Sorry to have been out of commission for the past couple of days. I had a few things going on, but I hope to churn out three more posts before I take that giant leap back into the collegiate world on Sunday. Don’t worry, I’ll still be flogging at Tufts, probably two or three times a week. But enough about boring logistics—let’s talk food!
I came to a startling realization the other day. I have no blog entries about chocolate! The absence of chocolate is even more upsetting given the overwhelming number of dessert posts. The only thing remotely chocolaty on this blog is the mint chocolate chip ice cream, and that doesn’t really count. So for all the chocoholics out there, please accept this post as a token of my apologies.
So I figured we should start off with a bang. Chocolate Soufflés! “Soufflé” literally means “puffed up” in French, and it is one of the most decadent desserts you can serve. So many post-dinner sweets are flour-based. Honestly, practically every homemade dessert I’ve been served this summer has been a cake. And I’ve been craving a soufflé ever since I read Julia Child’s musings on Gran Mariner varieties in her memoir a couple of weeks ago. When soufflés began to show up in my dreams, I knew that I just had to make one.
The recipe I follow is absurdly easy. Featured on the New York Times’ Minimalist column, this recipe is both foolproof and delicious. Unlike many soufflés, no roux is needed. A roux is a mixture of butter and flour that is the base to most savory soufflés. Even these roux-based soufflés are pretty straightforward. If you know how to whip and fold egg whites, then you know how to make a soufflé. That’s the most difficult part.
On that note, check out this quick tutorial in egg white whipping if you are unfamiliar with the technique or want to know more about the process than you ever really wanted to…
All this ballyhoo on egg whites leaves the poor little egg yolks in the dust. But they are just as important to the soufflé! The yolks, along with some granulated sugar, are the foundation to a good soufflé. The yolks and the sugar have to be whipped until they are a pale yellow. At this point, they will be quite thick, dropping from the beaters in a continuous stream. The ribbon should be visible even once it falls back into the base (see photo above). From here, I added two ounces of bittersweet chocolate that I fretfully melted in the microwave. As long as you’re careful, microwaves are fine, but double boilers significantly reduce the risk of burning the chocolate. When microwaving chocolate, use a low power setting (like 50 percent) and remove it before all the chocolate melts. Stir the bowl until all the tiny pieces of unmelted chocolate have been combined. The difference between luscious and burnt is a matter of seconds when you’re dealing with a microwave. Just keep you’re eye on the bowl as you microwave and you’ll be fine. Once these are combined, you’ve got your base. Now for the whites!
I whipped my whites with the cream of tartar and the pinch of salt, and once the whites reached soft peaks, I began to gradually add the sugar. Soon, I had glossy stiff peaks, like clouds in a bowl.
After whipping the whites, I took a scoop and fully blended them into the base. You don’t have to be delicate with this particular scoopful, just mix it until fully combined. Once this is done, carefully fold in the rest of the whites into the chocolate. Folding is another technique that is integral to the soufflé-making process.
Whipped egg whites are always folded into the contents of the other bowl; I’ve never seen it done the other way (i.e. adding mixture to egg whites). Folding allows you to incorporate the whites without losing their airiness. Bad folding will totally undo all the work you put into whipping the whites. To fold, use a spatula to scoop the batter over the whites. Never press down as this crush the little air bubbles inside the albumen. Gently do this until the whites are moderately incorporated. It’s more important to maintain the airiness than totally blending the mixture. A small swirl of white won’t kill your dish.
I decided to use small ramekins for individual soufflés rather than one big one, because who can truthfully say they enjoy sharing? After about seventeen minutes in the oven, the poofed up soufflés were practically jumping out of their ramekins in excitement. You know if a soufflé is done if it begins to crack along the top. They began to lose their loft about minute after getting pulled out of the oven, so make sure to serve it immediately. Don’t do what I did and take it out of the oven and take photos of it for a minute before bringing it to the table.
Chocolate Soufflé (makes two servings—two individual ones or one big one)
Recipe courtesy of Mark Bittman of the New York Times, The Minimalist
About 1 tablespoon butter for dish
1/3 cup sugar, plus some for dish
3 eggs, separated
2 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate, melted (carefully done in a microwave-safe bowl, as described above)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar.
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 2-cup or one 4-cup soufflé or other deep baking dish(es). Just take some butter and rub it around the dish with wax paper, or you can hold the stick of butter in your hand like a pen and rub it around the dishes. Sprinkle each dish with sugar, invert it and tap to remove excess sugar.
2. In a large bowl beat the egg yolks with all but 1 tablespoon sugar until light in color and very thick; the mixture will fall in a ribbon from beaters when it is ready. Mix in the melted chocolate until well combined; set aside.
3. Wash beaters well, then beat egg whites in smaller bowl with salt and cream of tartar until whites hold soft peaks; continue to beat, gradually adding the remaining tablespoon sugar, until they are very stiff and glossy. Stir a good spoonful of whites thoroughly into egg yolk mixture to lighten it; then fold in remaining whites, using a rubber spatula. Transfer to the prepared soufflé dish(es).
NOTE: At this point you can cover and refrigerate the uncooked soufflés for a couple of hours. If you’re hosting a dinner party, you can make this right before the guests arrive and then bake it towards the end of dinner. That way, you can dine with your guests!
4. Bake until center is nearly set, 15-20 minutes for individual soufflés and 25 to 35 minutes for a single large soufflé. It will be done when the top has a few cracks on top. Try not to open the oven door too much. Serve immediately.
NOTE ON THE DONENESS OF A SOUFFLE:
Some people like their soufflés totally dry, which results in a longer-lasting loft. If you want yours this way, then you could test for doneness the same way as you would a cake—the reliable toothpick test. If you’re like me, then you enjoy your soufflés a little on the softer side. A little gooey in the center, these “medium rare” ones don’t puff up as much and sink a little more quickly. It’s all personal preference, but either way you’ve got a winner on your hands.