Carrot Soufflé

2016-food-blog-photo-december-7A few weeks ago, I got my “what to blog about” inspiration from the unlikely source that is the Trader Joe’s samples counter. They were demo-ing carrot soufflé, a bright orange spoonful of light, sweet puree that I immediately wanted to play with. I’ve done a sweet potato soufflé before, and I thought a carrot version would work equally well as a semi-sweet holiday side dish, bumped up with a few flavor partners these bright, knobbly spears play well with.

2016-food-blog-photo-december-0684I’m not usually a fan of oranges in holiday dishes (especially the aforementioned sweet potatoes: keep that orange juice out of my carbs!), but carrots and orange are too chummy to keep separated for long. Ginger seemed like another good guest to invite to this party, and a good squeeze of maple syrup to add a burnished kind of sweetness in there.

2016-food-blog-photo-december-5Soufflé carries with it a reputation of delicacy and fussy fragility, and in some ways this is true. The elegant, gravity defying puff that is its signature is in part a result of egg whites beaten just so, but also of careful handling and a patient, even leisurely attitude. And sometimes it just falls. When that happens, you just have to shrug and accept it. Maybe have another glass of eggnog.

2016-food-blog-photo-december-0697This is a (reasonably) convenient soufflé recipe in that it involves an equal number of egg whites and egg yolks. There’s a bit of fussiness with separating, ensuring you haven’t tainted the pristine whites with even a breath of yellow, or they won’t rise up into that spongy cloud you need. But scrupulous attention helps with that, and a dash of cream of tartar ensures a quicker, fluffier snowdrift of whipped whites.

2016-food-blog-photo-december-6Apart from that, it’s just a question of integration. The carrots, after a softening boil in water and orange juice, get blended with flavoring agents, yolks, and a glug or two of cream, and then it’s just a question of folding in those whites carefully and gently, trying not to deflate anything. I’ve explained my method in the step-by-step below, but here’s another excellent reference from the kitchn, if you want more detailed guidance.

2016-food-blog-photo-december-7After a careful deposit into the oven (we want all the air we can keep in this dish of orange velvet), you are rewarded with a bronzed puff, heavier than meringue or mousse, lighter than custard – that impossible, almost strange, texture only a soufflé has – and you scoop out great spoonfuls because it’s so light, and brightly carrot-y, enhanced by the orange and the ginger and luxurious from the cream. I think this would go well with a turkey or ham-based holiday menu, but we had ours with herb and butter basted salmon, and found we didn’t miss having a starch component. Besides, it left room for a dessert I’ll show you next week: another puff, but of a very different sort, equally on board for the impending holidays.


Carrot Soufflé
80-90 minutes, including cooling time for the carrots
Serves 4
2½ cups peeled, 1-inch carrot chunks (6-7 medium carrots)
zest from one large orange
¼ cup fresh orange juice from one large orange
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup heavy cream
3 eggs, separated
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar, optional


  • In a medium pot with a lid, combine the carrots, orange juice, water, and salt. Plonk in the juiced halves of the orange too (reserve the orange zest for later). Pop on the lid and bring to a boil over medium high heat, and boil until the carrot pieces are tender but not falling apart: 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of your carrot chunks. Drain and cool to just above room temperature (we’re going to add raw egg yolks and don’t want them to scramble).
  • While the carrots are cooking and cooling, preheat your oven to 375F and prepare your baking dish: use the 2 tablespoons butter to grease a 1½ quart round baking dish with straight sides (by all means use a proper soufflé dish for this if you have one; I don’t. But hey, it is almost Christmas…). Sprinkle the brown sugar over the buttered sides of the container, then stow it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes. The sugar sanding creates texture to help the soufflé climb the walls of the container, and freezing it makes it take longer to dissolve in the heat of the oven, so you’re giving your puff a head start.
  • In the pot with the cooled carrot chunks, add the fresh ginger, the maple syrup, the heavy cream, the reserved orange zest, and the 3 egg yolks. Use an immersion blender (or transfer the whole mix to a blender or food processor) to break down into a smooth puree. Be sure no carrot hunks remain.
  • In a separate bowl, add the cream of tartar to the egg whites. Using a handheld electric mixture (or a whisk, if you need to work on your arms), beat the whites at first over medium, then high speed until medium peaks form. The whites will foam, and then become pure white, and finally begin to stiffen like a good whipped cream. To determine the stiffness of your peaks, turn off the beaters and lift them straight out of the whites. If you get little hills that collapse back into the mixture, you have soft peaks. If you get little tips that fold over just a bit when you pull the beaters away, you are looking at medium to stiff peaks, which is what we want.
  • Using a rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the egg white fluff into your carrot puree base and stir until no white streaks remain. No need to be careful with this part – full integration is just fine.
  • Now, slide the other ⅔ of the whites into the sweet potato mixture and fold in gently until just combined – some white streaks may remain and that’s fine. I like to fold by drawing my spatula around the edge of the bowl in a horseshoe shape, then pulling it back toward me in a straight line.
  • Retrieve your frozen baking dish and fill with the soufflé mixture, being careful not to let it plop from too high (in case of deflation). Smooth off the top the best you can – this seems fussy, but it will aid in even rising.
  • Bake in a preheated 375F oven keeping the door closed the whole time for 35-45 minutes, until the edges are nicely browned and the soufflé has puffed up in the center as well as the sides. For maximum wow factor, transport carefully and immediately to the table, so your fellow diners can appreciate your soufflé skills before it deflates. Dig in with a large spoon and enjoy.

