Antonin Carâme's invention of the classic soufflé in the early 1820s was made possible by new ovens, which were heated by air drafts instead of by coal. This new technology provided the more even cooking temperature needed for a soufflé to rise properly and stay risen. Initially, Carême made his soufflés in stiff pastry casings that were not eaten. Their straight sides were the inspiration for our current soufflé dishes. He went on to create hundreds of other soufflés including the Soufflé Rothschild, which originally contained real gold and was aptly named by its creator in honor of his employer, at the time the richest man in France. It consisted of a pastry-cream base lightened with beaten egg whites and flavored with chopped crystallized fruits macerated in Danziger Goldwasser, a liquor containing suspended gold crystals. More modern recipes often substitute Kirsch or Cognac.
In the 1950s, the dessert was served as the pièce de résistance in fancy restaurants such as Manhattan's La Caravelle. Classically, the soufflé was surrounded with fresh strawberries, though there were exceptions. The Whitehall Club in Chicago doused it with zabaglione sauce (I've adapted their sauce recipe from The Vincent Price Cookbook.) Michel Roux's delicious variation contains honey and crushed macaroons in addition to the traditional candied fruit. Roux bakes his soufflés in individual ramekins and serves them topped with honey ice cream. Unadorned is also fine, although a dollop of whipped cream or half-melted vanilla ice cream is always welcome.
The Whitehall Club used a mixture of sherry and Grand Marnier, which enhanced the flavors of the dried fruits. You can substitute the liquor used in the soufflé.
2/3 cup finely chopped mixed candied fruit (use at least three of the following: orange, citron, lemon, angelica, peach, pineapple, or cherries)
1/4 cup Danziger Goldwasser, Kirsch, brandy, or Cognac
2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, separated, plus 2 egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into little pieces
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Large strawberries or raspberries (optional)
Whitehall Club Zabaglione Sauce (recipe follows) or crème anglaise, whipped cream, or softened vanilla ice cream (optional)
Whitehall Club Zabaglione Sauce:
3 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sherry (or the same liquor used in the soufflé)
Pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup cold heavy cream, whipped until soft peaks form
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (or the same liquor used in the soufflé)
For the soufflé:
1. Macerate the candied fruit in the liquor for at least 1 hour and up to several weeks.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter and sugar a 6-cup soufflé dish or charlotte mold.
3. In a small saucepan, heat 2/3 cup milk with the granulated sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. In a small bowl, mix the flour with the remaining 1/4 cup milk. Whisk the flour paste into the hot milk and bring to a boil, stirring until the mixture thickens. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, continuing to stir. Remove from the heat, then whisk in the 4 egg yolks, one at a time, and dot the top with butter pieces to prevent a skin from forming. When cool, stir in the fruit/liquor mixture and then the vanilla. (Covered, this soufflé base can be stored for up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Heat to lukewarm before continuing, then stir to evenly distribute the fruit.)
4. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the 6 egg whites together with the salt and the cream of tartar until stiff but not dry. Lighten the soufflé base with 1/4 of the beaten whites and then fold the rest of the whites into the lightened base until just combined. Spoon into the prepared mold and bake in the middle of the oven for about 18 minutes or until the soufflé is well risen and golden. The center of the soufflé should remain a bit creamy (this is a matter of personal preference so cook longer if you like).
5. Sift confectioners' sugar over the top and serve the soufflé immediately, by itself or garnished with fresh berries and Whitehall Club Zabaglione Sauce, crème anglaise, whipped cream, or softened vanilla ice cream.
For the sauce:
1. Place the first 5 ingredients in the top of a double boiler or in a medium-sized stainless steel bowl. Whisk vigorously until pale yellow.
2. Set over barely simmering water and cook the mixture, whisking constantly using a wire whisk, a hand-held electric mixer, or a rotary beater, until it is very thick, 6 to 10 minutes. Bring almost to a boil but do not actually boil or the mixture will curdle.
3. Remove from the heat and transfer to a clean bowl to cool.
4. When completely cool, fold in the whipped cream and the liquor of your choice.
From Lost Desserts: Delicious Indulgences of the Past: Recipes from Legendary Restaurants and Famous Chefs by Gail Monaghan (Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 2007). Foreward by George Lang. Copyright © 2007 by Gail Monaghan. Photographs copyright © 2007 by Eric Boman. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the publisher.
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