One of the things I have grown to love over the last 3.5 years I have been publishing this blog is that it really challenges me to try new things with my cooking. When I flip through a cookbook or a magazine, of course I’m thinking, “Would this taste good?” But I’m also always thinking, “Would this make a good blog post?”
Fine Cooking Magazine recently ran a great article on the art of making a soufflé. Soufflés are like a Kardashian in dessert form – they are known for being high maintenance. There are a whole lot of outside factors that need to be just right for everything to come together. Not telling you this to discourage you. Just want you to be aware. I would definitely recommend reading through their tips before you get started.
I’ve tackled soufflés only once before and it was so long ago I can’t even remember if it was successful or not. I’m thinking not if I never tried it again. However, you guys have motivated me to take on new challenges. How am I ever going be become a better cook if I don’t set new goals for myself?
And these soufflés are kind of like brownies in pudding form. There’s that. That may have motivated me a little too.
I will say this. No matter what you do and no matter how hard you try, your soufflé is eventually going to fall after it comes out of the oven. It’s just physics. Air bubbles in the batter expand while it bakes, which is what makes the soufflé rise. Once it starts to cool the air bubbles shrink. So you need to serve them immediately after they come out of the oven. Remember what I said about high maintenance?
That also makes these a booger to photograph. As soon as I put my ramekins in the oven, I got my camera and props set up. I had oven mitts on standby and ordered my family to clear a path as soon as the timer went off so I could make a beeline for the table.
I opened the oven door and evaluated the results. Four had cracked. One had already collapsed and was spewing a frothy chocolatey mess all over the bottom of the oven. But lo and behold, there was one. The Beyonce of the bunch. One perfect soufflé to lead the group. I’m pretty sure I backed away slowly from the oven and then did a happy dance in the middle of my kitchen.
I tell you this because even as a food blogger, there are still things I’m trying to master. Sure, maybe five of my soufflés were sub par (though they still tasted good!). But I got one right. That one perfect soufflé has motivated me to try again.
Mini Chocolate Soufflés
For the chocolate pastry cream:
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1-1/4 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbs. cornstarch
- 1 Tbs. Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1/4 tsp. table salt
- 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate finely chopped
- 1/2 oz. 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 2 to 3 Tbs. unsalted butter softened
- 3 to 4 Tbs. granulated sugar
For the meringue:
- 8 large egg whites at room temperature
- 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
- 1 oz. 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar; more for dusting
For the pastry cream:
Fill a large bowl about 2/3 full with ice water. Set aside. Have a slightly small bowl ready. You are going to pour your cooled pastry cream into the smaller bowl to cool once it’s done cooking.
In a large saucepan, combine egg yolks, milk, sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, and salt. Heat pan over medium heat and whisk until the mixture begins to form bubbles, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is smooth and very thick, approximately 2 minutes.
Remove pan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate, butter, and vanilla. Continue whisking until the cream is smooth and glossy.
Transfer pastry cream to the smaller bowl you have on standby. Set the smaller bowl in the bowl full of ice water. Allow the pastry cream to sit for about 10 minutes until it comes to room temperature, whisking often. At this point you can cover the surface of the pastry cream with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to one day. Be sure to bring it back to room temperature before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.
For the soufflés:
Position your oven rack to the lower third of your oven. Then preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Grease eight (6 oz.) ramekins with the softened butter. Coat the inside with granulated sugar and gently tap out an excess.
In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites at high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add cream of tartar and beat for an additional 30-60 seconds or until very soft peaks form. Add the confectioners’ sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff peaks form, about 30 seconds more.
Stir the room-temperature meringue with a spatula to loosen it. Gently add a third of the meringue to the pastry cream bowl. Gently run the spatula around the edge of the bowl, then bring it through the middle. Continue “folding” the mixture until it is mostly incorporated, however there will be a few streaks left. Continue this process with the remaining pastry cream – one third at a time – until all of the meringue is incorporated and and there are no white streaks remaining.
Fill the prepared ramekins with the soufflé mixture, being sure to smooth the tops with an offset spatula. Run your index finger the edge of each ramekins to create a small trench around the edge of the soufflé (this will help the soufflé rise). At this point you can store the prepared soufflés in the refrigerator for up to two hours.
Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet and gently place them in the oven. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out with just the tip wet.
Quicky dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.