- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Invite your friends for brunch and honor them with an ethereal recipe, a heavenly combination of peaches, ricotta cheese and eggs.

It’s a good way to preview summer by offering a taste of the world’s most popular stone fruit.

I know this is cheating, of sorts, but the recipe works incredibly well with canned peaches. Please keep that a secret.

In a perfect world, you will have all the ingredients ready when guests arrive and you will assemble and bake the souffle when it’s time to eat.

Don’t worry if life doesn’t work out according to plan. Although it is nice to bring a souffle to the table, the fact is that the second it emerges puffed from the oven, a souffle is much too hot to eat. It needs to cool down a bit, during which time it will deflate.

So do your best, but if the souffle is faster than your guests, don’t despair. The flavor alone is worth it.

An ideal souffle is light and airy but also moist and creamy. The key lies in beating the egg whites to just the right consistency. Everything else will just rise into place.

Here are some pointers to ensure your success:

Separate the eggs well ahead of time, placing the whites in a large bowl and the yolks in a smaller one.

Cover both bowls with plastic wrap and let them come to room temperature.

Use fresh eggs for souffles because the fresher the whites, the more stable they will be after beating, and you will get a sturdier, although still tender, souffle. Note that fresh egg whites will take longer to beat than older whites but will be worth the extra time and trouble.

Don’t salt the whites. It will destabilize them. If you wish, you can add a little acid, such as cream of tartar or a drop of vinegar, to speed the process and add stability.

Beating time is related to temperature. The colder the egg whites, the longer it takes for them to whip.

If you are using a whisk instead of an electric mixer, beating time is related to the structure of the whisk. A whisk with many tines works faster than one with fewer.

Use a large balloon whisk for the most efficient action.

Frozen, defrosted whites work fine.

Make sure there is absolutely no yolk in the whites, and be sure you beat them with clean utensils. The presence of any oil will inhibit their ability to puff.

Don’t overbeat the whites. This is particularly easy to do when using an electric mixer.

Stop beating when soft peaks form and there is just a tiny amount of liquid left in the bottom of the bowl. Another sign: When you tilt the bowl, the foam should slide just a little.

You will need quite a bit of equipment for this dish, so gather a standard 2-quart souffle dish, two large bowls, a whisk, a rubber spatula, a wooden spoon and an electric hand-held mixer.

Sunlight souffle

Peaches and creamy cheese are delightful together in this rich-tasting souffle. If you don’t have access to ripe fresh peaches, make this souffle with the equivalent amount of canned peaches (packed in juice and drained), and it will still be absolutely delicious.

Tips: Separate the eggs well ahead of time, placing the whites in a large bowl and the yolks in a smaller one. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap, and let them come to room temperature. Also, zest the lemons before juicing them.

Nonstick spray for the baking dish

2 cups ricotta or cottage cheese

6 large eggs, separated and at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

2 medium-size ripe peaches, peeled and sliced, or 4 canned (packed in juice) peach halves, rinsed, drained, sliced and patted dry

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly spray a 1-quart souffle dish with nonstick spray.

Place ricotta in a large bowl, and add egg yolks, vanilla, almond extract, flour, salt, sugar and lemon zest. Whisk together until fluffy and smooth. (If using cottage cheese, do all of this in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, whipping the cottage cheese for a minute or so by itself first to smooth the curds.)

Beat egg whites until they form peaks that don’t fall over when whisk or beaters are lifted and there is just a little liquid left in the bottom of the bowl.

Fold egg whites into cheese mixture until mostly incorporated. The mixture will not be uniform. There will be little puffs of “cloud” here and there, and this is fine. (It’s best not to overfold because this will deflate the egg whites.) Transfer mixture to prepared dish.

Toss together peach slices and lemon juice, then arrange peaches in a pattern of your design on top of the souffle.

Bake in center of preheated 375-degree oven for 45 minutes or until the souffle seems solid when you gently shake the dish. Makes about 4 servings. If you are serving more people, make two of them, side by side.


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