STRAWBERRY SOUFFLE WITH STRAWBERRY SAUCE, to be made now, in seasonal prime
By Nick Malgieri
The late great British food writer Jane Grigson tells the story in her "Fruit Book" (Athenaeum, 1982): Until the early 19th century several varieties of French fraises des bois (woodland or wood strawberry) were the only ones available. Essentially wild plants, they had been brought under cultivation (and easily propagated by division), but the berries remained tiny and seedy, though sweet and highly perfumed.
Modern cultivated strawberries descend mostly from a cross between a white Chilean berry discovered by a French naval officer in the last years of the 18th century, and the Virginia strawberry, first encountered there by early colonists. By 1821 British botanists had successfully bred a cross between the two, and the modern strawberry was born.
Ever since, the public has clamored for berries 12 months a year. But out-of-season berries often lack the flavor we associate with a great locally grown seasonal one, so it's best to wait until local ones come into season to enjoy them.
Perfectly ripe strawberries can make a great simple dessert. Above all, try to avoid refrigerating them. If you're buying them for the next day, you'll have to refrigerate them. But bring them to room temperature before serving.
A few minutes before serving, place the berries in a colander and rinse them under running cold water, allowing them to drain for a few minutes. Pile the drained berries into a bowl, and serve alongside a bowl of sugar and another of whipped or sour cream. Each guest takes some berries and a pile each of sugar and cream onto a dessert plate. Eat the berries by holding one from the hull (the green leafy top) and dipping it first into the sugar, then the cream. A few plain, crisp cookies would add a note of texture but are not strictly necessary.
Try this easy strawberry souffle. It's nothing more than pureed berries, sugar and whipped up egg white, and it preserves the flavor of the berries intact without drowning them in oceans of butter, flour and eggs.
Use the same proportions for a souffle made from any other kind of berry -- except blueberries, which will oxidize and turn brown if you puree them raw. Make sure the egg whites and any bowl or whisk you use to whip them are free of any greasiness and specks of yolk, or the whites won't whip up at all.
Don't be tempted to use a large souffle dish for this -- it won't work. The batter is too delicate to rise well in a deep container.
STRAWBERRY SOUFFLE WITH STRAWBERRY SAUCE
MAKES: about 8 servings
The remaining strawberry puree from the berries, above
One 2 1/2 quart enameled iron gratin dish or a 9 x 13 x 2-inch glass baking dish, buttered and sugared
1. Puree the berries in a blender and measure out 2 cups puree and set aside for the souffle batter.
2. For the sauce, combine the remaining puree and the sugar and bring it to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, in a non-reactive pan. Decrease to a simmer and allow the sauce to reduce for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool. Stir in the lemon juice and orange liqueur. Refrigerate in a covered container if not serving immediately.
3. For the souffle batter, combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Decrease to a simmer and allow the syrup to thicken to the point that a drop poured into a small glass of ice water immediately becomes firm to the touch, about 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Add the reserved 2 cups of strawberry puree to the syrup and stir it in, continuing to stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Before removing the pan from the heat, make sure all the sugar has dissolved.
5. Cool the puree and reserve it at room temperature until you are ready to assemble and bake the souffle.
6. About 30 minutes before you intend to serve the souffle, set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
7. Whip the egg whites with the salt on medium speed in a stand mixer until the whites hold a soft peak.
8. Use a large rubber spatula to fold the cooled strawberry puree into the whites in a stream.
9. Scrape the batter into the prepared dish and smooth the top.
10. Bake the souffle until it is well risen and slightly firm, about 15 to 20 minutes.
11. Serve immediately with the strawberry sauce and some whipped cream.
To serve the souffle, bring it to the table and set the dish on a trivet. Use a large serving spoon to place 2 large spoonfuls on a dessert plate and spoon some of the sauce and whipped cream next to (NOT on top of) the souffle. Repeat for the remaining guests.
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To comment, please click here. Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor for free? Let us know by clicking here. Nick Malgieri is the award-winning author of "Perfect Cakes," HarperCollins, 2002; "A Baker's Tour," HarperCollins, 2005; and "Perfect Light Desserts" Morrow, 2006.
To comment, please click here.
Interested in a private Judaic studies instructor for free? Let us know by clicking here.
Nick Malgieri is the award-winning author of "Perfect Cakes," HarperCollins, 2002; "A Baker's Tour," HarperCollins, 2005; and "Perfect Light Desserts" Morrow, 2006.