Lifestyle & Culture

Say It With Chocolate Instead!

February 11, 2021

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Ta-dah! These are so darn cute, and easy to make. Even mistakes like mine (random-size ramekins, seized chocolate) didn’t ruin them. / MyLittleBird photo.

A major rule in the old days of food photos on film: Don’t eat the props before you know if the pictures came out okay. No, I didn’t dig into this souffle–it’s a stock photo. And not for nothing, you can see by the top photo that mine rose a lot more than these, so there. / iStock photo.

WHY SAY IT with flowers when chocolate tastes so much better!? (Not to mention—and here I am mentioning it—often cheaper.)

There’s the box ‘o chocolates, of course, which is what he gives you. That says, No, honey, you don’t look fat in those pants—don’t even think about it.

But then there is what lurks in the kitchen. Two ways to go there: rich, molten, lava-like and decadent (flourless chocolate torte, for instance, maybe with a chocolate ganache topper) or whipped, light-as-air (no calories in air, right?). Such as a chocolate soufflé. You know, the dessert you’re supposed to make in those crisp white straight-sided bowls and ramekins (tiny crisp white straight-sided bowls) that have been sitting in the cupboard for . . . how long?I’ve adapted the following from a 2002 recipe from the late, great Gourmet magazine by way of, It has the fewest ingredients I’ve seen. Food Network and the NY Times and even good ol’ Fannie Farmer (mine is the 11th edition) melt the chocolate with butter, which probably helps keep the chocolate from “seizing” (going from a silky melt to a rough grainy paste, often caused by moisture getting into the melting chocolate). A couple of those recipes add vanilla extract or cream of tartar; this one does not. Fannie wants flour; not this one.

Most of the recipes melt the chocolate first, and that’s how I have recorded this recipe. But I start the egg whites going in my stand mixer while I’m doing the chocolate. The longest, most tedious part of the recipe is getting the egg whites to their firm-peak perfection, so why not give them a head start?

(Full disclosure: My chocolate seized, not sure why, and I didn’t fix it by mixing in a bit of fat, meaning butter, or a teaspoon or so of hot water. The soufflé rose unencumbered and tasted great, perhaps a bit cakier than might be considered optimal. But ask yourself this: Does your loved one have such a detailed memory of sublime soufflés past that he [or she, just to be binary for a sec] will ding you for it? I thought not.)

—Nancy McKeon

Chocolate Soufflé

Adapted from Gourmet, February 2002
Makes 2 to 4 servings

Butter and sugar to coat the inside of the bowl or ramekins

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped*

3 large egg yolks, room temperature

6 large egg whites**

A pinch of salt

1/3 cup sugar

Confectioner’s sugar to dust, or whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream—or nothing


Use a 6-cup ceramic soufflé dish or 6 small ramekins

Set oven to 375 degrees F.

Generously butter the inside bottom and walls of the soufflé dish(es), then swirl sugar around to coat all the butter. Tap out the excess sugar.

Melt the chopped chocolate, preferably in a metal bowl above a saucepan of barely simmering water (if you don’t have a small metal bowl, use a smaller saucepan). Don’t let the pan with the chocolate actually sit in the very hot water beneath. Stir the chocolate until it’s smooth.

Remove the chocolate saucepan to a counter and stir in the egg yolks, preferably one at a time. The mixture will thicken but with luck won’t seize.

In a clean mixing bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt. Beat at medium speed until the egg whites hold soft peaks. At that point, begin adding the 1/3 cup sugar, a little bit at a time, perhaps six additions in all, all the while beating on medium. When the sugar is all incorporated, begin beating the egg-white mixture at high speed until the egg whites can hold barely stiff peaks.

Scoop out about 1 cup of the stiffened egg whites and mix it into the chocolate mixture. Then take that lightened chocolate mixture and add it to the bowl of remaining egg whites, folding the chocolate mixture in gently but thoroughly. (If you’ve forgotten, folding means to run a spatula along the edges and bottom of the bowl and lift up, say, a quarter of the mixture and “fold” it over the top of the mixture. Turning the bowl, continue lifting and folding, very gently, until you achieve an even but still fluffy mixture. You don’t want to combine the two elements to the point where they go from fluffy to runny.)

Spoon the mixture into the soufflé dish(es). Clean the inside top edge of each bowl/ramekin in order to help the mixture rise evenly.

Place the bowl or ramekins on a sheet pan, just in case of messiness. Bake in the middle of the oven until the soufflé has puffed and has a crust on top but is still a bit jiggly in the center. This can mean 24 to 26 minutes, but it could take less, depending on your oven, so check.

If using ramekins, place them on a dessert plate and sift confectioner’s sugar over them, if using, or put a scoop of whipped cream or ice cream on the side, and serve immediately. If serving at table from one large bowl, you can scoop at will (after presenting your puffy triumph, of course).

*If you start with bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli brand) instead of a block of chocolate, you won’t have to chop as much, but either way you should get the pieces as small as possible.

**Google whether egg whites should be room-temp or fridge-cold to get better meringue and you’ll find opposite opinions facing off right next to each other. Discuss.


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