Souffles always seemed like a mythical dessert to me. I’ve heard so many good and bad things about them, mostly about how finicky and difficult they are to pull off. The only time I’ve seen them is on TV, being made by professionals who know the ins and outs of this show stopping and fantastical dessert. My sister had been nagging me to make these but I kept putting off because I only thought about their supposed difficulty, and because I was afraid of failure. She was so adamant about me making them, she even bought me the set of ramekins. Even then, I put them off for as long as possible. I decided to look them up to see what all the fuss was about and realized that souffles are nothing I haven’t tackled before! Since I’m not one to decline a challenge, I finally went for it.
Souffles are actually a pretty simple dish. In this case, it’s basically just melted chocolate and whipped egg whites; both of which I have tons of experience in. With that in mind, here’s how I did it.
Using this recipe as my guide, I started out by prepping my ingredients earlier in the day. For this, we need the whites separate from the yolks. Both will be used but at different steps in the process. The best way to separate an egg is cold out of the fridge; they separate a lot easier than if the whole egg was room temp. Egg whites are best whipped at room temp, so store the yolks and whites in separate containers and leave them out. In a rush? Place the lidded containers in a little bit of warm water for several minutes until they’re no longer cold. I also took out the butter, and went about my day. I didn’t make these until after dinner, which meant that the separated eggs and butter had plenty of time to reach temp.
When I was ready, I started out by preheating my oven to 375F. Once that was done, I buttered and sugared my ramekins. These were four 4oz ramekins, meaning they are tiny. I reckon this recipe could possibly work with a muffin tin if these sized ramekins are unavailable. The easiest way to coat them is with a brush, if you have it. If not, feel free to use a napkin or your hands. Once buttered, spoon in some sugar into a ramekin and slowly move it around the ramekin to evenly coat. I like to rotate the ramekin over another one so that the excess sugar can fall into the next one. Continue until all ramekins are coated.
Place the buttered ramekins to the side because it’s chocolate time! Grab three ounces of semi sweet chocolate chips. I used my scale to weigh mine out for accuracy’s sake. I’m not sure how much that is by volume; my guess is almost a cup or so. Throw the chips into a heat proof bowl, along with the room temp butter. Place the bowl over a small pot with simmering water. This setup is called a double boiler. I don’t know why it’s called that, considering that nothing besides the water in the bottom pot could be boiling but okay. This process helps melt the chocolate gently, without burning it. While we’re on the subject of messing chocolate up, take care to not get any water from the double boiler inside of your melting chocolate; it will seize and it just won’t work or be a pretty sight.
Once melted, take off the double boiler and add the vanilla or other flavoring. I took advantage of this part and threw in a little cognac for good measure ;). Start adding the egg yolks, one at a time, and stir it into the chocolate. This is another reason why things are better at room temp. Had the yolks been cold, it would have seized the chocolate and things would’ve gotten real messy, real quick.
After incorporating both yolks, put the bowl off to the side; it’s time for step three: the meringue. In my last Kitchen Experiments installment, I made meringues and walked through the process of how to get stiff peaks. This is the same method/technique/principle here. It may also be where a lot of people tend to screw up, perpetuating the myth that souffles are intimidating and difficult. Since we already know how to handle meringues, this wasn’t that difficult. Place your room temp whites, sugar, salt, and instant peak security (the cream of tartar) in the bowl, and begin to whip with an electric mixer. Make sure the bowl and beaters are grease free, as that will also ensure the creation of the meringues. Keep going till they’re voluminous, fluffy, shiny, and leave a trail in the bowl. Stop the mixer, dip the beaters and lift them up. If the peaks stay standing without flopping over, the whites are ready. If not, keep on trucking till they are.
Now that the meringue is done, it’s time to fold it into the chocolate. Do this in two installments with a rubber spatula. Gently fold it it, taking care not to deflate the whites. Rotating the bowl helps for even folding. Don’t fret if you get some streaks, it’s all good!
Once all the whites are folded, pour into the prepared ramekins. I used an ice cream scoop for easy portioning but feel free to spoon or pour; whatever works best for you. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan and pop into the oven for 15-20 minutes. At around the 10 minute mark, turn your oven light on and surprise yourself with the sights. I know I did!
After about 15-18 minutes in the oven, I took mine out. I was so excited to see they worked! I quickly plated one and began photographing. The one thing that was a fact about the souffle myth is that they do fall fairly quickly; which is why this is such a fancy and last minute dessert. As they cool, the tops deflate. Not pretty but still delicious. Speaking of which, these things were so good! It was like eating a slightly underbaked, cloud like brownie. The insides were very fluffy (thanks, meringue!) and super chocolatey. Yeah, it was piping hot but it really was amazing. It exceeded my expectations and is making me wonder what took me so long to make these!
Despite all myth surrounding this heavenly dessert, I’m glad I conquered it and hope that anyone else out there afraid of souffles does too. It really is a simple process that with a little bit of care and good technique, it can definitely turn out successful.
Mini Chocolate Souffles – adapted from Tablespoon
Makes four 4oz ramekins
- 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 3oz semisweet chocolate chips
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 teaspoons rum (optional)
- 2 eggs, separated and room temp.
- 2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for ramekins
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Use the 1/2 tbsp butter to thoroughly coat the insides of four 4-oz. ramekins. Fill the ramekins with sugar and dump out, tapping out the excess. The insides of the ramekins should be completely coated with sugar.
- Over medium-high heat, bring a small pot with a couple inches of water to a simmer. Place a heatproof bowl on the pot, making sure the water is NOT touching the bowl. Add the chocolate chips and butter to the bowl, and stir until completely melted.
- Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, rum if using, and egg yolks, one at a time. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine egg whites, sugar, salt and cream of tartar. Using an electric hand mixer, whisk the egg white mixture until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold the egg white mixture in two batches into the chocolate mixture. Spoon into the ramekins, filling them 3/4 full and bake souffles for about 15-20 minutes or until puffed and set. Sprinkle tops with powdered sugar if desired and serve immediately.
- Don’t skip the powdered sugar at the end! Sift some on top before serving. Just make sure there aren’t any fans around
- Feeling extra? Serve with ice cream on the side.