It’s April 13th. Which means I just got married last weekend! Which means I’m in a post-wedding blissful stupor. It also means that I have wedding cake in my fridge AND freezer. (Everything in my life is always somehow tied to pastries. ;-) ) I also baked a small dessert bar with French Macarons and cookies, but I don’t have photos yet, so I will update later…
My Irish Claddagh cake from Sweet Tooth Confections for my Irish-themed wedding: layers of Chocolate-Peanut Butter Mousse and Banana-Peanut Butter Mousse-Salted Caramel. (Didn’t love the mint-colored fondant, but the Claddagh art was perfect and the cake was TO.DIE.FOR.)
And yes, here I am baking rich soufflés on this warm spring day! Despite a week of incredibly rich and abundant food, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make the Cinnamon Chocolate Soufflés from the Cinnamon chapter of Baked Elements for Baked Sunday Mornings. They are perfectly sized individual portions, so I didn’t have to feel so bad about a little extra indulgence! Incidentally, I realized that I didn’t have proper straight-sided ramekins suitable for soufflés, but I just received some from my sweet friend Sheri of Pork Cracklins as a wedding gift– much appreciated by me and my soufflé batter! :)
Soufflés, much like other fancy French desserts, sound complicated, time-consuming, and fussy. And maybe some are… but not these! There are just a handful of steps: 1) butter your ramekins and dust with cinnamon-sugar; 2) melt the chocolate with the butter, stir in cinnamon, then whisk in the egg yolks; 3) whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt, sugar, and vanilla to stiff peaks; 4) fold the egg whites gradually into the chocolate mixture; 5) transfer the batter to the ramekins for a short and visually entertaining baking period.
This batter must be very forgiving because I was sure I had messed up at least twice: the butter took a while to melt into the hot chocolate, and I was afraid I had overmixed, possibly disturbing the chocolate’s delicate crystal structure. I usually do my mise en place (ingredient prep) ahead of time religiously, but for some reason I was measuring as I went this time… and realized after whisking the egg yolks into the chocolate/butter mixture that I was out of cream of tartar. I had to run to the closest supermarket, and I thought for sure that the yolks would spoil, or at least that I would have to start over because the mixture had simply sat too long. But to my surprise, everything was fine!
By the way, be sure to use high-quality chocolate here, just as with any chocolate-centric dessert. Showcasing craptacular chocolate makes everyone sad. I had some Valrhona Manjari 64% fèves on hand, but not enough for the whole 5 ounces, so I supplemented with a bit of Guittard 72% Coucher du Soleil and Valrhona Equatoriale Noire 55%. It ended up being a nice balance that was plenty decadent, but not bitter. (Though the cinnamon imparted a little bitterness.)
I’m always worried about over- or under-whipping egg whites, but they whipped up beautifully with the help of sugar and cream of tartar.
Make sure to gently fold the egg whites into your chocolate mixture with a spatula just until incorporated– soufflés are all about air, so you want to avoid deflating the air that you just whipped into the egg whites. (I made 150 French Macarons for the wedding, so I had to shift mental gears because when making those, you WANT to deflate the egg whites by beating the crap out of them!) Your mixture will lighten in color and fluff up in texture– then you’re ready to fill those ramekins.
Incidentally, after making the soufflés, I read that in order to get that gorgeous “flat-top” rise, swipe across the tops of your ramekins with a knife to make a perfectly clean, flat surface… but that’s neither here nor there at this point, and no one was complaining!
The batter is just enough for 4 ramekins. The recipe recommends baking the soufflés for 8 minutes, but mine took about 15 minutes. (Don’t open the oven door prior to this point, as the early baking temperature can affect the soufflés’ rise.) I checked them every couple of minutes after the 8-minute mark, and I found myself glued to the oven door– towards the end, I could actually see the soufflés rising ever-so-slowly before my eyes! They also cracked on top, splitting open in jagged formations like the ground in a dramatized earthquake to reveal smoldering chocolate magma beneath the surface chasms.
Well that was dramatic.
The soufflés were perfectly creamy, dreamy, and rich right out of the oven. The cinnamon was a little strong for my liking, so I would take it down a notch (⅓ teaspoon?) next time, but it gave the soufflés a pleasing warmth and spiciness. (Add a little cayenne pepper to make it a Mexican Chocolate soufflé!) A dusting of confectioners’ sugar is the only garnish needed, though the book suggests Whiskey Whipped Cream if you want a more substantial topping. I would make these in the Fall or winter rather than in the spring.
Easy as these soufflés are, the one drawback is that you have to make them at the last minute, as you would with any soufflé. They become sunken and dry when they sit too long. To serve them for a dinner party, prep your ingredients ahead of time and whip them up while someone else washes the dishes! Or, make them after dinner on a weeknight– they really are that quick and easy. Either way, your tasters will undoubtedly be impressed by your French dessert prowess. :)
You can find the recipe for Cinnamon Chocolate Soufflés at Baked Sunday Mornings, and see how the other bakers fared this week!
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2014.