Intensely Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflés

Since Valentine’s Day is smack in the middle of the week, Jim and I decided to begin celebrating it early this year, by having a wonderful chocolate dessert on Saturday night. Silly as it seems, I was uneasy about making anything with bittersweet chocolate. You see, there’s nothing bittersweet about our relationship.

We are young twenty-somethings who have been living together for a little over a year-still feeling as if we are merely “playing house.” We live together easily, deciding, quite amiably, to decorate our apartment with beautiful photography, bookshelves, and maps–Jim agreed that I can display teacups on some shelves, I allowed for the maps. We’re in love and calmly happy together. Sweet, see, but never bitter.

So, I am a bit too superstitious (I blame it on my Italian blood) to make anything bittersweet for our Valentine’s Day dessert—not that I think cracks could form in our relationship over such a silly thing, Jimmy, but knock on wood, throw salt over your shoulder, etc.

The problem is that we don’t eat much milk chocolate anymore. Out of a screwed up sense of “healthy,” we decided that we could have chocolate daily—if it was very dark (80%)—since dark chocolate has all those antioxidants and stuff. We decided this over a year ago and since then our chocolate tastes have changed dramatically. It’s almost a bad thing—I’m not satisfied by M&Ms or Snickers bars anymore (maybe it’s not that bad of a thing) and we either have to spend a lot for boutique desserts or make them ourselves. I guess I could have gone out and bought a chocolate dessert that didn’t specifically tout being made with bittersweet chocolate—in that don’t ask, don’t tell sort of way—but not making your newly-madly-in-love with boyfriend a homemade dessert on your 2nd Valentine’s Day together would be blasphemy!

Thankfully, I came across Alice Medrich’s Intensely Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflés while scouring my cookbooks for a suitable dessert. I decided I needed a little poetic license this V-Day and here’s what I came up with: Since our relationship is not bittersweet, I will lend the metaphor to the word “intense” because who doesn’t want an intense relationship? (Sane people, probably) Furthermore, since “Intense” (minus the -ly) is the first word of the dessert, it obviously means that our year will be filled with intensity and we can safely forget anything about bittersweet since second words never matter in fortune-telling (I actually have no idea if that is true, but I think we can all agree I’m full of it anyhow).

It’s a good thing I was able to concoct this excuse because the chocolate soufflé were the perfect amount of chocolate bitterness and, for a soufflé—a dessert made with more egg whites than butter—they were extremely decadent. You can prepare the soufflés in advance, allowing you to simple pop them in the oven 15 minutes before you wish to eat them. They don’t rise much, but the flavor is spectacularly rich. The first batch I made had a texture closer to mousse than soufflé, but I baked the remaining ramekins for less time than given in the recipe (I have an electric oven which is usually hotter than I intend it to be) and they had the characteristic ooey-gooey insides. Jim fell in love with the little chocolate ramekins immediately, licking them clean. If I wasn’t a stable woman, I’d be jealous.

Intensely Bittersweet Chocolate Soufflés

serves 6//from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces 70 % bittersweet chocolate finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup of milk
  • 3 large eggs, separated at room temperature
  • 1 egg white , at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar

Method

If you are baking the soufflés right away, position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 °F. Butter the ramekins and sprinkle with sugar.

Place the chocolate, butter, and milk in a large heatproof bowl in a large skillet of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove the bowl from the water bath and whisk in the egg yolks. (Don’t worry if the mixture stiffens slightly or is less than perfectly smooth at this point.) Set aside.

In a medium, dry bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar with a an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Gradually sprinkle in 1/3 cup of sugar and beat at high speed until the whites are stiff but not dry. Fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it ,then fold in the remaining egg whites.

Divide the mixture evenly among the prepared ramekins, filling each three-quarters full. (The soufflés can be prepared to this point, covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bake directly from the refrigerator.)

Place the soufflés on a cookie sheet. Bake until they rise and crack on top and a wooden skewer plunged into the center emerges very moist and gooey (but the centers should not be completely liquid), 14 to 16 minutes, perhaps a minute or so longer if the soufflés have been refrigerated. (If you want the ooey-gooey middle, however, shorten the cooking time by a few minutes.)

When they are done, remove the soufflés from the oven, and serve immediately with a little powdered sugar sifted over the top, if you like.