Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dessert we MUST try

I ran across this totally by chance. I remember in 1969 making Helen Corbitt's recipe for chili in a popcorn popper in the Memphis State dorm. Momma had told me who she was and I still have her cookbook w/ recipes from the N-M spa called "Helen Corbitt Cooks for Looks"
anyway--doesn't this sound interesting:

lostdessertscover_sized.jpgRizzoli’s Lost Desserts doesn’t come out until November, but publicist Pam Sommers was nice enough to send us a recipe from Dallas’ Helen Corbitt, the famous chef at Neiman Marcus’ The Zodiac Room, and whom Stanley Marcus once touted as “the Balenciaga of food.” Hit the jump for the recipe.

Caramel Soufflé
With Custard Sauce

Helen Corbitt’s legendary Caramel Soufflé is the type of dessert meant to be served from a trolley cart. It is a big, marvelous caramel meringue and paired here with a vanilla custard sauce (crème anglaise). Corbitt must have been influenced by the Portuguese molotov pudding, another caramel meringue and essentially the same dessert. To my taste, however, Corbitt’s sauce is infinitely better than the overly sweet, eggy, yellow one that accompanies the pudding. A friend once told me that the purpose of Portuguese desserts is to use up the egg yolks left over when the nuns had used the whites to starch their habits. I have no idea if this is true, but if the molotov sauce is any indication, maybe it is. The Portuguese inclusion of toasted almonds adds visual appeal and is a crunchy contrast to the marshmallowy quality of the soufflé. I’ve added them along with a hard caramel drizzle to the original recipe given to me by Bertha Shields, who worked with Corbitt in the 1950s.
Two very similar classic desserts are île flottante and oeufs à la neige. Both, like Corbitt’s soufflé, feature a soft meringue drizzled with hard caramel and floating on a crème anglaise. “Floating island,” however, is a large baked meringue, while “eggs in snow” is composed of individual meringues that are poached rather than baked. These two desserts differ from the soufflé in that the basic meringue is flavored with vanilla rather than caramel.
Serves 6 to 8

About 3 tablespoons butter and 1⁄4 cup sugar for
preparing the cake pan
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
1⁄8 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar, plus 1⁄2 cup for the hard caramel drizzle,
if desired
1⁄2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons sifted cornstarch
Crème Anglaise (see recipe, page 190)
Raspberry Sauce (see recipe, page 190)
1⁄3 cup coarsely chopped toasted, blanched almonds (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter and sugar a 3-quart soufflé dish.
2. Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites together with the salt on low speed; gradually raise the speed to high and beat until stiff peaks form.
3. Meanwhile, place 2 cups of the sugar, the cream of tartar, and 1 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Cover and boil for 3 minutes. Uncover and continue to boil until the syrup is a dark caramel, and a candy thermometer reads approximately 375 degrees.
4. The egg whites should be ready by now. If they are ready before the caramel, turn off the mixer. The whites can wait a few minutes, but they must be ready before or at the same time as the caramel. So adjust stove heat and mixer speed accordingly. Or turn one or the other off for a bit if necessary. As soon as the caramel is ready, very slowly pour the caramel into the egg whites, beating constantly. Do this very slowly or the caramel may not incorporate properly.
5. Once all the caramel has been added, beat in the vanilla and the cornstarch.
6. Very gently spoon the mixture into the prepared soufflé dish; the soufflé mixture will rise above the top of the dish. This is okay as it will rise further when cooking and then sink as it cools.
7. Place the soufflé dish in a bain marie (a larger pan with boiling water to a depth of at least 2 inches). Put in the oven and immediately lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees. After 5 minutes, turn off the oven. Do not open the oven door. Let the soufflé bake for 15 minutes more, then remove it from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. It will be golden and crusty on top.
8. Loosen the sides with a long knife and invert onto a serving plate.
9. If desired, make the hard caramel drizzle: Cook the 1⁄2 cup sugar with 3 tablespoons of water as described in step 3, until the caramel is dark. Pour it over the soufflé in a thin stream to make an interesting pattern on top. Let harden.
10. Serve cooled, accompanied by crème anglaise or raspberry sauce (even better with a tablespoon of Poire Williams added), or both, and sprinkled with the toasted almonds, if using. Or omit all sauce and simply garnish with fresh berries.

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