I love the drama that is the soufflé; one minute they're up there and the next minute you're back where you began. But what is it about the melodrama that is the soufflé that keeps us going back for more? Like the momentary bliss you get from witnessing a shooting star, so is the transient beauty of the soufflé. Fleeting and short-lived just like the morning dew or a gust of wind, blink and you will almost miss it. And what is soufflé without its puff?
Nonetheless, I love the soufflé for what it is; it's classic gastronomic theatre. And just like a great play will reel you in, I'm happy to buy into the drama that is soufflé-making. I don't know but perhaps it's their delicate texture and the ethereal way that they seem disappear on your tongue but I'm happy to go through it's ephemeral rise and fall just to enjoy the eating of it.
There's one thing to enjoy the eating of a soufflé and there's another thing to endure the making of one. Most times people pass up the making of a soufflé just to avoid all the frustrations that come with making them succeed. But let me assure you that the rules aren't that difficult and success is more likely than failure. And when they don't rise it really really doesn't matter, after all they become breathless in no time at all. They'll lose their puff and no on will ever know they never rose.
The making of a soufflé might be seen a difficult, but the added pressure of photographing one is twice and burdensome. But always worth it in the end even when they has sunken by the time you have your best shots.
These soufflés were from a recipe by Shannon Bennet, head chef at the illustrious Vue De Monde in Melbourne. I'd always had great success with his recipes however had always stuck to Matt Moran's basic soufflé recipe and was quite excited to try Bennet's version for a change. It was also quite novel that he chose to use the grapefruit skins as a mould rather than conventional ramekins. However being the skeptic that I was, I decided to go with some ramekins just in case the grapefruit skins didn't work out.
But surprisingly the grapefruit skins faired well in the oven and provided a beautiful rise for the soufflés. Although as they do not conduct or preserve heat as well as ramekins do, you will find that they loose their puff a lot more easily. So if you are entertaining, you will have to time these desserts quit well and literally serve them as they emerge form the oven.
Adapted from a recipe by Shannon Bennet
from the Australian Gourmet Traveller March 2006
500ml (about 3 fruit) grapefruit juice
finely grated rind of 1 grapefruit
150g caster sugar
30g plain all-purpose flour
2 tbsp cold water
4 egg whites
icing (confectioner’s) sugar, for dusting
Combine juice, rind, half of the sugar in a medium saucepan over moderate heat and bring to the boil. (Remember not to discard the grapefruit skins of you want to use them as moulds.)
Then simmer for 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.
Remove from heat.
Combine cornflour and plain flour with cold water and whisk until smooth.
Whisk flour mixture into grapefruit juice and whisk using an electric mixer on high speed.
Refrigerate until cool.
Meanwhile, clean grapefruit skins by spooning out the flesh.
Grease each half with butter and dust with caster sugar.
Reheat oven to 180°C.
Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks and then add the remaining half of sugar.
Continue to whisk until the meringue starts to become glossy.
Using a large wide metal spoon fold in two scoops of meringue into the grapefruit mixture, then fold in the remaining meringue until incorporated.
Fill each grapefruit skin to the brim and scrape off excess with a spatula to flatten the tops.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until edges are golden brown and tops have risen.
Dust with icing sugar and serve.