Thursday, February 12, 2015

Chocolate Soufflé for Two

If you are contemplating a romantic dinner for two this month, a chocolate soufflé is a classic finish that is easier than you might think. If this is your first soufflé, I think a small one that serves two is the most manageable. And a chocolate soufflé is the soufflé recipe to know for two.  It even fits well into the preparation of the rest of the meal. 

There are a few things you can do ahead of time to make the process even easier.
  • Wrap a parchment or foil collar around the top soufflé dish to extend its height 2 inches.  This will help hold the puff.   This is not absolutely necessary but add a little more baking time (5 minutes) if using a foil collar.
  • Take the eggs out of the refrigerator and separate them into yolks and whites a half hour ahead to make it easier to whip the eggs.  (You can return the egg yolks to the fridge if you’d like.)  
  • If you have never ‘folded’ whipped egg whites into another ingredient, take a minute to watch this simple demo that uses a wide spatula to cut into the egg whites and fold them over into the heavier batter.  Hint: It is hard to mess this up.  Just use a gentle touch and know that less is more.  Do not worry if you still see a few streaks of egg white in the mixture.  This means you have not overdone it.
Chocolate Soufflé for Two
Serves two generously, four with some ice cream on the side.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon unsalted butter plus 2+ teaspoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons granulate sugar, divided 1 T and 3T
1 tablespoon flour
3 ounces milk
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
2 eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt

Serve with any of the following: whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, strawberries, etc

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 375˚F.
  2. Butter baking dish.  Use a one-quart strait-sided baking dish, two 2-cup ramekins or 4 smaller ones.  Butter dish and coat with sugar by lifting and turning dish to cover inside.  For each baking dish, butter a strip of foil and cover butter with some sugar.  Wrap foil around dish, buttered side in, to create a collar that raises the rim 2-3 inches.  This will help the soufflé hold its puff but is not absolutely necessary.  
  3. In a small pot, combine 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon flour. Slowly add 3 ounces milk, stirring to make sure flour and sugar are dissolved.  Place pot over medium heat and stir until milk mixture is thickened.  The consistency should be almost as thick as a pancake batter.  Remove pan from heat.  
  4. Add unsweetened chocolate and stir until melted.  Add 2 egg yolks and beat until mixture is smooth.  Set aside to cool.  
  5. In a large mixing bowl, beat 2 egg whites until foamy.  Add salt and vanilla and continue beating while slowly adding 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time.   Egg whites should hold a stiff peak.  
  6. Use a spatula to scoop a small amount of whipped egg white into the chocolate mixture.  Stir together.  This will lighten the chocolate mixture and make it easier to keep the egg whites inflated when you combine to the two mixtures.  
  7. Now fold the chocolate mixture into egg whites by scraping the chocolate mixture down the inside of the egg white bowl.  Then use your spatula to fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.  Take your time and stop before the mixture is completely homogeneous.  
  8. Pour batter into prepared dish and bake at 375˚F for 20-25 minutes.  If using smaller vessels, check your soufflés after 15 minutes.  
  9. When cooked, the soufflé will be puffed up and almost as high as the top of the foil collar.  It it jiggles, it is not yet done. Bake for another 3-4 minutes.  Then, carefully remove the soufflé from the oven and peel away the foil collar.  Serve at once using two large spoons-- backs facing each other-- to dig into the center of the soufflé and pull out soft clouds of soufflé.  Top with sauces of your choice.  
Hint:  Ice cream is a great with this dessert and will melt into a nice "sauce."  I like vanilla or caramel ice cream with a chocolate soufflé.

Leftovers!  You may not have any but it is good to know that a deflated soufflé tastes a lot like a flourless chocolate cake the next day (depsite this one having a tablespoon of flour).  If you are interupted just as your soufflé comes out of the oven all is not lost.
Here is a great time management tip that will ensure a leisurely dinner topped off with your perfect soufflé:
You can make the chocolate base earlier in the day and store it covered and cold up to a day ahead.  Store the un-whipped egg whites alongside, covered and in a small bowl.  You can also prep the baking dishes ahead of time.  Take the chocolate base and egg whites out of the refrigerator an hour before you plan to whip the egg whites and finish the soufflé batter.  As you are putting the main meal on the table, turn the oven to 375˚F so it will be properly preheated. After your main meal, finish the soufflés and put them into the preheated oven. The baking time gives you a nice window to visit at the table, clear the dishes or even take a little walk around your porch before the dessert finale.


Variations:
Orange Chocolate Soufflé
Add zest of one orange to chocolate mixture once cooled. You can also add a 1 teaspoon Grand Marnier liqueur to the egg white rather than the vanilla extract.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Soufflé
Use only ½ ounce unsweetened chocolate and before adding egg yolks to milk mixture, divide the mixture in tow.  Add chocolate to one and 1tablespoon creamy peanut butter to the other.  Add one egg yolk to each mixture.  Proceed with recipe until it is time to fold in egg whites.  Divide egg white into two bowls, fold each flavor into the divided egg whites.  Spoon batters into prepared dish, alternating chocolate with peanut butter.  Bake as directed.  Recommended toppings include sliced banana, crushed peanuts, caramel sauce (or cajeta).

Comments

It is not that easy to find a one-quart soufflé dish but worth the search if you often cook for two or one.  Alternatives include a strait sided oven proof dish or pot (provided it has an oven proof handle), about 4-5 inches deep.  Ramekins, custard cups or even a large muffin pan can work in a pinch.  Fill only halfway to allow room for the soufflés to rise.  Add water to any empty muffin cups to prevent scorching the pan.