20 December 2007

Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cakes With Espresso-Chocolate Sauce

Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cakes With Espresso-Chocolate Sauce (with title)
Here is another recipe that Noah was "challenging" me to make. He wanted a soufflé, but for the heart of it to melt, like a lava cake. Undercooking a soufflé won't work since the lack of heat will cause it to quickly deflate (since the heat hasn't set the egg yet), and the foamy structure of the egg white too quickly absorbs the heat of the oven, so the window between egg white foam and soufflé is too small. There's only one solution: the heart shouldn't be made of egg white foam at all. This is chocolate dessert guru Alice Medrich's recipe, and it fits Noah's description so exactly it still makes me grin till now.
Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cakes With Espresso-Chocolate Sauce
The thing is: I think soufflés are overrated. I was served one in renowned restaurant Le Soufflé in Baguio, and I thought it tasted too much like an egg. I thought adding more strawberry coulis would fix it, but it just tasted like a jammed-up omelet. Okay, that's being harsh, but anyway: neither is it difficult to make. The best thing about this recipe is that it does chocolate justice (with both bittersweet chocolate and cocoa in the recipe), doesn't taste eggy, can be prepared in advance (! a definite plus for the annoyingly a la minute dessert), and is completely foolproof: I made it once before (long before I started blogging) and it worked flawlessly the first time. Don't let the pictures fool you: even refrigerated for 2 days, this soufflé has definite rising power; just bake it in a very hot oven and don't pull it out too early. Plus: that warm surprise waiting in the center is a sure crowd-pleaser.

The soufflés will naturally deflate over time, so ask 25 minutes in advance if your guests want one. You could serve them directly from the oven onto a heatproof surface, but warn your guests that it will be searing-hot in the middle.


  • 1 tsp instant espresso powder (I just used 2 tsps instant coffee)

  • 2 tbsp warm water

  • 225g (8oz) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

  • 85g (3oz or 6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

  • 2 good pinches table salt

  • 2 tbsp unsweetened natural cocoa powder

  • 3 large eggs whites

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar

  • additional softened (not melted) butter and sugar for greasing ramekins

Put a metal or Pyrex pie plate or cake pan in the freezer. Lightly butter 6 6-oz (180mL) ramekins or custard cups, then coat inside with sugar and tap out the excess.

If baking right away, position a rack on the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 205°C (400°F) In a small bowl, combine the coffee powder with 2 tablespoons warm water and stir to dissolve. In a medium heatproof bowl over a pot of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter until smooth. Alternatively you can use the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. If only small chunks remain, use the residual heat of the container to melt the remaining chunks to avoid burning the chocolate. Add the salt and stir together well. Take 5 tablespoons (85g) of the chocolate mixture and stir into the espresso well. Pour the espresso mixture into the chilled pie plate and freeze until firm, about 10 minutes (avoid freezing it longer as it will turn too icy). Meanwhile, whisk in 2 egg yolks and the cocoa into the remaining warm chocolate mixture.

Take the pie plate from the freezer and use a teaspoon to scrape it into six rough balls and set each onto the center of each prepared ramekin and refrigerate in the meantime.

In a clean, dry bowl, add the 3 egg whites and sprinkle in the cream of tartar. Beat on medium-high speed until it mounds gently. Gradually beat in the sugar and beat until the whites hold medium-stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted (the tips of the peaks curl but the whites are still glossy, moist, and flexible). Using a rubber spatula, fold a quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate to lighten it, then scrape the remaining whites into the bowl and gently fold until well-combined, taking care not to deflate the whites. Divide the batter evenly among the ramekins and level the tops gently with the back of a spoon. (At this point, you can refrigerate the soufflés for up to 2 days. Cover the tops of the ramekins collectively or individually with cling film.)

Remove the cling film from the tops of the ramekins (if prepared in advance) and bake in the preheated oven for 11-14 minutes, adding a minute or two if they were refrigerated (I find they can take 20 minutes with no problem if refrigerated, plus you'll get that rising-over-the-rim action of a classic soufflé). The soufflé cakes should be puffed and possibly a little cracked on top. Let cool a few minutes before serving.

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