So I've never made a souffle. You hear all the time how temperamental they are and how the smallest alternation in seemingly millions of factors can cause it not to rise, so I've just never wanted to risk the baking heartache. I have visions of pulling the dish from the oven and it turns into a soupy mess; but I dig in with a spoon anyway and sit there, sadly, as I contemplate turning in my apron and baking mits for good.
A dire situation, indeed.
Luckily, I was bailed out by a recently thrifted vintage cookbook: the 1963 McCall's Cook Book, which has a recipe for cold lemon souffles that piqued my interest. Now, let me just warn you that since the weather is hot, my obsession with lemon desserts has begun. It's my absolute favorite flavor in the summer — so fresh and citrus-y — so I apologize in advance (although not really) for the lack of variety that is sure to grace the pages of this blog. :-)
But back to the matter at hand...
These souffles require no baking at all. Just refrigeration, gelatin and some wax paper to give them the right look. So, essentially, they're souffle impostors, but rather tasty ones. And ones that won't break your heart. The original recipe calls for using 4 oz. ramekins; mine are 6 oz., so I just doubled the recipe and it was pretty much perfect for two.
Now, a word on the gelatin. For those of you vegetarians and vegans out there, we do have so alternatives at our disposal that leave our minds at ease. The PETA site has a great list of resources, the easiest of which is finding a kosher gelatin, available at most health food stores (I found some at Whole Foods). But do check the ingredient list, because not all kosher gelatin is vegan.
Another note: When you get to the point in the recipe where the whipped cream, beaten egg whites and the gelatin mixture are to be folded together, do make sure to give the gelatin mixture a good whisk to break it up, otherwise you'll be folding all the air out of the whites and cream you worked so hard to get nice and fluffy.
Ok, now I think it's time to enjoy. ;-)
Cold Lemon Souffles
Courtesy of the McCall's Cook Book (1963)
Makes 2 servings
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons sugar
4 egg yolks, well beaten (save those egg whites!)
2 teaspoons unflavored kosher gelatin
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel (plus more for garnish)
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped
4 tablespoons finely chopped pecans
Lightly grease bottoms and sides of two 6 oz. ramekins.
Make paper collars:
For each dish, tear a sheet of waxed paper 12 inches long. Fold lengthwise into thirds; lightly grease one side. With string (I just used some tape), tie collar (buttered side inside) around top of dish, forming a rim 2 inches above the edge.
Heat milk and sugar in a small saucepan just until sugar is dissolved.
Remove from heat. Gradually add mixture to egg yolks, beating constantly with fork (this is to temper the yolks so they won't curdle, so do add the hot mixture slowly!). Let cool.
Sprinkle gelatin over lemon juice in a custard cup; let stand 5 minutes to soften. Set custard cup in a pan of hot water and stir mixture until gelatin dissolves. Stir in lemon peel.
Add gelatin mixture to egg-milk mixture, mixing well. Refrigerate until consistency of unbeaten egg whites, about 30 minutes.
In a medium bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar at high speed until stiff peaks form when beater is slowly raised.
With rubber scraper, using an under-and-over motion, fold gelatin mixture and whipped cream into egg whites until well combined.
Turn mixture into souffle dishes. Refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
Before serving, gently remove collars. Press nuts against side of each souffle, or sprinkle on top with additional grated lemon peel.