I'd never made a soufflé before. Quite frankly, I had always been a little intimidated by the idea. What if it fell? I could never serve a flat soufflé! But when the February issue of Bon Appétit arrived and it was filled with a bunch of chocolate recipes for Valentine's Day, including soufflés, I knew the time had come.
The idea behind soufflés is that stiffly beaten egg whites are folded into the base mixture. The soufflé rises when the air that's been whisked into the egg whites expands. For this reason, they're served right when they come out of the oven. If you wait, they'll deflate.
Your egg whites will whip better if you let them come up to room temperature first. It also isn't a bad idea to rub the inside of your bowl with a little bit of lemon juice or vinegar (just a little on a paper towel!) to make sure there isn't even the slightest smidge of grease on your bowl.
I don't have ramekins so I just used the coffee cups that came with my plate set. I think they're too small for a real cup of caffeine, anyway. The point is that you want something round so it rises evenly.
Bittersweet Cocoa Soufflés
- 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar (plus extra for ramekins)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- Pinch of salt
- 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
- ½ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large egg whites
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 ounces bitter sweet chocolate, finely chopped (do not exceed 61% cacao)
Position oven rack in lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 375°F.
Butter eight ¾-cup ramekins or custard cups; dust with sugar, completely coating to top edge.
Mix cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons milk, egg yolks & vanilla. Mix until smooth. Set aside.
Whisk ½ cup sugar, flour and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Pour remaining 2/3 cup milk into measuring cup and whisk just enough of it into the saucepan to form a thick paste, and then gradually whisk the remaining milk in until smooth. Stir over medium-low heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. While whisking the cocoa mixture non-stop, slowly add the milk mixture a little at a time. (This will slowly bring the egg yolks up to temperature. If you just add it too fast or without whisking, you'll scramble the eggs.)
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites & cream of tartar in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks form.
Stir ¼ of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Don't worry about being gentle yet. You're just out to lighten the chocolate mixture up enough so the rest of the egg whites can be folded in more gently. Add remaining egg whites & chopped chocolate and fold until whites are just blended into batter.
Divide batter among the ramekins and place on rimmed baking sheet. (If you want to make them a day ahead of time, cover & refrigerate them at this point.) Bake soufflés until puffed above the rim of ramekin, about 12 minutes (about 15 if chilled). A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with thick batter attached. Using spoon, form a small indentation in top of each soufflé; spoon dollop of whipped cream into indentations. Serve immediately.