I have found there to be a great fear of soufflés in the world of home cooks. I used to be afraid of them. I think the fear stems in part from the luxurious texture, the intense flavor-the overall amazing experience of enjoying a soufflé. We think to ourselves “it must be really tricky to make something this good.” About a year ago, I said to hell with it. I was tired of being afraid. I was going in. I found a recipe for cheese soufflé from an old neglected cookbook on my shelf, grabbed the whisk attachment for my standing mixer, and plunged into the dark of the previously unknown.
That day, I found out that soufflés are actually quite easy. I promise that you will be able to do this (as long as you use some form of an electric mixer-please do not try to whisk this by hand, you will be exhausted and probably unsuccessful). All you really need to do to be successful at making a soufflé (or many “intermediate” level recipes, really) is to read the recipe fully before starting so you are familiar with the steps you will be taking, and have all ingredients measured out in advance, because it all happens rather quickly.
Making caramel sauce is one of the only cooking endeavors at which I have failed miserably, time and time again. I figured as long as I was conquering a universal fear of soufflés this afternoon, why not finally face down caramel sauce once and for all? After reading this tutorial and practicing my game face in the mirror, I deemed myself ready to meet the challenge. Oh, what a delicious success it was.
For the chocolate soufflés, I adapted a recipe from a large, basic cookbook I inherited from my mother. I love the way that red wine plays off the bitter notes in dark chocolate, so I decided to substitute some red wine for some of the milk in the recipe. If I were to make this again, I would probably up the chocolate to 3/4 cup, because I found the soufflé to be a little more cake-like than I would like. If you’re looking for a standard, fluffy soufflé, this recipe is really solid. If you are looking for something deeply rich and possibly even a little gooey, up the chocolate content a bit.
Red Wine and Dark Chocolate Soufflés
Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (2000 edition)
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips
4 egg yolks, beaten
4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 4 8-ounce ramekins and sprinkle the sides with a bit of sugar, then set aside. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour until combined, then add milk all at once and whisk until smooth. Increase heat to medium, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbling and has begun to thicken. Add chocolate and stir until melted, then remove from heat. Slowly combine 1/4 cup or so of the chocolate mixture with the beaten eggs, then slowly add the egg mixture into the rest of the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites and vanilla with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, continuing to beat the mixture, until stiff peaks form. Fold about 1 cup of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture, then gently fold the chocolate mixture into the rest of the egg white mixture, being careful not to over mix, to maintain the “pillowy” texture.
Carefully transfer the chocolate “mousse” to the prepared ramekins and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until puffed up and lovely. While they are a cookin’, whip up a batch of salted caramel sauce, and serve them fresh from the oven, drizzled in caramel goodness.
For best results, do not open the oven at ALL during baking. It is chocolate soufflé, so if it turns out a little underdone, the worst that will happen is a molten center, and I have never met a chocolate lover who would complain about that. If you plan to make other soufflés in your oven, however, I would experiment with bake times on a chocolate soufflé and then apply that bake time to a cheese or other soufflé (as molten egg-y cheese might not be quite as well received, though probably still delicious).
Edit: I posted this the night that I made the souffles. I made four souffles for two already very stuffed people, and we ended up with three leftover ramekins of delicious chocolate goodness that I feared would be exceedingly underwhelming the next day. The exact opposite was true. Leave these sit a day in the fridge, pop them in the microwave, and drizzle them with some warmed up caramel sauce…and melt into a puddle of delirious fudgy joy.