Coffee ice cream (and an unexpected love story)

Ah, expectations. They can be weasel-y little twerps, don’t you think? We organize our lives around them, constructing hope-castles, forts stabilized by plans that don’t pan out, two-story shambles resulting from too many taken-for-granted ideals. Expectations bolster us. And then they dissolve into crumbs, or explode, or sink, or flop around in directions we weren’t expecting.

Food Blog February 2014-3214In college, I had sky-straddling expectations. I expected to figure this life thing out in the first year or two. I would be at the top of my major. I would make decade-spanning friendships. I would collect acclaim, graduate with honors, make my parents proud, especially my dad. I expected to land a perfect career, garner financial success, all while also a perfect wife, mother, homemaker, lover, even though I didn’t know what that entailed yet. I expected to write a novel or two along the way.

Food Blog February 2014-3187I didn’t expect to fall in love with an older version of our language and want to study its literature forever, setting me up for a career path typically paved with loans and let-downs. I didn’t expect to struggle with roommates or friendships or classes. I didn’t expect to have my heart torn by the gentle trampling of a pair of shining sneakers, in snap-up track pants, driven by reasons that probably involved a raucous house full of boys, boredom, and possibly a brunette with glasses.

Food Blog February 2014-3186But after that, I tried to give up on expectations. I would stop thinking “everything would work out.” I would stop expecting him to realize he’d made a mistake. I would stop, oh please, I would stop, writing terrible mopey songs about this person who wasn’t even the same person anymore. I would just live. I would just try to be me. I wouldn’t ask someone else to repair the torn bits for me, because that would be expecting too much. And since I’ve never been much of a seamstress, my repairs were clumsy. I was patched, the stitches were irregular, and I felt worn and fragile but maybe whole, and maybe a little bit strong.

Food Blog February 2014-3178And then I met N. And because I was done with expectations, I didn’t expect anything at all. Not even a friendship. It would be a, well, a something. It might be fun, it might be sweet, but it would end. We were seniors. We were going somewhere. We didn’t know where yet, because we weren’t expecting anything, but we were sure of little, then. We spent phone calls trying to scare each other away by explaining our neuroses, and our cynicism, and what we considered our more unlovable attributes. I hate phone calls, but ours would last hours.

Food Blog February 2014-3179I’m not going to say, at this point, that because N. was worn and patched and had sewed his heart back together in an irregular shape too that these two odd shapes fit perfectly together and made one another complete – my ventricle, his aorta – because I don’t believe in that. We were both whole people before, and we are both whole people now. I’m not a half, and I wouldn’t want N. to be either. But because he was patched up too, and some of my stitches were snagged like his, he was better able to understand me. We weren’t what we expected. The thing about patches is, they hide but don’t erase the worn spot. Every stitch, meant to repair, could also re-harm. But when you are patched and stitched up, and you still feel raw from that needle of hope and trying and blistering independence loneliness solitude you weren’t sure you wanted, you know how to see that in someone else, and you know how gently you have to reach out. Or how hard. We weren’t what we expected, no. But ten years into a relationship, and seven years into a marriage, he defies and surmounts and explodes any expectations I could have had. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Food Blog February 2014-3182This, oddly enough, brings me around to Valentine’s Day, and to ice cream. This is, you may notice, a bit heavy, a bit confessional, for me. I wasn’t expecting to tell you all this. But we’re approaching that holiday that is supposed to be about love, and I’ve always felt a little torn and patchy about it (the day, not the love), so here we are.

