By Greg Patent – Guest Contributor and Baking Wizard
Here’s a perfect light and airy dessert for summer. Over forty years ago I fell in love with a recipe called Praline Soufflé Fifi, a creation of the late and great Michael Field. You beat egg whites with sugar to make a meringue and fold in a homemade powdered pecan praline. After baking the soufflé in a hot water bath and letting it cool, you upend it onto a platter and decorate it with raspberry sauce, whipped cream, and fresh raspberries. The recipe appeared in the November 28, 1971, issue of The New York Times Magazine. Over the years I’ve tweaked it some, but the basics are intact. For your information, I have no idea who Fifi is.
A soufflé (French for “puffed up”) is usually made with egg yolks and egg whites and served hot from the oven. This soufflé, made with just whites, is a departure from tradition, and it is served at room temperature or even cold. There is tremendous drama in bringing a hot soufflé to the table before it has a chance to sink. This praline soufflé is supposed to sink – and it will begin to do so as soon as you take it out of the oven.
You’ll need an 8-cup soufflé mold and an electric mixer, preferably a stand model, which makes quick work of beating the meringue. The soufflé mold I use is made of tin and is 4 inches tall and 7 ¼ inches across the top opening. It has two heart-shaped handles. Similar molds are readily available at Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, and other online retailers of specialty kitchen equipment.
TIP: The most important thing to keep in mind when whipping egg whites is to use a grease-free bowl and whip. And make sure no bits of yolk find their way into the whites. Egg yolks contain fat and egg whites do not. Egg yolk fats prevent egg whites from whipping properly.
Make the praline first. A day or two ahead is fine. I make more than the recipe calls for and store it refrigerated in a screw-cap jar. Once that’s done, the soufflé comes together very quickly. Without further ado, here is the recipe:
PRALINE SOUFFLÉ with RASPBERRY SAUCE
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pecan halves
- Put the sugar into a 10-inch skillet (not non-stick; you need to see the color of the caramel) and set the pan over medium heat. Don’t stir the sugar or agitate the pan for about 5 minutes, or until you see the sugar beginning to melt.
- Stir occasionally for a minute or two more until the sugar has melted completely and turns a deep caramel color.
- Swirl the pan by its handle until the syrup begins to foam up, then take the pan off the heat. You may notice wisps of smoke coming from the caramel. Don’t be alarmed.
- Immediately add the pecans and stir them into the caramel.
- Pour the pecans and caramel onto an oiled baking pan or pastry marble and leave it alone until it has cooled and hardened into a brittle.
- Dislodge the brittle and break it up into chunks. Use a food processor to turn the chunks into a powder. Be careful to not over-process or the praline powder will turn into a paste.
Butter for the soufflé pan
Sugar for the soufflé pan
1 cup egg whites (about 8 large), at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
10 tablespoons superfine sugar (also called Baker’s Sugar) or granulated sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup pecan praline powder
- Adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-cup soufflé pan thoroughly, right up to the rim. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and tip and turn the pan to coat well with the sugar. Knock out excess sugar.
- The soufflé must be baked in a water bath. Set the prepared soufflé pan into a roasting pan with sides about 2 inches high.
- Bring several quarts of water to the boil and keep hot to pour into the roasting pan just before baking.
- Beat the whites on medium-low speed for a minute or so just until they turn frothy.
- Add the cream of tartar and salt and whip on medium speed until the whites form soft peaks when the beater is raised.
- On medium speed, gradually beat in the 10 tablespoons superfine or granulated sugar, waiting 20 to 30 seconds between additions. Beat until the whites form stiff shiny peaks when the beater is raised. Beat in the vanilla.
- Fold in the praline powder and spoon the meringue into the prepared soufflé pan, packing it in. The pan will be almost full.
- Put the soufflé pan into the roasting pan and add boiling water to reach half way up the sides of the soufflé pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted into the soufflé comes out clean. During baking the soufflé will rise several inches above the rim of its pan.
- Remove the soufflé pan from its water bath and set on a rack to cool. The soufflé will sink to about half the height of the pan.
- When completely cool, cover the soufflé pan with a dessert platter and invert the two. The soufflé should fall out easily.
- Cover the soufflé with an inverted bowl until ready to serve. Prepare the raspberry sauce and whipped cream.
3 cups fresh raspberries
3 to 4 tablespoons sugar, superfine or granulated
1 to 2 tablespoons Framboise or Kirsch, optional
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Puree 2 cups raspberries and force through a fine strainer to remove the seeds. Stir in sugar until completely dissolved and add the liqueur of your choice or the vanilla. Reserve remaining 1 cup raspberries for decoration.
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon Framboise or Kirsch or ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whip the cream, sugar, and flavoring until stiff enough to be piped through a pastry bag.
To serve, dab the soufflé with a paper towel to remove any sugar syrup released by the praline. Decorate the soufflé with some of the raspberry sauce, the whipped cream, and fresh raspberries. Cut into portions and serve. The soufflé will have an attractive layered look. A mint sprig makes a nice garnish.
Store leftover soufflé in the refrigerator but bring to room temperature before serving.
Makes 6 to 8 servings. Every single one of which will be tremendously enjoyed!!
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