April 8, 2009
How to Eat Soufflé
I used to make something I called Sugar Soufflé. I didn't really make it so much as I collected handfuls of sparkly mica-flecked rocks from under the back porch, placed them all into a pile, and imagined that they were a delicious airy concoction that tasted of vanilla, marshmallows, and melted butterscotch ice cream. I served this odd, tasteless dish to my brother and the neighbor girl who was forced to play with my 6-year-old weirdness. Though the reality of Sugar Soufflé was disappointing and, well, rock-like, the fantasy was acutely delicious. I can still just about picture how good it tasted in my head, and I suspect I've spent the proceeding two decades searching for a flavor that would match that which I'd imagined so long ago.
My first soufflé certainly ignored many of the basic principles of souffle-making. Outside of the imagination, rocks are typically too heavy to keep aloft among the delicate peaks of a stiffly beaten meringue. Puree, however, works perfectly. A few months ago, I read a great little post by one of my favorite food bloggers, Zen Chef, who wrote about how he--in a pinch--transformed a half-melted carton of Ciao Bella passion fruit sorbet into a restaurant caliber dessert. As an undying fan of passion fruit, I always have a carton of that particular sorbet in the freezer (or icy and melty on a table near me) and decided that perhaps it was time to put this recipe into action.
Half-way through an episode of Lost, I bopped up from the couch and went into the kitchen where I started mixing and beating and sugaring my way to my very first passion fruit sorbet. It looked perfect. Light and with an airy rise a full inch above the rim of the ramekin, this souffle was impressive. But there was just one problem; it didn't taste like much. Maybe it was the eggs or the sorbet, but the passion fruit flavor was lost among the egginess and all I tasted was something that tasted like a sweet, airy omelet. It wasn't *bad* per se, but it wasn't at all what I expected.
My boyfriend and I each finished one souffle, and the leftovers were wrapped and placed in the fridge. "Maybe I'll eat it for breakfast," I told him.
But then I forgot about it.
Two days later and the (now totally collapsed) souffle was still sitting in the fridge. Craving something sweet, I finally pulled it out and scooped it into a plate. Topped with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and a handful of berries, I sat down on the couch to eat what I expected would be a passable treat. OH. MY. GOD. was I wrong! It was...incredible! I can't even describe how transformed this cold, fallen souffle tasted. It was as if the passion fruit had suddenly woken up and bathed itself in a silky caramel-tinged custard. With the mild whipped cream and the tartness of the berries, this was pure delight. I offered Eugene a bite who agreed that this dessert had come a long way since the sugary omelet of a few days past.
I ate it slowly, not wanting the goodness to end, and not until I near the end did it finally hit me. Sugar Souffle!! This was precisely the flavor I'd been imagining all along.
The recipe for the original souffle came from here, but if you really want to taste what my childlike imagination conjured all those years ago, I suggest you let them cool, cover with plastic wrap, and keep in the fridge overnight. The next day, top with some berries and a big plop of whipped cream. I think you'll like...