Posted by: njbrown | January 20, 2012

In Search of the World’s Best Chocolate Soufflé


Candidates for the World’s Best Chocolate Soufflé

Chocolate soufflé has always intrigued me.  For Christmas I received a copy of Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Circus.  While I don’t think I’ll be making chocolate sculptures, or even chocolate-coated corn flakes, I was interested to read about his chocolate soufflé.  First, he uses a French Meringue that enables him to make the soufflés an hour or more ahead, and he can mound them in the molds about an inch above the edge.  (Legendary chef Paul Bocuse couldn’t believe that they weren’t baked soufflés that had fallen.)  Second, Jacques doesn’t start with a bechamel because the ganache has enough body to hold the beaten egg whites.  His recipe (see Jacques Torres’ Chocolate Soufflé) contains unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa.  Unfortunately, although I have the highest admiration for Jacques, my husband and I didn’t like his chocolate soufflé at all.  The texture was froth-like (even when I gave it extra baking time), and the flavor was bitter and too intense even for my chocoholic taste.

Eliminating this candidate, I went on to Curtis Stone’s self-proclaimed “Best Chocolate Soufflé in the World.”  Curtis’ recipe calls for two fewer egg whites and slightly more chocolate (and no unsweetened chocolate).  We enjoyed the texture more, but found it, also, too chocolatey.

Julia’s Chocolate Soufflé (from The Way to Cook) – the best in the world

Having gone through a lot of eggs and chocolate to come nowhere near what I would term even an excellent chocolate soufflé, I decided to listen to my husband and make Julia’s.  (He doesn’t know why I ever make anyone else’s recipes, but I tell him the culinary world has had some advances since Julia’s time, and someone, somewhere must have a really good recipe for something.)  I had held back on making hers because the recipe calls for seven ounces of chocolate – almost twice the amount used by Jacques and Curtis.  Julia’s recipe is the only one I’ve ever seen that calls for Baker’s German sweet chocolate, but we loved the result.  The consistency is airy but not insubstantial, and there is a definite chocolate flavor, but it is just right – neither too bitter nor too sweet.  Once again, Julia triumphs!

A final note:  for the first fifty or so years of my life, soufflés were gorgeous puffy, billowy creations.  Sometime in the last decade or so, the style changed and soufflés became flat-topped.  (Jamie Oliver seems to have resisted this trend, thank God.)  In a competition of Chopped judges, Geoffrey Zakarian made what he called soufflés, but they were piled in high points (almost like meringue on a lemon meringue pie) in the baking dishes as they went into the oven.  They looked beautiful.  I’ve tried to replicate them, but so far without great success.  Until then, I will stay with the old-style poufs.

Julia’s Chocolate Soufflé From The Way to Cook

(Additional notes, mine)

For a 2 to 2 ½ quart baking dish, 7 ½ to 8 inches in diameter serving 8

Ingredients:

Chocolate base:

  • 7 oz. sweet baking chocolate smoothly melted with ½ cup strong coffee

The sauce base:

  • ⅓ cup flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 Tbs butter, optional
  • A big pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites (¾ cup)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup Confectioners sugar in a fine-meshed sieve
  • Optional accompaniment:  lightly whipped cream flavored with confectioners sugar and pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Preliminaries:

  1. Melt the chocolate.
  2. Measure out all the other ingredients listed.
  3. Butter the soufflé dish and roll granulated sugar around to coat bottom and sides.  Surround it with a foil collar
  4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

The soufflé base:

  1. Whisk the flour and half of the milk in the saucepan to blend;
  2. Beat in the rest of the milk and the sugar.
  3. Stir with a wooden spoon over moderately high heat until the sauce thickens,then whisk as the sauce comes to a boil.
  4. Continue boiling and whisking for 2 minutes.
  5. Off heat, whisk in the optional butter, the salt, and the vanilla, then the egg yolks, and finally the smoothly melted chocolate.

The egg whites:

In a clean separate bowl with clean beaters, beat the egg whites to soft peaks, gradually sprinkle in the ½ cup sugar, and beat to stiff shining peaks.

(When properly beaten, you can hold the bowl upside down high enough to see the whites.  If they stay in the bowl for 10 seconds, they have been sufficiently beaten – NB.)

Combining ingredients:

Ladle the chocolate sauce base down the side of the egg-white bowl, rapidly fold the two mixtures together, and turn the soufflé into the prepared baking dish.

( Note:  often it is recommended to take a knife or spatula and run it around the soufflé mixture about an inch in from the rim, and about an inch deep.  This is supposed to make the “top hat” on the soufflé.  NB)

Baking:

Put in the lower third of oven and immediately reduce heat from 425 to 375 degrees.

Confectioners sugar, finishing, and serving:

  1. In 35 to 40 minutes the soufflé will have puffed and risen an inch or so over the rim of the dish.
  2. Rapidly sprinkle the top with confectioners sugar, then finish the baking until the soufflé has puffed 2 to 3 inches over the rim of the baking dish into the collar, and the top has browned nicely under the sugar coating.

(You can check after 45 minutes by gently starting to remove the collar.  If the edge of the soufflé starts to sag, it needs more baking time.  The collar can then be refastened – NB.)

  Serve with whipped cream if desired.

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Responses

  1. “Unfortunately, although I have the highest admiration for Jacques, my husband and I didn’t like his chocolate soufflé at all. ”

    I agree. And I’ve made a lot of souffles.

    “The texture was froth-like”

    His ratio of whites to base is too high.

    “In a competition of Chopped judges, Geoffrey Zakarian made what he called soufflés, but they were piled in high points (almost like meringue on a lemon meringue pie) in the baking dishes as they went into the oven.”

    His was a no-brainer souffle recipe.

    He basically made a blueberry flavored meringue. I assume he did it because (unlike souffles that I prefer taste-wise) his batter (nothing more then a meringue flavored with blueberry suace) you could mound up and it would be very stable when it came out of the oven — so it would look dramatic. But for taste. Not so good. Like blueberry flavored meringue. Ick.

    • I agree completely!

      Best wishes,

      Nancy

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    • Thank you!

      Best wishes,

      Nancy

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    • So glad you enjoy it.

      Best wishes,

      Nancy


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