Many people I know are terrified at the thought of making soufflés. Whenever I make chocolate soufflés for dessert, guests watch in awe as I whip the eggs, fold in the ganache and slide it into the oven before they all gingerly tiptoe back to their seats out of fear of collapsing it in the oven. As much as I love the ego boosts on my supposed wizardry on the soufflé front, I'll say this much: Soufflés are really, really easy to make. Anyone who knows me even the slightest bit will tell you that I'm a clumsy dufus in the kitchen, and if I can make a soufflé without collapsing it (very hard to do) or presenting a soupy bowl of mush to guests, then you can, too. Soufflés need a few simple things to guarantee success, and while there are a million variations in recipes for any type of soufflé, the basic technique is pretty much the same.
Here is my recipe for chocolate soufflé that I adapted from the one I used in pastry school at FCI for use in home ovens. The first thing you should do is have everything at room temperature, including a stick of softened butter to prepare the soufflé molds with. You can and should prepare the molds, ganache and set the egg whites aside hours before you need them, so have all the components ready to go to avoid rushing around after dinner and a few cocktails. And on that note, pour yourself a glass of wine and relax, because I'm telling you this is a snap!
One thing: If you don't have a kitchen scale, now's the time to get one! There are many cheap digital models out there. This will allow you to quickly and accurately measure out ingredients. Once you start using one, you'll never look back.
The first thing you'll want to do is to select your soufflé mold(s). Starting on the left, I have a 1-cup ramekin, a 1-1/4-cup ramekin, a traditional de Buyer 5-cup charlotte pan, and a 10-cup soufflé dish that I used for the Christmas Eve dinner last week. Whatever you choose, make sure it is round with vertical sides - nothing curved will do, as soufflés need to be able to push up above the rim of the mold with nothing holding them back.
Got your wine and soufflé molds picked out? Let's go...
90 milliliters heavy cream
90 milliliters whole milk
100 grams bittersweet chocolate, coarselychopped
80 grams unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
100 grams cocoa powder, sifted
200 milliliters water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
500 grams egg whites
200 grams granulated sugar
softened butter and granulated sugar for preparing the soufflé molds
1. Preheat the oven 450°F. Butter the soufflé molds generously using a pastry brush. Leave a lip of butter around the inside edge of the soufflé mold. Buttering the soufflé molds in this way ensures there is no friction between the soufflé batter and the side of the mold, allowing it to push up and over the top with easy. Sugar the molds by pouring a bit of sugar in and rolling the mold around in your hand to evenly coat the sides and bottom. This will give the soufflé a nice, sweet and slightly crunchy exterior. Once your molds are prepared, stick them in the fridge or freezer to firm up and keep them there until they are ready to be filled and baked.
2. Set the chocolate in a medium mixing bowl. Bring the the milk and cream to just to a boil in a small saucepan and pour over the chocolate. Let it set for a minute and then stir with a whisk slowly from the inside out in small circles until smooth. Mix in the water, cocoa, salt and vanilla and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (a hand mixer works, too), whip the egg whites at medium-high speed with a pinch of salt until soft peaks just begin to form and then, with the mixer still running, slowly add the sugar until the whites are stiff but not overbeaten (broken).
4. Using a rubber spatula, take a couple of small scoops of the beaten egg whites and thoroughly mix into the ganache. Pour the ganache into the bowl of remaining egg whites and carefully fold together. Fill the prepared soufflé mold(s) using a piping bag, or you can spoon the batter in. Fill them all the way to the top, leveling them off with a small offset spatula or the back of a table knife. Place in the oven and immediately reduce heat to 400°F. If you are using a small 1-cup soufflé mold, bake for 10 - 12 minutes; 5-cup: 15 - 20 minutes; 10-cup: 20 - 25 minutes. Check it at the low time end - once it is risen up over the top, it won't immediately deflate. It should be slightly firm to the touch on top and only slightly jiggly. If it's too doughy and jiggles substantially, it's going to be very soupy inside. Some people like this, but I like my soufflé to be very soft, but to have a bit more body to it. Serve immediately on its own or with ice cream on the side or, better yet, plopped into the middle of the soufflé.
And with that, this marks the end of the holiday season and of yet another year! My blog is still brand new and I'm constantly thinking and rethinking about things, and I'm excited to see what 2011 brings. I have a lot of new recipes I'm working on and stories to share that will surely end up here. Thanks for reading and coming along for the ride, and here's to a HAPPY, HEALTHY 2011!
aka 'THE PASTRY WHORE'