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One of the most memorable desserts I ever tasted was a citrus souffle crepe prepared by Chef Fernand Chambrette 30 years ago at La Varenne Cooking School in Paris.
This was a new creation to all of us who were watching, and the result - a golden crepe with a light, puffy filling - was as dramatic as it was delicious. The chef served the crepes with a fresh raspberry sauce which he spooned around the delicate dessert.
At the time one of my favorite restaurants in Paris was Le Grand Vefour. The restaurant's chef, Raymond Oliver, was famous for his souffles. His instructions for making souffle crepes call for filling the thin pancakes with a mixture of vanilla pastry cream lightened with whipped egg whites, and baking them. Pastry cream is a professional term for the souffle base, a flour-thickened custard.
French culinary historians consider light-textured souffle crepes part of the innovative trend known as "la nouvelle patisserie," which has since been imitated around the world.
When I became a cooking teacher, I taught classes on new-style French desserts, and my orange souffle crepes were very popular.
In Great Britain, French-born chef restaurateur Raymond Blanc, author of Recipes from Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, decided to combine the formula for the crepe souffle with the traditional crepes Suzette, which is made of unfilled crepes heated in sweetened, orange-flavored butter. He called his new dessert Grand Marnier crepe souffle in the Suzette style. To make it, he topped each crepe with caramel-flavored orange butter sauce and homemade candied orange zest, and then, instead of filling the crepes, covered them with orange liqueur-flavored souffles separately baked in small skillets.
You can accent the souffle filling with any sweet flavoring, including chocolate and coffee. Many cooks prefer to stick to liqueur, vanilla or citrus because a golden-hued puffed souffle is so appealing. You can serve the crepes with a fruit sauce or simply shake powdered sugar over them at serving time.
Souffle crepes might seem like an elaborate dessert reserved for great French chefs but although they require several steps, none are more complicated than making blintzes or light cakes. You can do much of the preparation in advance, and making souffle crepes will be a pleasant and delicious weekend project.
ORANGE SOUFFLE CREPES
When you fill the crepes, you don't roll them like a blintz, as the souffle mixture would be squashed and would not rise as well. Instead you simply spoon some souffle mixture over half of the crepe and fold the other half loosely over the top, leaving one side open so the souffle has plenty of room to puff.
You can keep the unfilled crepes in the refrigerator up to 3 days; or you can freeze them, alternating each one with a piece of wax paper or parchment paper so they don't stick to each other.
If you like, serve the crepes with berry sauce (see recipe below) or shake powdered sugar over them at serving time.
Makes 4 servings
4 3â„4 cup all-purpose flour
4 Pinch of salt
4 3â„4 cup milk
4 2 eggs
4 Grated rind of 1â„2 orange (optional)
4 2 Tbsp. melted butter
4 About 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (for frying)
4 Orange souffle filling (see next recipe)
Sift the flour into a bowl and make a well in the center. Add the salt and 1â„2 cup milk. Gradually whisk in the flour to make a smooth batter. Whisk in the eggs one by one. At this point, if the batter is not smooth, strain it. Grate the orange zest into the batter. Whisk in the melted butter. Cover and let stand 1 hour or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.
Just before frying the crepes, add enough of the remaining milk to the batter so that it has the consistency of heavy cream. Brush a crepe pan or a 23- to 25-cm frying pan with oil. Heat until very hot - a drop of batter added to the pan should sizzle immediately. Add about 3 tablespoons batter to the pan, turning it quickly to coat the bottom. Cook over medium-high heat until lightly browned. Turn over and cook briefly to brown the other side. Continue making crepes from the remaining batter; stir the batter before preparing each one, and add another tablespoon of milk if necessary.
Oil the pan only if the crepes begin to stick. Pile the crepes to keep them moist and warm.
Prepare the orange souffle filling in the recipe below, following the first paragraph.
A short time before serving, preheat the oven to 200ÂºC and butter a heatproof platter or shallow baking dish. Then finish preparing the filling, following the second paragraph.
Spoon 2 or 3 tablespoons of the mixture onto the less attractive side of each crepe. Fold the crepe very lightly in half and arrange in one layer on the platter or baking dish. Bake about 10 minutes or until the filling puffs. Serve immediately.
ORANGE SOUFFLE FILLING
To make this filling parve, use soy milk or rice milk. Instead of making your own crepes, you can use purchased crepe or blintz wrappers. You can also bake the souffle mixture in individual buttered ramekins - fill them by about three quarters.
Makes enough for 4 servings
4 1 cup milk
4 3 egg yolks
4 5 Tbsp. sugar
4 4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 1â„4 cup orange juice
4 Zest of 1 orange
4 4 egg whites
First make the orange pastry cream: bring all but 2 tablespoons of the milk to a boil in a small, heavy-based saucepan. In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks lightly. Add 4 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons milk and whisk until thick and smooth. Stir in the flour with the whisk. Gradually whisk in half the hot milk.
Return the mixture to the pan, whisking. Cook over low heat, whisking, until the mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the orange juice.
Grate in the orange zest and whisk again. If not using immediately, dab the pastry cream with a small piece of butter to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool completely and keep in the refrigerator.
Transfer the pastry cream to a saucepan and whisk until smooth. Heat over low heat, whisking, until just hot to the touch. Remove from the heat.
Just before filling the crepes, beat the egg whites until stiff. Add the remaining tablespoon sugar and beat another 30 seconds until shiny. Fold one quarter of the whites into the pastry cream mixture, then gently fold this mixture into the remaining egg whites.
Use immediately to fill the crepes.
Make this sauce from frozen raspberries or strawberries. If using strawberries, you don't have to strain the sauce unless you want it silky smooth.
Makes about about 4 servings (1 cup)
4 3 cups (about 350 gr.) fresh or frozen raspberries or strawberries, thawed
4 About 1â„2 to 3â„4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
4 About 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Puree berries in a food processor or blender. Add 1â„2 cup powdered sugar; for raspberries, you may need more. Process until very smooth. Taste and add another tablespoon or two of powdered sugar if desired.
If using raspberries, spoon part of sauce into a strainer. Strain sauce into a bowl, pressing on pulp in strainer. Use rubber spatula to scrape mixture from underside of strainer. Continue straining remaining sauce.
Stir sauce before serving and add lemon juice to taste. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Faye Levy is the author of Fresh from France: Dessert Sensations and, in Hebrew, of Sefer Hakinuhim (The Book of Desserts).