Saturday, February 12, 2011

Make Ahead Chocolate Souffles

What's not to love about chocolate souffle?  They may not be the most convenient thing to make, but they sure taste good.  I think chocolate souffle is the perfect dessert for Valentine's Day.  First of all, it's CHOCOLATE!  It's light and sophisticated. And most of all... you will be loved and appreciated by the recipient.   I spent the better part of the evening a few days ago searching for my souffle recipe.  It has vanished off the face of the earth.  I searched organized binders filled with recipes, no luck.  I'm convinced someone swiped it  borrowed it and misplaced it.  I'm not saying who, but I have a pretty good idea who, as evidenced by pictures of souffles (taken in my kitchen) on a Facebook page.  It's better to let it go and move on.  Sometimes things happen for a reason.  I found a better recipe.

Better recipe?  I think so.  After reading countless recipes, and trying to remember my old favorite, I came across this recipe in The New Best Recipe  from the Editors of Cooks Illustrated.  This cookbook is a massive collection of "exhaustively tested recipes" from America's Test Kitchen.  These folks have never steered me wrong, so I decided to take the chance.  These souffles are made ahead.  They must be frozen for at least 3 hours and can stay in the freezer for up to a week before baking.  How awesome is that?  If you are having a dinner party you can make them a day or a week in advance and just bake them off in less than 20 minutes while you are clearing away the dinner dishes, perfect timing.  Not having a dinner party?  Make up a batch or half a batch, freeze them and you have dessert for 2, 4 or just for yourself if you are so inclined in 20 minutes. This really has the potential for being a "go to" dessert.  They pop directly into the oven from the freezer, no thawing involved.  The outside of these souffles have a wonderful flavor and texture with a rich moist center.  Seriously, you have to try them.  Look what's in my freezer drawer!

Because I thought I could possibly be making several souffle recipes in search of the perfect one, I decided to make half a batch.  It yielded 4 individual souffles, made in 8 ounce ramekins.  I am writing this recipe as I prepared it.  If you need 8 souffles, just double it.
Individual Chocolate Souffles
Slightly Adapted From The New Best Recipe from the Editor's of Cooks Illustrated 2004

For ramekins:
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
For souffles:
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate - chopped or broken into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 8 pieces
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon Grand Marnier, you can sub Kahlua, Frangelico, or Amaretto
  • 3 extra large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 extra large egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners sugar
Prepare the ramekins: grease with the softened butter, then sprinkle the inside of each greased ramekin with sugar, coating both the bottom and the sides.  Refrigerate while preparing the souffle mixture.

1.  Melt chocolate with butter - what ever method you like to use : use a heatproof bowl over simmering water, carefully microwave it or if you are like me, use a heavy le creuset pot over a low flame. Stir until smooth.  
2.  Remove chocolate from heat, add a pinch of salt, vanilla, and Grand Marnier. Stir to combine.  At this point I transferred the mixture to another mixing bowl which facilitates a faster cool down.

3.  Carefully separate the eggs into 2 bowls.  Note:  You will not use all 4 egg yolks.  You only need 3 of them. Save the 4th yolk for another use or discard.

4.  Using a stand mixer and paddle attachment, place the 3 egg yolks in a bowl with the sugar.
On medium-high speed, mix the yolk and sugar until the color lightens and the mixture is triple in volume.
5.  Fold the egg- sugar mixture into the cooled chocolate mixture. It should look uniform in color.
6.  Wash and dry the mixing bowl thoroughly or else your egg whites will not whip up properly.

7.  Put the egg whites in the clean bowl. With the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on medium-low speed about 2 minutes until frothy.  Add the cream of tartar.

8.  Turn up the mixer speed to medium-high and continue to whip until soft white peaks are beginning to form about 1-2 minutes.  At this point add the confectioner's sugar and continue to whip another 2-4 minutes until stiff peaks form.  The confectioner's sugar helps to stabilize the egg whites and allows them to go from the freezer to the oven without deflating.
9.  Take 1/4th of the egg whites and stir them into the chocolate mixture.  Don't worry, you don't have to be gentle, they will deflate some and that's OK.  You want it to look homogeneous.
Action shot!
10.  Now GENTLY fold in the rest of the egg whites until incorporated. Fold, do not mix!
11.  Take ramekins out of the refrigerator.  Spoon mixture in to prepared ramekins, at least 3/4 full.  Wipe off any excess mixture from the rim of the ramekins with a damp paper towel.
12.  Cover individual souffles with plastic wrap, then cover with aluminum foil.  Freeze for at least 3 hours or keep frozen for up to a week.
    • Place rack in lower middle position of oven.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    • After the oven is holding at 400 degrees, remove souffles from the freezer, unwrap them and place them on a baking sheet. Remember: DO NOT THAW!
    • Bake souffles on the baking sheet for 18-20 minutes.  They should be risen, set, and the middle should look moist.  They will also be very fragrant.  If you use 4 ounce ramekins, I would check them at 14-15 minutes. They will take longer than half the time of the larger ones; don't forget they are cooking from a frozen state.  Be careful not to dry them out.
    • Serve immediately 
    I added a confectioners sugar heart by making a stencil on an index card, place the card over the souffle and sprinkled the sugar over the heart!  Why not make a personalized stencil?
    I guarantee you that you will be loved, appreciated and revered.  Happy Valentine's Day!


    1. I like the stenciled hearts, cute touch.

      I think the other recipe lacked confectioner's sugar in the egg white and some other ingredients. It was one of the first real things I cooked all by myself so it had to be super easy. Maybe this is it?

      Also, if I'm not mistaken, the recipe was on the side of the fridge for the longest time. Maybe it fell down the side... I don't have any print recipes anywhere :(

    2. Dad just looked, only found dust bunnies!. You should try these. You and Mike will love them! I've since learned that you can freeze them for up to a month. Imagine? Souffles on a whim!

    3. Hello. I made this the other day and baked them separately today. The first was removed at 18 minutes and still had a cold core and the second was removed at 20 minutes and was in better shape. Both tasted great and had excellent texture.
      That was a trial run because I decided to make it for a dinner party in a few days. My concern is that because I have to make 18 of them, can I put them all in the oven at once, or should I do them in 2 batches? Would that many cool down the oven too much at once and mess with the cooking time? Your thoughts would be appreciated.

      1. I have never baked more than 8 at a time. They took 20 minutes. If I were to make 18 of them, I would bake them in 2 batches. If I were a risk taker and wanted to bake them all at once, I might preheat the oven to 410 degrees, then decrease the temp to 400 when I put the ramekins in. I'd rather play it safe. Sorry I don't have a definitive answer for you.

    4. Really great recipe. Mine took a tad longer than 20 minutes, but that might just be my oven. I took them out just after the had risen completely, but the center was still a bit jigley. Others might want to cook until more done in the center, but I love the ooey gooey center. Can't believe how well these rise with them starting off frozen. I will never make chocolate souffle at the last minute ever again. Why bother? This recipe works perfectly.

    5. OMG!
      Thanks so much for this post!

      I just mixed these up tonight and i'm soooo excited to cook them tomorrow. They are in the freezer now.

      I had been wondering if the cook time and temp was the same if I was only cooking 4 ramekins! Thanks so much for answering my question!

      Yippee sooo excited!

      1. 20 minutes at the same temp should do it if your oven is accurate. Enjoy!