I rarely pass up dessert when I’m going out to eat. It’s that final moment of the evening’s experience, the sweetness that lingers on your tongue as you go back out into the night. The meal would not be complete without it. Most desserts at higher end restaurants are gorgeous, almost too pretty to sink a fork into, but there’s one dessert that stands above the rest: the souffle.
Individual souffles are pure magic, ordered at the start of the meal and dreamt about throughout, counting the minutes until it is dramatically revealed. I’ll order a souffle pretty much any time a restaurant puts it on the menu, but one stands taller than all the rest in my memory: in the famous mirror pool room of one of New York City’s top restaurants. This restaurant’s souffles come in a multitude of flavors: chocolate, orange liqueur, vanilla or raspberry. You need to commit to one right at the beginning of the meal. I agonized over my decision, but ended up going for the chocolate with the chocolate sauce. When the tuxedoed waiter whisked off the silver dome to reveal my souffle in all its teetering glory, I clapped, and earned the stares of a few gray haired blue bloods at the table near me.
The waiter didn’t bat an eye or lift an eyebrow. He continued to treat me like a princess as he carefully inserted a silver spoon into the middle of my shuffle and poured in rich chocolate sauce. Then, never breaking his professional attitude, he carefully placed it in front of me and excused himself with a whispered, “please enjoy madame.” It was the perfect end to a perfect meal, and when I stepped back out into the New York City night, I felt like Big Apple royalty.
My house has little in common with a high end New York City restaurant, but on the nights that I surprise my family with individual souffles, we are one stop closer. Souffles are dramatic and exciting at restaurants, but they’re actually not hard to make at home. My recipe can be made ahead, so I can enjoy dinner with the family instead of whisking egg whites stiff as they eat. Twenty minutes before dessert, I reveal the surprise dessert of the evening, and pop the individual ramekins in the oven. As I learned in the pool room during that special dinner, the anticipation of the souffle is an important part of the magic.
The excitement on my family’s faces is beautiful to behold. Almost as beautiful as the souffles when they come out of the oven. I may not be wearing a tuxedo or serving anyone with a silver dome, but I still get an ovation, every time.
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- 4 large egg yolks
- 7 large egg whites
- ¼ cup sugar plus additional for coating ramekins
- 8 ounces fine quality semi-sweet chocolate
- 4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter
- If you're planning on cooking the souffles immediately, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Butter 6 1-cup ramekins (4x2 inches) and coat with sugar, knocking out excess sugar.
- Break the chocolate into coarse chunks. In a small saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add chocolate, stirring until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl, let cool for 2 minutes, and stir in yolks.
- In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat whites with a pinch of salt until they just hold stiff peaks. Gradually add ¼ cup of sugar, beating until just combined. Stir one fourth whites into chocolate mixture to lighten and fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
- Divide soufflé mixture among ramekins and smooth tops with a knife. Run tip of knife around edges of soufflés to aid rising. Soufflés may be made up to this point 1 day ahead and kept chilled, loosely wrapped in plastic wrap.
- Bake soufflés on a baking sheet in lower third of oven until puffed and surfaces are cracked, about 20 minutes.
- Top soufflés with ice cream or crème vanille and serve immediately. Serves 6.