Food Blog February 2014-3213I had big plans for our Valentine’s Day celebration. I’m not talking about me and N. He’s always hated Valentine’s Day, probably thanks to that whole expectations thing. I’m talking about us. You and me. We were going to have soufflé. And not just any soufflé; chocolate soufflé. I wanted to teach you a quick, easy, all-but-fool-proof version of the dessert, one that I’ve now made for several big-deal-must-impress events with zero problems, so you could defy someone’s expectations this Valentine’s Day. Maybe even yours!

Food Blog February 2014-3215I had never thought about serving soufflés with ice cream. A lovely sweet drizzle, yes. A liqueur infused caramel or cream, completely. But when I saw Lindsay’s chestnut soufflé with matching ice cream a few weeks ago, and when I watched a recorded episode of Nigella Lawson making a coffee ice cream that required no eggs and no churning, I knew this would be our Valentine’s Day pairing: deep, dark, rich chocolate soufflé, and an ice cream so easy, so deep, silky as satin lingerie and toasty with espresso (because hey, you might need that shot of caffeine on the evening of Valentine’s Day!), it would be perfect. I would be perfect. I even half-bragged in a comment on Lindsay’s post about how easy soufflé-making is, once you get the hang of it.

Food Blog February 2014-3216And so, expectations. Because I don’t know what happened – maybe my eggs were too small (they were of the homegrown variety, given to N. by a student), maybe I didn’t whip the whites enough, maybe I scrambled the yolks a little or the chocolate seized or the oven was too hot – but my soufflés were a disaster. They rose only a few reluctant centimeters. They were dark and rich, but dense, thick, almost crumbly where they should have been flat-topped trembling pillows.

I despaired. But then I remembered me, and my patchwork, and that I had this ice cream that was so so creamy, and so thick, and so tasty and light and dangerously easy, that in fact the soufflé was hardly necessary. It may even have muddied things. And so, I put expectations aside again, the better to embrace what I had.

Food Blog February 2014-3217Nigella’s ice cream does not start with a custard. It combines unlikely and few ingredients: sweetened condensed milk, double cream (a British institution we would do well to adopt), espresso powder, and a few tablespoons of coffee liqueur. I made a few changes, inspired by my own insufficiencies and a suggestion from a commenter on the original recipe. For a slightly lighter result, I replaced some of the double cream with whipping cream. For want of coffee liqueur, I replaced it with Irish cream. The liqueur serves two purposes. First, it deepens and enhances the flavor of the ice cream. Second, it offers a textural benefit: since alcohol doesn’t freeze (or at least it freezes at lower temperatures than water), the ice cream maintains a soft, scoopable consistency indefinitely (not that you’ll have long to find out – I suspect you’ll eat all of it before conclusive data can be gathered).

And so, I send you into the week of that dubious, expectation-laden lovers’ holiday with this: I hope you are happy, and that your version of love, whether it is patched and fragile, or hearty and unblemished, is at least in part directed back toward you. Because no matter what your expectations have told you, you are lovely and perfection is overrated. And I think ice cream is a perfectly suitable Valentine to send yourself. I recommend this one.

 Food Blog February 2014-3219

No-churn, no-egg Coffee Ice Cream
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
Makes a generous 1 pint
2/3 cups sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
6 ounce jar double cream (I found mine at Whole Foods)
2 tablespoons Irish cream or coffee liqueur
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder


  • Dump all ingredients as unceremoniously as you like into the bowl of a stand mixer. You could do this in a regular mixing bowl with a hand-held mixer too.
  • Using the whisk attachment (or regular beaters), whip on medium speed until soft peaks form. For me, this took only 3-4 minutes. It may take more or less time for you depending on the speed of your mixer.
  • Using a rubber spatula, scrape the fluffy, coffee-scented clouds into a freezer friendly container – I used a clean empty Greek yogurt tub – and freeze for at least 6 hours to let the mixture harden up.
  • Serve atop a soufflé, or with whipped cream, or in a cappuccino, or with fudge sauce, or just with you and a spoon and a spot against the refrigerator door.