Friday, October 21, 2005

IMBB #20 - A souffle that was years in the making

Many years ago I came across a beautiful set of prints of recipes written by Alice Waters in 1968. This was before she opened Chez Panisse (1971) and before she became Alice Waters. The printmaker was the masterful David Lance Goines, creator of posters for Chez Panisse's annual birthday celebration (posters for 1st, 2nd, 30th, 31st), a poster for Acme Bread, and Ravenswood's logo, for example. Of the thirty in the set, I chose four for archival framing: Moroccan Carrots, La Sauce Mayonnaise, Cherries Jubilee, and---the item relevant to IMBB #20---Apricot Souffle. They have graced my kitchen with their elegance ever since.

Despite the recipe's constant presence in my kitchen, I have never baked the souffle. The main reason is that the first instruction is horribly vague: "Add to one small jar of good quality apricot jam two egg yolks..." Were jars of jam sized S, M, L in 1968? They sure aren't these days, and the wide variety of jams at some of the local grocery stores only added to my confusion.

IMBB #20 inspired me to give it a try. If it failed, I could always fall back on the chocolate souffle with melted center from Gramercy Tavern that was published in the N.Y. Times Magazine (and is now behind the dollar wall), or experiment with a Indian-spiced vanilla souffle (steep cinnamon sticks, green cardamom pods, cloves, etc. in cream for the souffle base).

I took a somewhat wild guess at what "small jar" could mean and used 1/2 cup of Darbo All Natural brand (Austrian) for the jam. The results were excellent. The souffles (photos at the bottom of the post) had great oven spring, a lovely golden-orange color, deep apricot flavor, and bright notes from the amaretto. Finely chopped almonds sprinkled on the top before baking provided a little bit of crunch.


Apricot Souffle
Based on the 1968 recipe by Alice Waters

1/2 cup good quality, not too chunky apricot jam
2 egg yolks
1 T. amaretto, kirsch, or orange liqueur
6 egg whites
Ground or finely chopped almonds
8 ramekins with 1/2 cup capacity each, or a 1 quart souffle dish

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Butter and sugar the baking dish(es).
  3. Combine the jam with the egg yolks and liqueur in a large bowl (the egg whites will be folded into this base). If the jam is very thick, pour it into a saucepan and gently warm it until it melts. Then stir in the egg yolks and liqueur.
  4. In a sparkling clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry (the bowl must be very clean because fat severly inhibits the formation of egg foam).
  5. Gently fold the egg whites into the jam/yolk base.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish(es). For the best visual effect, fill the dish(es) all the way to the top. Sprinkle the top with ground almonds.
  7. Place the ramekin(s) directly into the oven, or place on a baking sheet to prevent drips from falling onto the oven floor.
  8. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 F. For a large dish, bake for 20-25 minutes (until risen and golden on top). For the small ramekins, bake for 10-12 minutes (until risen and golden on top).

If you want a more thoroughly tested recipe for apricot souffle (i.e., tested more than once!), Chez Panisse Desserts has two versions, and I would guess that Chez Panisse Fruit also has a version or two.
























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12 comments:

Kevin said...

Marc,

Gorgeous!

Kevin said...

Marc,

Gorgeous!

golliwog said...

that's one sexy souffle!

do you know of souffles that can be made in a microwave?

Marc said...

Golliwog wrote: "do you know of souffles that can be made in a microwave?"

I only use my microwave for reheating food and melting chocolate. I have always had a full sized stove and oven in my kitchen, and use that for cooking. Therefore, I don't know too much about the subtleties of microwave cooking.

My first guess is that you could make a souffle, but it would be significantly paler and less crusty than one from an oven. In a microwave only the food (actually, the polar molecules in the food, like water) is heated, so the air next to the food remains near ambient temperature. In addition, since the walls of the microwave remain cool, there won't be any radiant heat transfer to the souffle surface. The direct and radiant heat transfer are the best way to make food brown (and also to develop the flavors of browning).

Then there is the matter of how the batter cooks. The beaten egg whites create a structure of air pockets that expand as the batter is heated. In a cake, the air cells expand as the cake bakes and the flour starch gelatinizes and builds a stable wall structure. In a souffle, however, there is much less flour, so stables walls are not created. Thus, the collapse.

I imagine that the rate of heating is important for making a souffle. Too fast and the air pockets will burst, too slow and unknown (to me) adverse things might happen. In addition, the location of the heat. The oven heats from the outside in, whereas the microwave heats the inside of the item.

If you are interested in the science behind souffles and microwaves, On Food and Cooking is one of the best introductions to the science of food.

Nic said...

I'm so glad that you tried this recipe after having it such a long time - what a great contribution to this month's IMBB. They look stunning.

Alyce said...

Sounds fab, and what great pictures! I love the look of the almonds on that perfectly browned crust!

golliwog said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
golliwog said...

Thanks so much for the patient reply, Marc! I have used a traditional oven and microwaves interchangeably (depending on what I had at the time), with very average results in the microwave mostly! But am looking for microwave recipes since thats all I have right now. I love to bake, but will try and be more meticulous about it!!
Thanks again

Brett said...

I'm so envious. I want those prints in my kitchen, too! What a find! Thanks for sharing the recipe. I love the combination of almonds and apricots (the almonds echo the flavor of the apricot pits).

Marc said...

Brett,
I didn't think about the almond-apricot pit connection until you mentioned it. And I used Amaretto di Saronno as the flavoring liqueur, which might still be made with apricot pits.

chronicler said...

Marc, Wow! What history there is in this recipe! Smal, Medium or large! I had to laugh at that one! The souffle looks so good!

tripack said...

A little home tip. I use dried apricots that i soak in some lukewarm water and a little drop of amaretto, then I blend them and mix with some sugar.

When the souffle is to be served, I set aside a little bowl with thick fresh cream, and another one with some red berries "coulis". You just have to open the top of the souffle and pour some cream and coulis... Heaven ^^