It snowed 30" this weekend. No big deal, just the like the worst snowstorm in the past like forty years here. It's one of the times that Asheley and I are really thankful for a small driveway and no sidewalks. Nemo, the gentle, innocent name they gave the storm, was quite deceiving. Two days later, there were still no plows in our neighborhood, so we were stuck inside. When life snows you in, what do you do? I make soufflés. And Asheley couldn't get to work, which immediately volunteered her for sous chef duties.
Soufflés are one of those desserts that are just so incredibly stunning. You just can't help but ooooo and aahhh as you stare at the towering feats of architecture. I always thought making a soufflé was crazy hard and was something I would only enjoy when dining out at a fancy restaurant. Last year though, I watched Mark Bittman do a quick segment on of those morning news shows, and he made them look quite accessible to the home cook.
I cannot believe how easy they are to make, requiring only a couple of ingredients and a few precise steps. Besides tasting absolutely divine, the best part of making soufflés is seeing peoples eyes light up as you bring them to the table, rendering you a culinary hero in their eyes.
One of my favorite chocolate creations at the french chocolatier in NYC, La Maison du Chocolat, is a piece they do combining dark chocolate and orange. This Dark Chocolate Soufflé with Grand Marnier Crème Anglaise is kind of my ode to that piece of chocolate.
Crème Anglaise is a beautifully rich custard sauce, which can poured over a variety of desserts from fresh fruit to cakes to soufflés. The great thing about crème anglaise is that you can make it way ahead of time, freeze it, and then defrost only the amount you need in the refrigerator. Crème Anglaise is the base used for many types of ice cream, so it freezes very well.
If you don't want to go through the steps to make your own crème anglaise, you can of course omit it and enjoy the soufflé by itself, or defrost a little of your favorite high-quality ice cream to drizzle in.
A little tip I learned from pastry chef, author, blogger, and the American-born and Parisian-adopted David Lebovitz: when you are zesting citrus, do so directly into the mixture. This way, all those fragrant citrus oils go into your product and not left on a cutting board or countertop. You won't be able to get an exact measurement this way, but just eyeball it.
Asheley couldn't get to work yesterday thanks to Nemo, which in turn immediately volunteered her for sous chef duties. Here she is brushing a little melted butter around the inside of our ramekins, followed by a light dusting of sugar.
The recipe calls for 2 ounces of dark chocolate. The easiest way to measure out 2 ounces is to look at the serving size on the back of your bar, which typically tells you how many ounces is in one break-off square. You don't have to be totally exact, but try to be close.
When you beat the yolks and sugar together, you know they're done when it becomes light and thick, falling like ribbons off the beaters.
Asheley loves to stir. It's her favorite kitchen duty. She was happy when I told she got to stir lots of things together, including this egg yolk mixture with the melted dark chocolate. Just make sure your melted chocolate isn't too hot. You don't want to cook the yolks.
I love whipping egg whites. I don't know why. It's just so much fun watching them transform. When you start seeing the egg whites holding soft peaks, stir in 1 tablespoon of sugar, and continue to whip until the peaks become stiff and glossy.
At this point your chocolate and egg yolk mixture is going to feel a bit firm. Adding in a generous dollop of the whipped egg whites and stirring well lightens them back up. Then it's time to gently fold in the egg whites. Keyword being gentle: you want to keep the mixture as light and airy as possible. Don't worry about it being perfect. A couple streaks of white is totally fine.
Pour your batter to almost the brim of each ramekin, which will ensure an impressively tall soufflé. I have approximately 1 - 1 ½ cup ramekins, and this recipe makes enough for 4 soufflés.
They're done after 17-20 minutes in the oven, when the tops are golden and firm and the soufflé jiggles a bit when given a gentle shake. Resist the urge to open up the oven while cooking. The drop in temperature could cause the soufflés to not rise properly. I turn on the oven light to keep an eye on them.
Part of the fun of serving soufflés is the spectacle. Dust them with powdered sugar tableside, so everyone can bask in eager excitement of the first bite. With a small spoon, make an opening in the center of the soufflé, watching as steam billows out. Pour a generous amount of the crème anglaise into the center.
And before you know it...