This is a fantastic dessert that is really big on the show-off factor. If you have a special dinner party planned, these delights are just perfect. They are also quite light, so they are just suited to a menu that may have been a little rich in the preceding courses.
Dessert soufflés are a little different to savoury ones. Both rely on the amazing power of egg whites to achieve their towering volume, but most savoury soufflés have a roux, or flour and butter as their base. This simple marvel of patissiere work uses only egg whites, sugar and a delicious home made fruit puree of your choice, making them even simpler. I have suggested raspberries here, 'cause I love them, but feel free to try other fruits. All berries will work well, as will poached pears and even bananas that have been crushed with a little caster sugar.
As long as you keep the fruit volume to around half a cup, the possibilities are limitless.
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 punnet raspberries (or 250 gm (1/2 lb) frozen raspberries)
4 egg whites
1/4 cup caster sugar, extra
Juice of half a lemon
Caster Sugar, to coat the ramekins
Icing sugar (powdered confectioners sugar) for dusting
18 poached strawberries
1/2 cup mint pesto
Pre heat your oven to 200 °C (390 °F)
Wash the raspberries if using fresh and place in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup of caster sugar. Place on a gentle heat and cook for 10 minutes, or until they collapse a little. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Set aside to let the mixture cool down.
Get ready 6 porcelain ramekin or soufflé dishes, of around 150 ml capacity. Using non-stick cooking spray, or unsalted butter, grease the insides of the ramekins well. Pour in a little extra caster sugar, around a tablespoon or so, and swirl the ramekin so the sugar coats the edges thoroughly. This will add a little "grip" to the sides of the dish that the soufflé will use to climb to incredible heights.
Place the egg whites in an electric Mixmaster with a balloon whisk attachment, or alternatively use hand held electric beaters. Beat the egg whites until you have reached the soft peak stage. That is, the egg white foam will hold a peak when lifted up, but it is not rigid. It should fall back on itself a little. With the beaters still running, add the second 1/4 cup of caster sugar in a gentle stream. Don't add the sugar all at once. You will notice that the egg whites will start to become more opaque and a little glossy. Once all the sugar has been added, continue beating the whites for another 3 - 4 minutes.
Pour the egg whites into a large bowl, then using a spatula, gently fold through the now cooled raspberry mixture. Don't over beat the mixture, work very lightly. Firstly you don't want to expel any air that you have incorporated into the egg whites, and secondly it is nice to have an attractive rippled pattern to the finished product.
Gently distribute the soufflé mixture between the 6 prepared ramekins and place on a flat baking tray. With the aid of a sieve, dust the top of the soufflés with icing sugar. This will ad a nice colour and gloss to the finished product. Slide the soufflés into the oven and cook for 18 minutes. Check to see that they are puffed up and a little brown on top. Some ovens are cooler than others, so they may need a few minutes more.
As soon as they are done, remove to waiting plates. Use a damp napkin as a base; this will stop the ramekins from sliding around. Place 3 poached strawberries and a little syrup next to each soufflé, plus a dollop of mint pesto. Serve them up to "ooohs and aaahs" from your guests.
OK, this is a perfect example of not all ovens being equal. BlackPawn made these recently and found that 18 minutes was way too much for his oven. He experimented, dropping the time down to first 10, then settling on 8 minutes as the perfect cooking time. Come to think of it, the last time I made these was in an ancient 1950´s commercial oven that was most like well out of whack. The lesson here is to not treat mine or anyone else's timing stipulation as gospel, but let your eyes be the final arbiter. Check these darlin´s after 8 minutes and see how they are faring in your oven.