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Don't Be Scared, It's Only Chocolate and a Bunch of Eggs

By Caroline Clough in Food on Jan 15, 2007 5:51PM

This Chicagoist left the city for the holidays and was lucky enough to eat many excellent meals. One particular dish peaked our interest for the second year in a row, making us wonder if it was really all that hard to make ... or if we, too, could make it and bask in its tasty glory. The dish in question, as you can tell (hopefully) from the above photograph, is chocolate soufflé. Did you ever watch the original Sabrina? Ever see the scene when Audrey Hepburn is in Paris, taking classes in cooking and everything she attempts to make goes wrong ... including a soufflé that falls as soon as her mitted hands touch the dish. There is, of course, an excitable and annoyed French chef who seems to be personally offended by Hepburn's lack of culinary success and huffs and puffs throughout the cooking school scenes. Somehow, when we started obsessing about soufflés, our main fear was that overstuffed, probably dead, actor with the twirled mustache would pop up at the moment of truth and yell French obscenities at us. The absolute terror and disappointment that would fester deep in our heart if the souffle failed made us wonder if taking the risk of trying was worth it. Then we realized a very important thing about many aspects of cooking: often, even if the dish doesn't look as perfect as it should, it still tastes great. And so we stopped being a baby about it and started separating eggs.

We won't lie to you, we followed a Martha Stewartrecipe for our soufflé. We followed the recipe to a tee (well, almost) and it turned out, if we do say so ourselves, pretty well. The soufflés we had over the holidays were slightly different than this one, far more soupy compared to this almost cake-like version. We're led to believe that if you would prefer to have a more chocolate soup with crust consistency, it's just a matter of baking for a shorter amount of time.

What You Need:

1 quart soufflé dish
2 saucepans
3 bowls
1 whisk
1 baking sheet
Electric mixer (we used a hand held and everything turned out fine)
Unsalted butter for greasing the dish
7 tablespoons sugar (6 for the soufflé and one for the whipped cream)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
5 eggs (3 egg yolks, five egg whites)
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 pinch of cream of tartar (we realized, too late in the process, that we didn't have cream of tartar and went ahead anyway ... with no consequences as far as we could see)
Confectioner's sugar or cocoa for dusting the top
1 small carton of heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or paste

What You Do

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and make sure that the rack is in the center. Butter your soufflé dish within an inch of its life. Then coat the butter with a bit of sugar until all sides are coated, tap out any non-sticking sugar left over. Keep the dish in the refrigerator until you're ready for it.

2. Heat the chocolate in a heatproof bowl (we used a small glass casserole dish) over a pan of simmering water and set aside. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs and 4 tablespoons of the sugar. Slowly stir in the flour. Set aside until needed.

3. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk so it's almost boiling ... but isn't. Slowly whisk half of the milk into the egg yolk mixture. Recombine the milk and eggs with the remaining hot milk and bring to a boil. Cook, whisking constantly, for two minutes. This is the step we ended up doing a bit differently because of how the recipe was worded, but nevermind, you should do it the right way.

4. Whisk the melted chocolate into the hot milk/egg yolk mixture. Then transfer to a large bowl and cover immediately with plastic wrap.

5. Using whatever mixer you can, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar (or don't, we didn't) and beat the eggs until they form "soft peaks". Then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar until "stiff glossy peaks form". Though Martha's recipe makes it clear that the perfect appliance for this step would be an electric mixer with attached bowl and "fitted with the whisk attachment", we didn't have that and things, once again, turned out fine.

6. Whisk one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate base (taking the plastic wrap off of the bowl first). Gently, oh so gently, fold the remaining whites into the mixture. Pour this mixture into the soufflé dish. Place the soufflé on a baking sheet and place it in the oven. Bake for fifteen minutes at 400 degrees. Turn the heat down to 375 degrees and cook for an additional fifteen minutes.

7. While the soufflé is baking prepare the whipped cream. In a small bowl put the heavy whipping cream, sugar and vanilla and using your mixer, beat until thick. Leave the whipped cream in the fridge to chill until the soufflé is done baking.

This took us about an hour and fifteen minutes. We got a little flummoxed when it came to all that whisking and combining but the three guinea pigs that tried our soufflé seemed very satisfied and the flummoxed feeling faded away into a feeling of accomplishment ... not to mention chocolatey goodness. Thanks Martha!