I eat chocolate just about every day, the darker the better. But surprisingly, I’m not a huge fan of chocolate desserts. In general they are too sweet, too rich, and just too plain heavy; a great dessert should leave diners groaning in ecstasy, not pain! And for those trying to cut back on refined sugar, most chocolate desserts are simply non-starters. The exception, though, is chocolate soufflé.
Chocolate soufflé is a dessert rarely encountered these days outside fancy restaurants of the old-school persuasion. It has a reputation for being hard to make and finicky. Really, though, nothing could be further from the truth. If you can beat an egg white and use a timer, you can make a chocolate soufflé.
And why wouldn’t you? It’s a practically perfect dessert, somehow decadent and light at the same time. A soufflé makes any meal feel celebratory even though it is far less complicated than a layer cake or pie.
The Perfect Chocolate Soufflé Is Low-Sugar… and Big
The recipe I use, by Melissa Clark at The New York Times, has only 4 tablespoons of added sugar, making it a very reasonable indulgence. To dial back the sugar content even further, I use only 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar in my soufflé batter. I also substitute a high-cacao chocolate for the 60-65% bittersweet chocolate the recipe calls for.
My current favorite is the 75% cacao Couverture Sambirano bars from Domori , an imported Italian brand I can occasionally find at a local Italian specialty shop, but Lindt Excellence 70% Dark Chocolate Bar would be a fine substitute. The result is a barely sweet but intensely chocolatey soufflé. (A scoop of vanilla ice cream on top will round off the sharp edges for those wanting something sweeter.)
While a lot of recipes call for restaurant-style presentation, baked in individual ramekins, I prefer the look and impact of one big soufflé made in the classic fluted white dish. A large soufflé is also less likely to overcook, and because the outer rim gets a bit crusty while the center remains soft and quivery, each serving offers a range of textures and bites.
In fact, a large soufflé’s longer cook time makes it the ideal dessert for a dinner party; pop it in the oven just before you serve the entrée, join your guests for dinner, and it will be ready to bring to the table just as the plates are cleared and everyone is ready for another glass of wine. In my experience, it’s a very jaded diner indeed who isn’t even a teeny bit impressed you’re your serving spoon breaks the surface of the towering, just-barely-set soufflé, releasing a cloud of steam and an amazing, chocolatey aroma.
Get the Recipe: Bittersweet Chocolate Souffle from The New York Times
My Recipes Notes
A few tips to ensure a successful soufflé.
- Butter the dish generously and dust the sides with sugar all the way to the top rim, so the soufflé has something to cling to as it rises.
- Ensure the soufflé has enough headspace in the oven (I usually remove the rack above the one I am baking on).
- Be sure to give your melted chocolate mixture enough time to cool so it won’t scramble the egg yolks when they are added.
- Lastly, set that timer and bring it to the table with you; even a couple of extra minutes in the oven will push your soufflé over the edge from moist and delicate to dry and heavy.
If, despite your best efforts, you don’t get the rise you were hoping for, the soufflé will still taste great. It is, after all, essentially a less vertically challenged flourless chocolate cake. And if you don’t look crestfallen, no one will be the wiser. Throw on a dollop of whipped cream or a sifting of confectioners sugar and take a bow like the rock star you are.
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