemon. It has a sweeter, less acidic flavor than the common lemon, which make it a nice choice for a delicate dessert like these small souffles.
Many people avoid making souffles due to the misconception that they are extremely difficult to prepare and are only something that you order in a restaurant. I never order souffles at restaurants because you always need to order them at the beginning of the meal and, quite frankly, I have no idea if I am even going to be hungry enough for dessert at the end of the meal--too much of a commitment if you ask me! Anyhow, regarding the level of difficulty, nothing can be further from the truth. Even though there are many steps to this recipe, it doesn't take much time. It does require a little bit of extra clean up due to the many different bowls used, but if you subscribe to the "I'll cook, you clean" policy, then you have nothing to worry about, right? Here are some tips for making scrumptious souffles:
- You can use regular lemons or even oranges in place of Meyer lemons. If you use oranges, use ¼ cup Grand Marnier or anther orange liqueur in place of the lemon juice.
- For the raspberry sauce, instead of framboise, a raspberry liqueur, you can use Chambord, kirsch (cherry liqueur), or Grand Marnier.
- If you do not have ramekins or miniature souffle cups, but you have a large souffle dish, you can just make one large souffle and portion out individual servings. The souffle is best eaten immediately after coming out of the oven. The raspberry sauce will keep for one week in the refrigerator, and it can be frozen, tightly wrapped, for up to 3 months.
- Instead of using a food processor for pureeing the raspberries, you can use a blender. If you don't have a fine mesh strainer or a chinois (see picture to the right), you can forego the step for straining the raspberries--the sauce will just have seeds in it. You can substitute strawberries or blackberries for the raspberries--both would go well with lemon.
- When adding the hot milk to the egg yolks, it is important that you do this gradually, so that you don't end up with scrambled eggs. This process of slowly heating the eggs is called tempering.
- When whipping the egg whites, it is important that the bowl is very clean and grease free. Otherwise, the eggs will not form peaks. When folding the whites into the yolk mixture, be careful to do this gently so that the aerated egg whites do not deflate. If you do not have a stand mixer to whip the eggs, then use a hand-held one.
Meyer Lemon Souffles with Raspberry Sauce
Makes 6 servings
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries, defrosted
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons framboise
1 tablespoon butter, softened
6 tablespoons sugar, divided
½ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons flour
3 Meyer lemons
5 large egg whites, at room temperature
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
Make the raspberry sauce: Place the raspberries in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse until the berries are pureed into liquid, about 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula and a mesh strainer, strain the raspberry puree into a medium mixing bowl. Push through the strainer as much of the liquid as possible, eliminating the seeds. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and liqueur to the raspberry puree and stir to combine thoroughly.
Prepare the souffles: Position the oven rack to the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Using 1 tablespoon of softened butter, butter the inside of six 8-ounce souffle ramekins or custard cups, and then sprinkle the insides with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Set aside.
Place the milk in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer. Place the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl. Add 4 tablespoons sugar and whisk together until thoroughly blended. Add the flour and whisk to blend well.
Gradually add the hot milk to the egg yolk mixture while whisking, and continue to whisk until thoroughly combined. Transfer this mixture back to the saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and begins to simmer around the edges. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside briefly.
Grate the zest of the 3 Meyer lemons and add it to the egg yolk mixture. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze out the juice, straining it ti remove any seeds. There should be about ⅓ cup of juice total. Add this to the egg yolk mixture and stir until thoroughly blended.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip them on medium-high speed until they are frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to whip. When soft peaks form, gradually add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and continue to whip until the egg whites hold glossy and firm peaks. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the yolk mixture in 3 stages, blending thoroughly each time. Divide the souffle mixture evenly among the prepared ramekins and use a rubber spatula to smooth and even the tops. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, until the souffles are puffed over the top of the dishes and look set (the center should wiggle a little bit.)
Remove the baking sheet from the oven, sprinkle the top of each souffle with confectioner's sugar, and serve immediately with the raspberry sauce.