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The sweet and the sour

“Will you bring dessert?”

Now that is one of my favorite questions to be asked. It’s right up there with “Can I kiss you?” and “You’re from Oklahoma?” But unlike the latter two, it can almost always be counted on to produce an outcome that’s angst-free, a result in which sweet conquers sour. Dessert doesn’t lead to sleepless nights of overanalyzing, or to nightmarish memories of afternoons at the Cowboy Hall of Fame. There will be no broken hearts and no teepees. Dessert is pleasure guaranteed, with no explanations needed. When delicious, dessert is its own best answer—especially when it’s as delicate as frilly lingerie and as rich as a Plains-state oil tycoon. Lemon soufflé tartlets are both.

Light and sweet and puckery with lemon and zest, these mini-soufflés are, quite simply, spring in a buttery shell. And they're a handy way to keep myself occupied until I get my kisses and my cowboy.

Lemon Soufflé Tartlets
Adapted from Jeffrey Steingarten’s brilliant It Must Have Been Something I Ate, which in turn adapted from Paula Oland of NYC’s Balthazar Bakery, and from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets

Steingarten’s original recipe suggests using a pastry crust he adapted from Maury Rubin of NYC’s City Bakery, but I was eager to try it with this easy, unusual, and delicious crust from Dorie Greenspan’s book Paris Sweets. I was very pleased with the result, although I might add more sugar to the crust next time. The lemon soufflé filling is quite tart, so a sweet and buttery crust is a necessary foil.

6 eggs
1 scant cup granulated sugar
3 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour
2 Tbs heavy cream
1 cup fresh lemon juice (from about four large lemons)
Grated zest of 4 lemons
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ cup superfine sugar
6 to 8 4-inch tart shells, fully but lightly baked (see link above; one batch of Dorie’s dough should yield 6-7 shells)
Confectioner’s sugar, for serving

Separate the eggs, placing all 6 yolks in a large, metal mixing bowl and 3 whites in another medium bowl; reserve or discard the remaining 3 whites. In the metal bowl, beat the yolks at medium-high speed, gradually adding the granulated sugar and continuing to beat until the mixture is light yellow and thick. Lower the speed to medium, beat in the flour, and gradually beat in the cream, the lemon juice, and the zest.

Place the metal bowl directly over medium heat on the stovetop. Using a rubber spatula, continuously stir the mixture, scraping the bottom and sides. It will first become hot and steamy, and then, around 180 degrees Fahrenheit on a thermometer, it will thicken fairly suddenly and begin to bubble. It will look similar to lemon curd. Remove the bowl from the heat, stir in the baking soda, and watch the mixture foam. Stir well, and then let cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In the other bowl and with clean beaters, beat the 3 egg whites until foamy, sprinkle with the superfine sugar, and continue beating until soft peaks form. Stir about ¼ of the egg whites into the lemon mixture; then gently fold in the remaining whites. Fill each of 6-8 prebaked tart shells with 1/3 to ½ cup of the mixture (you may find, as I did, that you have excess filling; either make more tart shells, throw it away, or try making little soufflés in ramekins). Bake the tartlets for 18 to 20 minutes, or until set and lightly golden but still a bit wobbly. As they cool, the filling will deflate. Serve at room temperature, dusted lightly with powdered sugar.


Anonymous Pam said...

This sounds delicious. Am looking forward to trying it.

:) Pam

12:38 PM, March 26, 2005  
Blogger Swirl and Sniff said...

Wow, I'm going to make some of these for a dinner party tomorrow night. Any suggestions on a wine, especially a dessert wine, to serve with them?

Sauternes? Riesling? I don't have a good feeling for a pairing for these guys...

11:58 AM, March 27, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Thanks, Pam! Let me know if you do give the tartlets a try...

And Swirl and Sniff, thanks for stopping by and commenting! It's good to see another Seattlite around here. As for a wine pairing, I've consulted a friendly expert (a.k.a. my brother, who is a D.C. restauranteur and wine guy), and he suggests any of the following: Michele Chiarlo Late-Harvest Moscato, Voss Late-Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, LillyPilly Muscat, or any late-harvest riesling. Something sweet to counterbalance the tartness of the lemon, but not cloying...

5:49 PM, March 27, 2005  
Blogger Compmouse said...

