As far as I know, it’s not possible to make a soufflé without some form of sugar. This is because soufflé’s are essentially made up of a ‘base’, which can be a custard or fruit purée, and a ‘meringue’, and it’s not possible to make the meringue component without some form of sugar.
Soufflé’s are baked in the oven until their tops rise, their insides puff up and they become light and fluffy, much like a warm mousse. They’re naturally gluten and grain free, and are very easy to make dairy free.
So my main challenge with this recipe was to create one with as little sugar as possible.
What sugar is best?
As sugars go, unrefined sugars are the slightly better choice. This is because they haven’t gone through an intensive refining process so they retain most of their minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, manganese and zinc. Unlike refined white sugar, which is simply empty calories.
To make a meringue you ideally need a fine sugar so for this recipe I went with coconut sugar. Because coconut sugar is unrefined it has quite a dark caramel colour which in turn affects the colour and flavour of these soufflé’s, imparting a lovely caramel element. While coconut sugar is unrefined and contains some minerals, it’s important to remember it’s still a form of sugar so if you’re going to consume it, it should only be as an occasional treat.
To create this recipe I tweaked one from my pastry chef days and reduced the sugar content by half, making use of the natural sugars in the rhubarb and coconut cream.
Rhubarb is a vegetable
Rhubarb is often mistakenly classed as a fruit due to mainly being used in sweet dishes, but it’s in fact a vegetable! It’s also very low in fructose making it a great option for anyone on a low sugar diet.
For these soufflé’s the rhubarb base is simply rhubarb cooked in water with no added sugar and the acidity is balanced out by the coconut sugar in the meringue component.
The secret to a soufflé rise
There’s no one secret to getting a soufflé to rise nicely, but rather a combination of following the method and preparing the moulds correctly.
When making the soufflé mix the meringue needs to be whisked to glossy peaks and gently folded into the purée so as not to knock out all the air.
Next the ramekins need to be coated with a thin layer of fat, which is traditionally butter, but to keep this recipe dairy free I swapped it for coconut oil. This is then coated with granulated sugar which provides a wall for the soufflé to grip and climb.
Just before the soufflé’s are placed in the oven, run a small knife around the rim to release the edges which will ensure the tops rise evenly.
Lastly it’s crucial to leave the oven closed while they’re cooking as a sharp drop in temperature will cause them to deflate in seconds.
An untraditional anglaise
The coconut caramel anglaise is made using the traditional anglaise method and I have simply swapped out the milk and cream for coconut cream, the caster sugar for coconut sugar, and also reduced the overall sugar quantity because coconut cream is already naturally very sweet.
As a result, this anglaise has quite an intense salted caramel coconut flavour, but when combined with a tangy rhubarb soufflé it works perfectly.
To serve these caramelised rhubarb soufflé’s, bring them quickly out of the oven, sprinkle over a little pink rhubarb syrup, make a hole in the centre and pour in the warm coconut caramel anglaise.
Caramelised Rhubarb Soufflé’s with Coconut Caramel Anglaise
Makes: 6 standard ramekins
Prep time: 30 minutes Cook time (rhubarb purée): 10 minutes Bake time (soufflé): 12 minutes
300g rhubarb purée
180g egg white
50g coconut sugar
1 Tbsp coconut oil
6 tsp coconut sugar
300g chopped rhubarb
1 cup filtered water
To make the rhubarb purée place 300g of washed chopped rhubarb into a small pan with 1 cup of water. Place pan over medium heat and bring to the boil. Simmer the rhubarb a couple of minutes until soft – this doesn’t take long. Turn off the heat and set aside to cold (this can be prepped a day ahead and stored in the fridge). When the rhubarb is cold pour off the excess pink syrup and set this aside for serving. Place the remaining rhubarb into a high speed blender and blend until smooth.
Prepare 6 ramekins by rubbing with the insides with coconut oil to create an even coating. Place 1 tsp of coconut sugar into each ramekin and shake it around until evenly coated.
To make the soufflé’s weigh out 300g of rhubarb, 50g of coconut sugar and 180g of egg whites. Place the egg whites in a medium bowl and beat with an electric whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue whisking until you have a glossy stiff peak meringue mixture. Add the rhubarb purée and gently fold into the meringue with a spatula. The aim is to keep as much air in the meringue as possible while ensuring it’s well combined.
Spoon enough soufflé mixture into each ramekin until piled slightly over the rim. Use a palette knife to flatten the tops, scraping any excess back into the bowl. If you have enough mixture for another ramekin then by all means prep up another one. Use a wet cloth to wipe any excess mixture off the sides of the ramekin as this will go brown in the oven. At this stage the soufflé’s can sit in the fridge for a couple of hours until you need them, just place them in a sealed container so they don’t dry out.
To cook the soufflé’s preheat the oven to 180ºC fan bake. When the oven is at temperature, take a small knife and run it around the inside rim of each ramekin to release the soufflé mix from the sides. This step is crucial for the soufflé’s to rise evenly.
Place the ramekins on an oven tray into the centre of the oven for 10-12 minutes. This will depend on your oven, so if you can spare one I would suggest cooking one off first. You’re looking for them to rise to double the height of the ramekin and if you take a spoonful out of the middle it should be set like a mousse and not runny.
When the soufflé’s are ready, quickly but carefully remove them from the oven and place on serving plates. Drizzle over the extra rhubarb syrup and pour over some warm coconut caramel anglaise.
Coconut Caramel Anglaise
Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 15 minutes
400g can coconut cream
96g egg yolk
50g coconut sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla powder (or 1/4 vanilla pod)
1/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt
Place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and use a hand whisk to combine.
Next place the coconut cream in a small pan over medium heat and bring up to the boil. You don’t actually want it to boil so as soon as it starts steaming take it off the heat and slowly pour into the yolk mixture while whisking continuously.
Set a fine sieve over a bowl and set that in another bowl of iced water. You will be pouring the hot anglaise through the sieve to remove any coagulated egg and the ice water will help stop the cooking process.
Clean the pan used to heat the coconut cream, pour the mixture in and add the vanilla and salt. Place the pan over low heat and cook, stirring the bottom continuously with a spatula until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula. Another indication the anglaise is ready is the surface bubbles all disappear and it starts to steam a little. Immediately remove the anglaise from the heat and pour through the sieve in the bowl set over ice. Continue to stir the anglaise for another minute to help it cool down and stop the cooking process. The anglaise should be golden caramel colour with a thick syrupy consistency.
If it still looks thin and runny simply return to heat and cook a little longer. If it looks lumpy this means you’ve overcooked it and essentially created a scramble, in this case you need to start over.
Either use the anglaise straight away while warm or to store, place a layer of cling film directly on the top to prevent a skin forming and place in the fridge to chill. This anglaise can be served warm or chilled. To warm it up again put the anglaise in a small pan set over the lowest heat and stir continuously until gently heated. This coconut caramel anglaise will last up to 5 days in the fridge.