If the thought of making a soufflé fills you with a strange sinking feeling, take heart. It’s not nearly as tricky as it’s sometimes made out to be, says Le Sirenuse’s head chef Gennaro Russo, as long as you follow a few simple rules and procedures. The main piece of advice is never, ever to open the oven door while the soufflé is rising. As Alan Davidson puts it in The Oxford Companion to Food, “a soufflé has to be left undisturbed for the full cooking time and then served promptly”.
Served in individual ovenproof bowls or ramekins, this lemony soufflé is a perfect dish to serve on a cool or rainy early autumn day, with its combination of Amalfi Coast lemony zest and warm, nourishing egg foam. It’s a two-stage process: you first make the lemon cream, then use this as an ingredient of the soufflé. You’ll find that you have plenty of left over lemon cream if you follow the quantities below. This is no bad thing: it’s a delicious addition to fruit platters, crumbles, sponge cakes and the like, and will keep well in the fridge for four or five days. Serves four.
350g single (pouring) cream
180g egg yolks
100g fine white flour (Italian 00 or equivalent)
50g melted butter
Grated rind of 5 lemons
170g lemon cream (as above)
30g plain white yogurt
Grated rind of 2 lemons (the yellow zest, not the white pith)
160g egg whites
Begin by making the lemon cream. Warm the milk in a saucepan, but don’t let it boil. Separately, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until creamed, using a hand whisk or blender. Sift in the flour and continue to beat, making sure there are no lumps, then add the warm milk. Whisk energetically until you have a smooth liquid, then pour this back into the saucepan (through a strainer if you’re a perfectionist) and heat, whisking regularly, until it has reduced and thickened a little. You’re aiming for a medium pouring custard consistency, not a thick crème anglaise. When ready, set aside and leave to cool.
Now turn your attention to the soufflé. First, turn on the oven, setting it to 210°C. Brush your chosen ramekins or bowls with melted butter, dust with icing sugar, and place in the fridge. Next, whisk the egg whites in a large mixing bowl until well aerated, then add the sugar and continue whisking until they form soft peaks when you lift the whisk out of the mixture.
Checking that the lemon cream has cooled to body temperature or lower, add the whisked egg whites to it with a metal spoon, one spoonful at a time, folding in carefully between each addition to keep the mixture well aerated. Continue until the mixture is a uniform pale yellow colour.
Fill the ramekins with the mixture and level off with a spatula. Place them on a baking tray in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes, resisting the temptation to open the over door to look while they’re rising.
Take out of the oven, dust with icing sugar, and serve nice and hot.
Photos © Roberto Salomone