Simply amazing! I'm going to make those the first chance that I get. They look so cute and delicious all at the same time too.

I'd also like to mention that you take fantastic pictures!

4:11 AM, March 28, 2005  
Blogger amylou said...

YUM! So pretty and so dainty. These make me want to host a ladies luncheon. You in?

7:20 AM, March 28, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Well thank you, Compmouse!

And Amy, I'm most definitely in! Would this make us ladies who lunch? And would doilies be involved?

12:36 PM, March 29, 2005  
Anonymous Julie said...

Molly -- what a combination of light and voluptuous. Perfection in a dessert. I am most definitely going to try these soon. How much extra sugar would you put into the tart shells?

7:14 PM, March 29, 2005  
Blogger Carol said...

Mmm...I can't wait to try this. Perhaps the next time I am asked to bring dessert...hopefully it won't be too long. By the way, I agree on the brilliance of Jeffrey Steingarten. (Though I always forget about the recipes after I've put the book away, so thanks for the reminder!)

3:23 PM, March 30, 2005  
Blogger Brian Gardunia said...

These sound heavenly.

There is a joy of cooking recipe for a lemon custard that is great you should try. It separates while baking into a light "cake" on top and lemon pudding below.

Brian Gardunia

3:37 PM, March 30, 2005  
Blogger Swirl and Sniff said...

Thanks for the pairing suggestion -- I ended up going w/a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc and a late harvest Viognier, both of which performed very well.

The recipe proved quite reproducable even w/a few of us baking-challenged wannabe cooks. Thanks again.

8:03 PM, March 30, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Hmmm, Julie, let's see...I think you could probably go up to about 1 or 2 Tbs of sugar in the crust (rather than the original 1/2 tsp). It will be an experiment; I'd say try 1 Tbs for a first go. The dough might be a bit more prone to tearing, but don't worry. Just patch it back together and carry on. Keep me posted!

Carol, I've heard that Jeffrey Steingarten's potato gratin recipe is delicious. Have you tried it?

Brian, that lemon pudding cake sounds wonderful! Thanks for the recommendation. I'll have to look it up...

And Swirl and Sniff, thanks for reporting back. So glad to hear that the tarts and their wines were a success.

9:23 PM, March 30, 2005  
Anonymous Maria said...

Can you make these ahead of time?? at least the tart part? We are catering my brother's wedding in May and these look fabulous! Any other menu suggestions? Thanks! Your blog is great!

10:25 AM, January 05, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

Hi there, Maria. Yep, you could most certainly make the tart shells ahead of time. You could bake them and then freeze them, and then let them thaw fully before filling them with the lemon mixture. I can't remember for certain, but the finished tarts might even last a day or two with no adverse effects on their quality. Give them a test run and see what you think! Good luck to you, and congratulations to your brother.

10:52 AM, January 05, 2007  
Anonymous Maria said...

Thank you for your response. I am checking out Paris Sweets today from the library! I will give them a trial run. Thanks again!

11:19 AM, January 05, 2007  
Blogger xoch said...

Hi Molly,
I'm a big fan of your blog, it's quite addictive! I'm thinking of giving these a try, but I have a couple of questions about the tartlets. How long should I bake them, in the prebaking phase? Your other recipe (the flan one) recommends 18-20 min, but this one calls for additional baking with the filling, so I'm worried the crust will dry out. Also, do you recommend silicone tart pans? thnx!

2:25 PM, July 22, 2008  
Blogger Molly said...

xoch, to tell you the truth, I can't remember how long I prebaked the tart shells! It's been a while. If I were you, I would just do it by eye: they're ready when they look set and are pale golden. And don't worry about the crust drying out when you do the second bake (with the filling). It'll be just fine.

As for silicone tart pans, I'm afraid I've never used them. I use metal ones.

Sorry that I can't be of more help! Good luck.

10:05 PM, July 27, 2008  
Anonymous Christina Marie said...


How in the world do you get your tart shells to look perfectly even like that? I make tartlets everyday but they always shrink back some (even with pie weights). Every little indent is perfect even and flat on top. How DO you do it?

1:33 PM, August 21, 2008  
Anonymous Dan said...

Tried this on Saturday as a single big tart, was excellent!

9:31 AM, November 26, 2012  

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