My husband and I live in a city about 45 minutes from San Francisco. It is a lovely community with a small town feel. The challenge for me, as a major foodie, is finding decent restaurants … most chefs want to work in San Francisco, not in the suburbs. Occasionally we run across a real find, people who are passionate about the food they are serving, and when we do, we are thrilled to become regular patrons. We used to have a true French bistro in our little town. Claude & Dominique’s was run by a French couple from Paris. They were delightful, always welcoming everyone by calling them by name. Claude was an extremely talented chef with discriminating taste. He was able to make sauces that were full of flavor, but still light, the opposite of so many French chefs. In addition to all the delicious savory items on the menu, they offered the ultimate French dessert … chocolate souffles! Heavenly, airy, and yet with an intense chocolate flavor that was amazing. Dominique would serve them, breaking into the perfectly domed tops with a spoon and pour in chocolate syrup. On special occasions, it was the perfect indulgence.
Souffles are the dessert that everyone is scared to make. How often to people say, “they are too hard to cook and if I can’t make a cake, there is no way I can make a souffle.” But you will be surprised at how simple they really are to make. Essentially, they are flavored egg whites – that’s it! Whip the egg whites, make a meringue, and then add flavoring. With a little practice you’ll be turning them out just like Claude. Since this is Chocolate Monday, we’re making a Chocolate Souffle!!
If you have had chocolate in your cupboard for awhile it will develop what is called “bloom.” This is butterfat that has worked its way to the surface. This does not affect the taste or function of chocolate in recipes. Go ahead and eat or use it to bake with. Everything will taste just like normal. It is only a cosmetic change. If you are working with a block of chocolate, the easiest way to cut it is with a large, very sharp knife. Working perpendicular to a corner, cut several pieces off. When the pieces get too big, turn the bar and start working on another corner. If you try and cut across a large bar, you have very little leverage with the knife. Working on smaller pieces is the easiest method.
The easiest and most accurate measurement in baking is weight. Some ingredients, like flour, can fluctuate substantially depending on the moisture in the air. Other ingredients stay the same weight, but are simply much easier to measure if you use a kitchen scale. There are many on the market, but my personal favorite is from OXO. It has a pull-out section that allows you to have a large bowl on the scale and still see the display. It is well worth the investment!
When whipping egg whites, it is essential to have perfectly clean bowls and utensils otherwise you will get less volume. Make sure you wash everything with hot soapy water and dry thoroughly before starting this recipe. And even though you’ve seen countless Hollywood movies where the souffle crashes with the slightest sound, it will fall if you expose it to cold air too early. So, make sure you don’t open the oven door to peek! One last hint – even though it is spelled out in the recipe, I think it bears repeating. Before you put your souffle in the oven, run your thumb along the inside of the souffle dish. You want to create what looks a little like a moat between the souffle batter and the side of the dish. This helps the eggs rise without sticking to the walls of the dish. But be sure to wash your hands first!
If you are looking for the perfect dessert for Christmas or New Year’s Eve, this is it. A real showstopper that will have everyone ooh’ing and ahh’ing! When you’ve finished dinner, you can quickly make the souffle, and while it is baking, make the coffee or hot chocolate. Everyone will have rested a bit and be ready to dive into this beautiful, sinfully rich and yet light dessert.
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
When you are trying a new recipe for the first time, make sure you read it all the way through a couple of times so you are prepared for all the steps. If you have any questions, find the answers before you start baking! Then assemble your equipment and ingredients and create your masterpiece!!
- 1/3 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
- 5 oz bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
- 3 large egg yolks at room temperature
- 6 large egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- Lightly sweetened whipped cream, optional garnish
- Special equipment: a 5-1/2 to 6-cup glass or ceramic souffle dish
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously butter a 5-1/2 to 6 cup ceramic souffle dish and sprinkle with sugar, tapping out excess.
- Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and whisk in yolks (mixture will stiffen - it will look like it is broken, but that is normal).
- Beat whites with a pinch of salt and the cream of tartar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks (when you lift the beaters, the egg whites will lift with them and then collapse back down). Add 1/3 cup sugar, a little at a time, continuing to beat at medium speed, then beat at high speed until whites just hold stiff peaks (the egg whites will hold a peak, but the tip will fall over). Stir about 1 cup of the whites into chocolate mixture to lighten, then add mixture back to remaining whites, folding gently but thoroughly.
- Spoon into prepared dish and run the end of your thumb around inside edge of souffle dish (this will help souffle rise evenly). Bake in middle of oven until puffed and crusted on top but still jiggly in center, 24 to 26 minutes. Serve immediately.
- Yield: Makes 2 to 4 servings
- Souffle can be assembled up to 30 minutes before baking. Keep covered with an inverted large bowl (do not let bowl touch souffle), at room temperature.
- Serving Suggestion: Serve with warmed chocolate sauce - using a medium spoon, poke a hole in the top of the souffle and pour in about 3 tbsp of sauce. Use a large spoon and scoop into serving dishes, passing additional chocolate syrup at the table.