Soufflés are a visually impressive way to punctuate the end of a meal. A fruit soufflé, particularly at this time of the year, is especially lovely. When coupled with a cheese board or delicious aged cheeses, there is nothing more impressive or delicious. This is the perfect transition from Summer to Autumn.
Makes eight (8) 4-ounce soufflés
2 tablespoons butter, melted
About 4 tablespoons sugar
3 medium, ripe sweet pears (we use Comice in the Test Kitchen), peeled, pitted and coarsely chopped (yields about 3 cups)
1/2 cup sparkling wine
1 tablespoon of honey (adjust less or more depending on the sweetness of the pears)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon fresh and aromatic cardamom
1 tablespoon Poire William Liqueur (optional — see second Chef’s Note)
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
5 egg yolks
Pinch of Cream of Tartar
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Prepare eight (8) 4-ounce ramekins for the soufflé batter by lightly brushing the melted butter inside the ramekins. Add about 1/2 tablespoon sugar to each ramekin and roll the sugar around coating the inside of the ramekin. Set aside.
Place the chopped pear into a medium saucepan and place it over medium heat. Add the sparkling wine, honey (as needed), vanilla, and cardamom. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until the fruit has cooked down into a thick purée. Remove from the heat. Stir in the Poire William (optional).
Place the mixture into a blender and process until the mixture is puréed. For a silky smooth and feathery-light soufflé, pour the purée through a fine mesh sieve placed over a clean bowl. Using the back of a spatula, work the purée through the sieve. Whisk in the egg yolks to the pear purée. Set aside.
[Chef’s Note: This should yield approximately 1 ¼ to 1 1/3 cups of purée, depending how well you scrape the bowl. In the off-season, when the pears are not as sweet, you may want to add 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to the pureed pears, before adding the optional liqueur or the egg yolks. The lemon juice will brighten the pear flavor.]
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, add the eggs and whisk until they begin to set up. Add the cream of tartar and continue whipping until you have stiff, but not dry, peaks.
Using a large spatula, stir ¼ of the whipped egg whites into the purée mixture to lighten it. Carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites. Spoon into each prepared ramekin and gently run your finger around the edge of the ramekin and the butter to create a small trough (this allows the soufflé to rise up without spilling over the edge of the ramekin). Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 14 minutes until the soufflés have risen and are golden brown.
Remove from the oven and serve immediately. The soufflés will begin to fall within minutes of moving them from the oven.
[Chef’s Note: Poire William is a sweet pear liqueur (pear eau de vie) which gets its name from the Williams Bon-Chrétien variety (French), more commonly known as the Bartlett pear. The brandy is expensive though — yes, the whole pear is inside the bottle (a fascinating process worth learning more about). Pear brandy or eau de vie can either be a true pear brandy, or made by infusing crushed pears with a grape-based spirit. In any case, whether you use Poire William in these recipes is your choice. Other than its intense aromatic properties, it adds little, if anything, to the final dish. Substitutions usually include some combination of Pear Nectar (ethnic food stores/aisles) and brandy.]
Recipe and photo by Donna Marie Zotter