For Valentine’s Day, I wanted to make a chocolate soufflé. For me, it’s the pièce de résistance of desserts. Soufflés are temperamental by nature. Any speck of dust or yolk in the whites will render them useless. If you over fold the yolks into the whites they will lose all of their air and subsequently, the soufflé’s height. And don’t even think to open the oven door and peek inside while it’s baking. A cool draft or slammed door will surely deflate it before it’s time.
In spite of all that could possibly go wrong, I wanted to attempt to make a soufflé anyways. So when I told Ari yesterday morning about my plans, he said, “That’s great, but how about a Passion Fruit Soufflé instead of chocolate? Something more interesting”. More intersting? Than chocolate? Well, I swooned! Brilliant! I simply love passion fruit. My favorite bon bon made by Jacques Torres is his passion fruit flavored Hearts of Passion. It’s a wonderful, refreshing flavor inside a delicate shell of dark chocolate. So I agreed, “Yes, a passion fruit soufflé it is!” But alas, there will be no chocolate with this one.
Little did I realize when I said that, passion fruits are not only not in season, they are considered so exotic that finding even frozen pulp would prove next to impossible. I went to two major supermarkets, called two more, including a local “Fruit” store and was nearly on the verge of using a bottled passion fruit flavored beverage when by sheer luck, I happened upon frozen pulp in my local Spanish deli when I went in to look for conchas and Mexican Japones peanuts. Thank goodness for Goya!
So without the conchas and peanuts (I didn’t find either), I headed home with my pulp. Triumph!
The recipe I choose to use is by Daniel Boulud, famed chef and restaurateur (Daniel). It first appeared in Daniel’s Dish Entertaining at Home with a Four Star Chef, by Daniel Boulud.
I was genuinely surprised at the ease of this recipe. And even more surprised and delighted by the delicate passion fruit flavor and more so when it’s combined with the caramelized pears. It’s quite simply, delectable! Although anything by Chef Daniel is bound to be amazing and the only surprise should have been that it actually worked for me! The sauce would also be excellent over ice cream.
The thing about soufflés is that they fall. There is no getting around that. It’s just a fact of life. So in order to photograph one at full height takes some gentle ballet leaps and a turn or two through the kitchen, down the hall and over cords and wires setting it down gently on the spot you’ve already set up in your studio (or, in our case, the dining room table). Timing is essential because you only have a few minutes before they are deflated fully. One trick we used to get photos of these soufflés was to stagger the baking time for them. We just baked them two at a time, so we would have a rotation of soufflés, fresh from the oven, to photograph. Ari kept bringing them to the spot and removing the deflated ones while I snapped away.
They say that natural day light is the best light for food photography. We know this to be true. In Mexico, all of our pictures were beautiful. But, back here in NY, we are severely lacking in good natural day light this winter (grey and greyer), and since most of our cooking these days happens after 10pm (by the light of the moon), we finally bought ourselves a light kit. It’s the Lowell Ego 2 Light kit. It comes with two tabletop lights, a reflector and a sweep with large sheets of construction paper that you can clip to it to use for a background. These are the first pictures we’ve taken with them. What do you think?
For the sauce:
1 tbs unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
2 ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced into small pieces
¼ cup passion fruit puree
For the soufflé:
4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
¼ cup passion fruit puree
¼ cup plus 1 tbs sugar, plus some for preparing the ramekins
½ tsp cream of tarter
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
To make the sauce:
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition until it melts. Continue to cook until the sugar syrup turns a light golden brown.
Add the pears and continue cooking and stirring until the pears are tender and nicely caramelized. About 10 minutes.
Stir in the passion fruit puree and cook a minute or two more, until heated through. Remove from heat and keep warm while preparing the soufflés.
To make the soufflés:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and place the rack in the center.
Generously butter the insides of 6 4oz or 4 6oz ramekins. Dust the insides and rims with sugar, making certain they are thoroughly coated. Tap the excess sugar off and place on an awaiting baking sheet. The easiest way to sugar the sides is to place the ramekin in a large bowl and pour some sugar into the ramekin and swirl it around. After coating, use the bowl to catch any remaining sugar. You can then pour this remaining sugar into the next ramekin and repeat until they are all coated. Discard the remaining sugar.
In a large bowl, whisk together the 4 egg yolks with the passion fruit puree until well blended. Set aside.
In the bowl of your mixer, add the egg whites and beat on medium low speed until foamy.
Increase the speed to medium high and add the cream of tartar and then gradually add the sugar, beating until the whites form glossy medium stiff peaks.
Using a large rubber spatula and a light touch, gently fold the meringue into the yolk mixture in three additions. Continue to gently fold until there are no streaks left.
Using a large spoon, fill each ramekin with the batter to the rim, scraping off any excess leaving a flat top.
Run your thumb and forefinger just around the rim to create a tiny moat and to remove any excess butter and sugar.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, being sure not to open the oven door until the full 15 minutes are up. You can then peek inside to see if they are golden brown and have risen. When fully cooked, the tops will be firm but the center will be slightly jiggly.
Meanwhile, transfer the sauce to a bowl.
When the soufflés are finished, gently remove from the oven and dust the tops with the Confectioner’s sugar. Serve immediately with the pear passion fruit sauce.