Spiced Tea Soufflé
I SEE YOU EVERYWHERE
My first two novels, Three Junes and The Whole World Over, feature chefs as major characters, so readers tend to assume that I love cooking. In fact, it would be more accurate to say that I love eating (alas!), which makes cooking a means to a delectable end. One of my greatest pleasures is bringing friends together for a good meal. I believe that dinner parties—often simple, casual affairs where the kids are banished to eat pizza in front of a movie while grown-ups cook and drink wine in the kitchen—are deeply nourishing to the soul as well as the body. So it’s natural that some of the most crucial scenes I write take place over meals.
In I See You Everywhere, the story of two very different adult sisters, the eldest, Louisa Jardine, prides herself on her culinary skills (though she’s an artist and writer, not a professional foodie). Yet she also admits that her “favorite strategy for holding panic at bay” is to immerse herself in feeding others. At a crucial point in the book, when she is struggling simultaneously with her health and her prospects for becoming a mother, she makes an elaborate meal for her boyfriend that culminates in a painful quarrel . . . and, ironically, a flawless soufflé, which emerges from the oven “lofty as a delusion.”
Harking back nearly 20 years, to a time when I became obsessed with mastering, even inventing, soufflés, I summoned up for this scene one of the most unusual desserts I’ve ever made, the Spiced Tea Soufflé from a wonderful 1970s cooking classic called The Making of a Cook, by Madeleine Kamman. Its bold assortment of ingredients includes crystallized ginger, orange rind, cloves, macadamia nuts, and, for its bergamot perfume, Earl Grey tea. Taking the liberties of fiction, I made Louisa’s confection an “oolong-ginger” soufflé, simply because I love the exotic echoes in the word oolong; “Earl Grey” didn’t strike the right note. In real life, however, I’d stick with the original version. It’s divine.
Julia Glass photo credit: Peter Ross
Spiced Tea Soufflé
Adapted from The Making of a Cook (Weathervane, 1971) by Madeline Kamman
1 heaping teaspoon (1 teabag) Earl Grey tea
1/4 teaspoon finely grated orange peel
Dash of ground cloves
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
pinch of salt
4 egg yolks
5 egg whites
1 1/2 tablespoons finely ground macadamia nuts
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
- Grease a 6 cup soufflé dish with butter.
- Place the tea leaves, orange peel and cloves in a small bowl. Pour boiling water on mixture and let steep until dark and cold, for approximately 30 minutes. Strain tea through a fine mesh strainer or sieve, and discard the tea leaves, orange peel and cloves.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine, sugar, flour, salt and cold tea over medium heat, stirring until mixture has thickened. Add egg yolks, one at a time, whisking well after each addition. Remove from heat.
- In a medium mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff, and fold into the batter.
- Sprinkle chopped macadamia nuts over bottom of soufflé dish. Turn half of the batter into dish. Sprinkle batter with crystallized ginger. Top with remaining batter. Bake soufflé for fifteen minutes. Serve immediately.
Yield: 6 servings