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7 Apr 2012

Citrussy crepes soufflées

Crepes aux Agrumes
March has been a pretty busy month; my cooking classes and a couple of food related competitions made my daily schedule as hectic as I have rarely experienced before. But it has been a great and exceptional month, the best I had in the last couple years.
Healing from my Candida overgrowth has caused my diet to be extremely restrictive nowadays but the positive effects are mighty. I am my old self, full of energy and positivity; even my photography style has changed. With this extra energy I can now face this stark schedules and more!

The first third of the year has been dedicated to a food competition since the last 3 years: Les Réncontres Science et Cuisine (check my 2011 and 2010 posts) but this year a new one popped up in the same time window and it was a food-photography competition too.
This year they both had pretty close deadline with the first being at the 15th and the second at the 30th of March. While I will dedicate soon a explicative post to the the Réncontres competition, this one is focused on the second one: Cook-Image.
To take part to the fun, we were asked to provide 5 shots of a single or different dishes along with the recipes; a walk-through shoot was also allowed.
I was quite excited at the prospect of producing 5 different shots of still-life trying to keep them tied together somehow.

It all came down to inspiration (as always is). The competition was organized by a French committee so it was rather natural to resort to French cuisine to get the creative juices running. It was pretty straightforward then to pick eggs as the star of the dish and then of the shoot.
Naturally, I had to go dessert... It seems that each time I want to be particularly creative and kinda stylish I am pulled by my sweet tooth.

To showcase both the egg yolks and the whites, I decided to feature a créme anglaise and a meringue in the final dish. Dealing with photography and textures, I wanted to have crepes in the dish too. The five different shots were this way set: one for each component, one for the final dish and a still life of eggs.

The whole shooting took quite a few days mostly for the sketching of the compositions and the fine tuning of the actual flavors.
This recipe of mine isn't really innovative but surely takes advantage of what eggs and the season can gift us.
The delicate textures of the egg-based components called for light but assertive flavorings and no real intrusion in the textures dimension; so I went citrus with a combination of lemon, orange blossoms and mandarin. For obvious reasons (meringue cant have any fat in and crepes have just a little bit) the rich component of the dish had to be the créme anglaise so I added quite a bit of butter in it; you can't go wrong with a nice buttery sauce, right?

From the photographic point of view the shots that created a bit more difficulty was the Italian meringue one. The creative sketch was pretty cool but once I took the shot I actually disliked it a lot so much that I redid the whole composition for a new shot. The next day though, when I compared the two different exposures, I actually liked the original concept best. Once the Italian meringue was redone, I gave it a second try.
I was expecting a long night of shooting so much so that I took a coffee at almost midnight, but I was set after a couple shots...
The shot is simple both chromatically and prop-wise. The crystal bowls just add height and a little dimension to the main stars of the shot: a billowy Italian meringue and the lemons. The addition of a metal whisk, keep up the reflections play while adding visual texture and context.

A fluffy taste of Spring
Really enjoyed shooting the eggs still-life. Playing with the shell smooth texture, smooth tone, stark color contrast between the outside and the inside, it was real fun. The most challenging side of the shot was to include height in it and some crystal glasses were just what I needed.
The créme anglaise ingredients shot was rather straightforward to set up. It all pivots around the warm orange tones of the mandarins and the egg yolk. The vertical dimension is provided by a more askew angle and a slim bottle with milk. Cubes of cold butter provide some sort of stark edges to counterbalance all the round ones. The play of textures between the mandarin skins, the fluid yolk and the fatty components adds a little more fun to the shot.
Mandarin velvet
The crepes shot was actual fun to set up. Have you ever seen crepes hanging from a line? Now you will! This is a pretty simple way to show the translucency of these pancakes and in the meantime highlighting their characteristic caramelized spots.
Delicate sweet laces
The final shot, I must admit, wasn't my favorite of the shoot but it came out in a funny way. The plating was classical, the props too with a glass of cold sweet white wine and a pitcher of that delicious buttery créme anglaise. For me the dark place-mat is what makes the shot and it came to me to use it right after I woke up one day; this shot is in effect the only one done in natural light.

