I’ve had a number of soufflé recipes in my collection for years now, none of which I’ve ever made. An anniversary seemed liked the perfect time to celebrate with a special dessert. Of course, any day is reason to celebrate with a special dessert, but it’s nice to pretend there’s a reason sometimes.
The hype about soufflés—how they’re impossible to perfect, how a whisper outside the oven may make them collapse into a heap and all that—has always discouraged me from attempting one. But after listening to a guest on The Splendid Table podcast insist they’re not all that finicky, I gave it a whirl. Yes, the egg whites needed to form peaks just so, and yes you need to fold in said egg whites as gently as you would tuck in a baby, but you know, it worked. And 1) we used salted butter, 2) someone dropped a plate on the oven that we were sure spelled disaster, and 3) we didn’t even have a proper soufflé pan, whatever that is, but instead used ramekins, and a giant mug. They puffed up just like popovers to the point that the mug was brimming with a solid form of hot chocolate. And who wouldn’t want to eat that? I’m telling you, it was like eating chocolate air.
A cloud of chocolate
Here’s the deal, courtesy of the estimable Mark Bittman in his know-it-all cookbook How to Cook Everything:
3 T unsalted butter, plus 1 t for greasing the dish
1/3 cup sugar, plus some for dusting the dish
1 cup milk
3 T flour
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
4 eggs, separated
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Use 1 teaspoon of butter to grease a 2-quart soufflé dish or other deep baking dish (or, you know, mugs), such as a Corningware-type dish. Sugar the dish or ramekins and preheat the oven to 350º.
Warm the milk in a saucepan with 1/3 cup of sugar. In a small saucepan, heat the 3 tablespoons of butter over med-low heat. When the buttery foam begins to subside, stir in the flour. On low, stir it almost constantly until the flour-butter mixture darkens, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the milk, a little at a time, using a whisk. It will be quick thick; stir in the chocolate and remove from heat. Let cool for 5 minutes. Beat the egg yolks and stir them in.
In a clean bowl (free of any fat), beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until very stiff but still glossy. Stir a good spoonful of them into the sauce to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites, using a rubber spatula or your hand. Hands are cool. Transfer to the prepared mold and bake until the center is set, or nearly so, 30 to 40 minutes (15-25 for individual soufflés). Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.
And don’t take that “serve immediately” part lightly because the creation will start to fall as soon as it hits the table. Best to get a spoon and pull up a chair next to the oven.