I have had this fascination with soufflés ever since I’ve seen a superbly towering one at a French restaurant whose name I will not mention here since they have changed owners and the great French chef-proprietor has since retired. I have examined recipes from different books and tested them but my soufflés would only come up ½ an inch. I’ve also had soufflés at other esteemed restaurants and even theirs would come up only an inch at the most. When I think of that first fateful soufflé, I begin to think more and more that it was an aberration in my memory and it did not come up four inches as I thought it did. In my research, I’ve read beating egg whites in a copper bowl would do wonders for it since the egg whites reacts with the copper in a way that will give this prestigious dessert of every fine dining restaurant, heights that one could only imagine. One question that stopped me from buying that copper bowl is this; could I still prepare it ahead of time so when dessert time comes during a hosted dinner party I would not be like a crazed woman ignoring my guests just to make the soufflé? I am awfully slow in the kitchen so I know I am going to mess things up. I wanted to make something that I could just pop into the oven, set the timer and continue to mingle with my guests until I hear that timer go off.
So, I’ve decided to let go of the myth of the towering 4 inch soufflé for now and experiment with a recipe that I’ve come across in Alice Medrich’s book “Bittersweet” (notice how this has become my favorite chocolate book) . In this book it was called “Intensely Bittersweet Soufflé” and indeed it was. This dessert you can make a day ahead and even refrigerate. The beauty of this is, you can take it straight from refrigerator to oven and just add a minute or two to the cooking time. It looks like a mousse more than a soufflé and it will not rise that much at all, but what it lacks in height it makes up in an astonishingly decadent taste. Again, the chocolate takes center stage here so pick the best chocolate that you can get that is 70% or so.
About 2 tablespoons sugar for the ramekins
8 ounces 70 % bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1/3 cup of milk
3 large eggs, separated at room temperature
1 egg white , at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
If you are baking the soufflés right away, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 °F. Butter the ramekins and sprinkle with sugar.
Place the chocolate, butter, and milk in a large heatproof bowl in a large skillet of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the water bath and whisk in the egg yolks. (Don’t worry if the mixture stiffens slightly or is less than perfectly smooth at this point.) Set aside.
In a medium, dry bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with a an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Gradually sprinkle in 1/3 cup of sugar and beat at high speed until the whites are stiff but not dry. Fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it ,then fold in the remaining egg whites.
Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared ramekins, filling each three-quarters full. (The soufflés can be prepared to this point, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bake directly from the refrigerator.)
Place the soufflés on a cookie sheet. Bake until they rise and crack on top and a wooden skewer plunged into the center emerges very moist and gooey (but the centers should not be completely liquid), 14 to 16 minutes, perhaps a minute or so longer if the soufflés have been refrigerated.
If you wish to use a topping (see cocoa bean cream below), although the soufflés are perfect on their own, you can prepare it at this point.
When they are done, remove the soufflés from the oven, and serve immediately with a little powdered sugar sifted over the top, if you like. Pass the whipped topping separately.
Cocoa Bean Cream
You can choose to add any sweetened whipped cream. But I decided to go with this elegant and subtle alteration to your regular cream.
1 cup of cream
2 Tbs. cocoa nibs chopped into smaller bites
Sugar to taste
Bring cream and nibs to a boil. Off the heat and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain the cream into a bowl, pressing on the solids to extract all the liquid. Discard the nibs. Chill the cream for at least 6 hours ; it must be thoroughly cold so it can be whipped properly.