Serves: Makes 8 servings
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (up to 70 percent cacao), finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon (½ ounce) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon (½ ounce) unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (4 ounces) whole milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon instant espresso powder dissolved in ½ teaspoon water
- Pinch of salt
- 3 large eggs, separated, plus
- 1 additional egg white
- ¼ cup (1¾ ounces) granulated sugar
- Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
- Vanilla custard sauce or caramel sauce, dark chocolate sauce, or softly whipped cream for serving (optional)
Procedures:This is the ultimate dessert soufflé. It delivers dark chocolate in an elegant party dress, and is also the only soufflé that can be prepared up to 24 hours in advance and held in the refrigerator before baking. Since the sauce can be made in advance as well, the combination is perfect for entertaining.
Preheat the oven to 375°F and position an oven rack in the bottom third. Generously butter the soufflé dishes (including the rims), dust them with sugar, and tap out the excess.
Melt the chocolate: Pour 2 inches of water in the bottom of the double boiler and bring to a rolling boil. Off the heat, place the chocolate in the top of the double boiler. Turn the heat off and set the chocolate over the steaming water. Stir occasionally with the spatula until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Leave over the warm water until needed. Alternately, melt the chocolate in the microwave and set aside.
Make the béchamel: Melt the butter in the small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat, add the flour, and whisk well to remove any lumps. Return to the heat and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and add the milk slowly, whisking constantly to remove any lumps. Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until thickened to the consistency of thin pudding. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. Whisk in the espresso powder and pinch of salt. With a clean spatula, scrape the melted chocolate into the large bowl. Add the béchamel sauce and whisk to blend. Whisk in the egg yolks. Cover and keep warm while you whip the egg whites.
Whip the egg whites: In the very clean bowl of the stand mixer, whip the 4 egg whites on medium speed until they form soft peaks. With the mixer running, rain in the granulated sugar and beat until firm peaks form. You can also use a hand mixer and a medium bowl. With a spatula, gently stir one-fourth of the egg whites into the chocolate béchamel sauce to lighten the mixture. Fold in the remaining whites just until there are no more streaks of whites.
Fill the dishes and bake: Transfer the soufflé batter to the pastry bag. Pipe the batter into each soufflé dish, filling it to ¼ inch below the rim. Transfer the dishes to the baking sheet. Bake for 14 to 18 minutes (higher percentage chocolates will bake more quickly), until the soufflés are set and firm to the touch in the center. Serve immediately, dusted with confectioners' sugar and accompanied by individual pitchers of custard sauce.
For an over-the-top dessert, break open the tops of the soufflés and, instead of the custard sauce, pour in caramel sauce and chocolate sauce, then top with generous spoonfuls of whipped cream. Pass additional sauce and cream around the table. Ooh-la-la!