A deflated soufflé is worse than a deflated chef’s ego and indeed if one begets the other woe betide anyone in their path… for a soufflé is a delicate creature and its success is as much to do with the oven and the humidity as it is the chef’s cooking. The actual method is pretty simple, it's really what happens in the oven that decides the soufflé’s fate, but sometimes it's fun to rise to a cooking challenge. This recipe tastes so good and has such a smooth creamy mouth feel (yet contains no cream or butter!) that it really is worth having a go – especially when oranges are in season. The worst that can happen is you eat delicious little pots of orange goo.
Now if you want to be fancy the thing to do is to cut the oranges so you have a top cut off approximately 75 percent up the orange (if that makes sense). I did experiment with cutting them in half but aesthetically they didn’t pass muster, so the more tricky but “beautiful” 75 percent is what you need. If this all sounds way too “arts and crafty” then resort to small ramekins and in fact what I have found is that when using the oranges to cook the soufflé in, there is an excess. I would say that this recipe makes six oranges plus some leftover for eight ramekins. I have also frozen the leftover “mousse” successfully to create a really tasty and soft ice cream. Finally although the recipe sounds very grand with the Grand Marnier I have made it also with good brandy and even whiskey and I would like to experiment with Amaretto…
For 6 (maybe 8) orange soufflés:
6 large oranges that yield 70ml of juice each making 420ml of juice
1/3 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons + more for sprinkling
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon Grand-Marnier or Cognac or your liqueur of choice
Extra icing sugar for dusting (but not essential)
Cut the top part off each orange and a tiny sliver off the bottom, so they can stand straight. Watch that the upper lip is horizontal as this will help a “straight” rise. Grate the zest from the top part , squeeze the juice quite carefully as you do not want to tear the orange open.
Empty the orange shells of all the pithy parts as you would when preparing orange peel for marmalade. I like to do this with my fingers as the fruit and pith separate fairly easily from the orange, a bit like skinning fish by pulling off the skin. Sometimes I use a teaspoon but it is actually a pretty simple task.
Sprinkle regular sugar inside and empty out. This helps the soufflé adhere to the skin and therefore helps it rise.
Now to make the soufflé mixture – this actually has two stages and the first part can be done the day before so if you are making this for a dinner party all you need to do “on the night” is whisk the egg whites , fold into the “orange custard” , fill the oranges or ramekins and pop in the oven.
Separate the eggs. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar and cornstarch until smooth (I use my trusty Kenwood). Whisk in the orange juice. Place the mixture in a saucepan and heat over medium heat while stirring constantly until it thickens (a bit like making lemon curd but without the butter). Remove from the heat and add the zest. Chill the mixture until you need to serve the soufflés with cling film touching the surface to avoid any skin forming.
Set your oven at 200°C and REMEMBER to switch off the convection setting unless you want your soufflés blown all over the oven! Whisk the egg whites and sugar to soft peaks. Add your alcohol to the “orange custard” mixture and give it a good whisk to break up any lumps. Fold the egg whites into the orange cream until fully incorporated and fill the orange skins /ramekins with the mixture. Flatten the tops with a spatula.
All good until now. Say a small prayer to the oven Gods or in fact the electricity supply Gods too and pop them gently in the oven. Do not open the oven door until they have browned and crusted on top. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately. I recently served with little teaspoons of fresh cranberry and orange conserve which worked well and I am thinking of little biscuits next time. Have fun with the soufflé challenge!
By Rachel Sargent, Guest Writer
Rachel Sargent is owner of The London Street Atelier, which organizes cookery classes, private dinners and offers catering. More about it here.
(photo credits: Rachel Sargent)