And finally here you are the recipe. Don't let its length fool you, I bet you have already made each and every components hundreds of times, now put them together my way.

Crêpes soufflées aux agrumes (citrussy crepes soufflées)

Ingredients (make 6 people; roughly 12 crepes):

Crepes :
  • 1 egg
  • 50 g all-purpose flour
  • Milk (preferably full-fat), as needed (see text)
  • Sugar, to taste
  • 1 pinch of Salt
  • Melted butter, to taste

Mandarin English buttercream:
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 45g sugar
  • 1 pinch of Salt
  • 180g milk, preferably full-fat
  • 50g cold butter, cubed
  • 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon grated mandarin zest

Citrus Italian Meringue:
  • 3 egg-whites
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 240g sugar (roughly twice the weight on egg whites)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange blossoms water

Zingy Butterscotch sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 + 2 tablespoons of mandarin juice, divided
  • 10g butter
  • 1.5 teaspoons of lemon juice

  • Mandarin segments


The day before the service, prepare the English buttercream, the butterscotch sauce and the crepes batter.

For the English buttercream, put the milk with the mandarin zest in a saucepan and bring to a low simmer; cover and let infuse out of the fire for 10-15 minutes.
Bring the infused milk back to a simmer and in the meantime whisk together the egg yolks with the sugar until the ribbon stage (they will get a nice pale yellow color and form a ribbon when falling on themselves from a whisk). Pour in the simmering milk little at a time whisking carefuly. Transfer the whole mixture back to the saucepan and on a low fire, bring it to 80C/176F whisking thoroughly.
Take the english custard out of the fire and start whisking in the cold butter one little cube at a time. Transfer the custard into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and transfer in the fridge to cool down.

For the crepes batter, combine the flour with the egg and a little milk until you obtain a smooth paste. Continue adding milk until you obtain a whipping-cream consistency. Add sugar to taste and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the butterscotch sauce, dilute the sugar with 2 tablespoons of mandarin juice and bring it to a dark amber caramel over medium fire. Add then the butter and whisk till the sauce is nice and smooth. Let the sauce cook until a nice nutty aroma will emanate from it, at this point add the remaining 2 tablespoons of mandarin juice to the saucepan along with the lemon juice. Whisk the sauce over medium fire until smooth and reserve.

The day you want to serve the dessert prepare the Italian meringue and the crepes.
For the first, mix the sugar and 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan; place it over medium fire and let it boil until the syrup reaches 120C/248F. In the meantime, in a glass or metal bowl, combine the egg whites with a pinch of salt and the lemon juice. Whip the egg whites until firm peaks form and then mix in the lemon zest.
When the syrup is at 120C/248F, drizzle it onto the egg whites continuing beating on high speed. Continue beating until the meringue will be nicely smooth and shiny and cool to the touch, at this point mix in the orange blossoms water.

To finish the crepes, melt the butter in a non-stick skillet and whisk it in the crepes batter. Pour in enough batter to thinly coat the bottom of the skillet and cook until golden brown on one side before flipping the crepe over.
A trick to properly coat the pan is to pour the batter on the side of the skillet closest to the handle and swirl it across the skillet; if you should have holes, you can always pour a little more batter onto them.

To present the dessert, pour some of the cold buttercream on the bottom of the plate, stuff the crepes with some Italian meringue and a drizzle of the butterscotch sauce. Lay the stuffed crepes soufflées onto the buttercream and finish with some mandarin supremes.


  1. I like the crepes hanging on the line :) Citrus flavor to them is totally Hmmm..

  2. Those are some pretty awesome shots Alessio!! Well done! Love the concept too..

  3. Beautiful photos. The crepes hanging on the line were, indeed, something I had never seen before! I like that you used the blue cloth to tie all five pictures together. The blue, orange, whites, and golds are all very harmonious. Best of luck with the competition.