The first time I made a soufflé, I made an orange soufflé where I used this recipe that had you fill hollowed oranges with the batter and bake them in the oranges rather than ramekins. Now, I can’t be sure if it was a mistake on my part or the recipe just wasn’t quite the best recipe to use, but it ended in utter failure. The soufflé rose a bit, but it also overflowed out of the oranges as it baked, running down the orange skin like molten lava and, thereby, destructing the little bit of rise the top had gotten. They also didn’t fully cook on the inside, despite the fact that I had let them bake longer than the suggested time. Suffice it to say, I was intimidated by the soufflé from then on. I share this story in case anyone else gets nervous making them like I used to, and still sometimes do.
The way I look at soufflés are kind of like how I view macarons. While I’m much more comfortable with macarons, the basic idea is that both macarons and soufflés are heavily reliant on how well you beat your egg whites. They both require their perfect consistencies (albeit macarons require a stiffer egg white), or else they won’t rise the way they should. In the case of a soufflé, the egg whites are whisked vigorously to incorporate air into tiny, protein-encased bubbles that expand once exposed to heat in the oven. That’s why you usually only have a minute or two once they’re out of the oven to serve them in their beautiful, puffy state. Without the heat, those air bubbles quickly collapse. If you’re interested in getting the perfect egg white-whisking technique down or learn the science behind the soufflé, NPR did an interesting article on the subject, which can be found here.
Because I have yet to master whipping my eggs to perfection each and every time, I bake my soufflés with a thread of hesitancy and a silent prayer each time I place the soufflés in my oven. Their quick collapse is also one of the reasons I’ve avoided photographing them for the blog; I’m already much too slow and a perfectionist when it comes to photographing other foods that I can’t help but panic when I need to photograph time-sensitive plates like this. That said, I tried my best here to snap a photo of the finished product before the soufflé started collapsing, as you’ll notice in the third and fourth pictures. In any case, these taste absolutely sensational. I love the orange flavor that’s laced throughout from the zest and Grand Marnier. That, combined with the moist, bread pudding-like texture of the soufflé is to-die-for. I recommend practicing this recipe a few times before you attempt it for guests, but, regardless, have no fear as it will taste wonderful either way!
Soufflé à l'orange
- 2 large eggs separated
- 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp melted butter plus more for greasing ramekins
- 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp all-purpose flour
- 1/4 c cold milk
- 1 tsp freshly grated orange zest
- 1 tbsp Grand Marnier
- 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 c white sugar plus more for sprinkling ramekins with
- powdered sugar to dust on top
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Use a pastry brush to coat the insides of 2 (8 oz) ramekins with melted butter. Sprinkle sugar inside the ramekins, then rotate ramekins from side to side to get sugar crystals coating the entire interior surface of the ramekins. Tap out any excess sugar. Set aside.
Pour the 1 tbsp + 2 tsp of melted butter into a small pan. Add the 1 tbsp + 2 tsp flour to the pan, then turn on the heat to medium low. Use a wooden spoon (not a whisk) to combine the two together to form a roux. Once combined and liquid-like, add in the cold milk. Continue stirring with the spoon until a dough has formed and doesn't stick to the pan. Turn this dough out into a clean, large bowl. Set aside.
In a separate, clean and dry bowl, add your egg whites. Make sure you don't get ANY yolks in the whites, otherwise repeat this step as the yolks will ruin your merengue. Once you've got your egg whites in the bowl, use a large whisk to stir your egg whites. You'll want to hold the bowl at a 15° angle, and whisk vigorously for a few minutes.
Once the egg whites have lost their yellowish appearance and have become frothy white, add in half of the sugar. Continue to whisk for another few minutes until the whites have thickened enough to just coat your whisk slightly, then add the remaining half of sugar. Continue to whisk until the egg whites have formed soft peaks and have just about lost all their sheen. It should look like shaving cream when you're done. Set aside momentarily.
To the bowl that contains your dough, add your orange zest, Grand Marnier, and vanilla extract. Stir them in with your wooden spoon before adding the egg yolks. Use your spoon to incorporate the yolks until you have a thick, lava-like batter.
Add about half of your egg whites into the batter, folding them into the batter with a rubber spatula. You don't have to be quite so gentle as this part is done to loosen up the yolk batter. Once incorporated, add the remaining half of egg whites and very GENTLY fold them into the batter, using big, long strokes. Fold just until the whites are no longer apparent.
Divide the batter among your ramekins, stopping a quarter inch from the rim of the ramekins if you want a straight, slightly puffy look. If you want the soufflés really high and don't mind them going slighty lopsided, then fill to the rim of the ramekins.
Use an offset spatula or your finger to smooth out the tops of the batter. Bake in the oven for 16 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve immediately (soufflés will deflate within a minute, so hurry!)