October 5, 2011

Chocolate soufflé with orange crème anglaise

Thanks to motivation from having this blog, I made my first soufflé back in June.  That lemon soufflé was really good - I can tell you for sure since I've made it a couple of times since just to make sure it wasn't a fluke.  One of the things I learned is that it's actually pretty easy to make a soufflé at home.  So it was only a matter of time before I try a chocolate one.  Well...now the weather is cooler, schedules have slowed down a bit, and we had a relaxing Sunday dinner ahead of us.  The stage was set for my attempt at a chocolate soufflé with orange crème anglaise.
The whole orange crème anglaise thing might sound a little fancy but seriously, this custard cream sauce is easy to make.  I love to stir things over a stove and it's just that kind of recipe.  Plus, I keep thinking back to that apricot soufflé we had back at the Four Seasons restaurant those years ago where we poured the sauce over our piping hot soufflé.  And then David Lebovitz posted his recipe for this orange crème anglaise (I love his recipes) and for some reason, it just called out to me and I had this crazy urge to make it.  So here we are. 
My husband and I thought the sauce was the best part of this dessert and really made it special.  If you like the combination of orange and chocolate, you know what I'm talking about.  The chocolate really made the orange flavor in the crème anglaise pop.  It's smooth and creamy without being too thick or too rich or sweet at all.   The cold sauce is a great contrast against the steaming hot soufflé.  And in case you're interested in the opinion of a six year old boy, he preferred digging into the soufflé itself though he did give his "ok" to the sauce.

If you don't want to make the crème anglaise, this soufflé could certainly be served plain or with some whipped cream or ice cream.  Some melted vanilla ice cream would make an easy mock-crème anglaise in a pinch too.
There's something about a soufflé that makes you roll your eyes up and say "mmm...."  It must be that fluffy, soft, pillowy bite that still manages to pack a lot of flavor.  It's a special treat that's really not all that hard to make.

Chocolate soufflé

Making a chocolate soufflé is just a matter of making the chocolate base and combining that with whipped egg whites.  It's really rather easy.

For this soufflé, I adapted a recipe I found in David Lebovitz's The Great Book of Chocolate.  The only adjustment I've made is to omit the chocolate chips and now that I've made it, I've also adjusted the amount of sugar down slightly.

This recipe makes enough to fill four 6-ounce ramekins, approximately.  I actually made one larger (about 16-ounce) soufflé and two smaller ones (about 5 or 6 ounces each) and baked them separately.  The great thing is you can fill the ramekins a few hours in advance, leave it at room-temperature, and bake them when you're ready to eat. 

Start by melting 5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional) with 1/4 cup of whole milk. 
Once melted, whisk in 2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 3 egg yolks.  Set this chocolate base aside to cool.
Now whip 4 large room-temperature egg whites.  Slowly add 3 tablespoons of sugar to the whites once they begin to foam and whisk until stiff peaks.
Gently fold the whites into the chocolate base and fill the ramekins up to just about the top.    
Smooth the tops and run your thumb around the ramekins to help the soufflé rise evenly.  
In a 400 degree oven, the large ramekin took about 15 minutes to cook while the smaller ones needed about 12 minutes or so.  They are done when they've risen and the tops are firm but they are still soft and jiggly when moved. 
Serve immediately since they will begin to deflate (more so for the small ones than the large, I found).

Orange Crème Anglaise

This orange crème anglaise is just a custard sauce, cooked over the stovetop.  It's milk, egg yolks, some sugar and in this case, orange zest.  It's similar to pastry cream but while that involves using some flour as a thickener, this doesn't.  Crème anglaise is meant to be used cold so make it in advance and set it in the fridge for later.  
Aside from a soufflé, this sauce would be great with say molten chocolate cake, a slice of flourless chocolate cake, or maybe even a yogurt or sponge cake.  In fact, we tried the orange sauce with a hot molten chocolate cake a couple nights after the soufflé and it was delicious.  It works really well because you have the same hot cake against the cold sauce.  Again, the orange flavor really jumped out with the chocolate.
But back to the recipe, I made one cup of this sauce by adding a cup of milk, 3 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and a small pinch of salt to a saucepan.  Then grate the zest of almost 2 oranges (reserving a bit for the end) right onto the milk mixture.  Warm this over a medium flame and then remove from the heat, cover, and let everything steep for about an hour.
An hour later, whisk 3 egg yolks together.  Set up an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and some cold water.  Place a smaller bowl on top and have a strainer ready.   Rewarm the milk and slowly whisk the milk into the yolks. 
Pour the egg yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly (we don't want to cook the yolks), until it thickens and coats the spatula.  This will take about ten minutes or so.
Strain the custard over the bowl set over the ice bath, pressing the zest down into the strainer to get as much orange essence as you can out of it.  Stir the custard in the ice bath to cool it and then grate a bit more orange zest over the top as a final ouch.  Cover and place in the fridge to chill since the custard should be served ice cold.  It can stay there for 3 days.
The result is a smooth, creamy custard sauce.  It's not overly thick or sweet.  It's the classic accompaniment to a soufflé.  I can't wait to try making a vanilla crème anglaise one day soon.   


Chocolate Souff

- For four 6-ounce ramekins, approximately -

5 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
1/4 cup whole milk
5 1/2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for ramekins
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks, at room-temperature
4 large egg whites, at room-temperature

Butter 4 approximately 6-ounce ramekins and coat each with a teaspoon or so of sugar, shaking out any excess.  Set ramekins on top of a baking sheet.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt chocolate, espresso powder, and milk in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Remove from the pan and whisk in 2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar, vanilla, and egg yolks.  Set aside to cool.

Place egg whites into bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whip on medium speed until the whites turn foamy.  Add the remaining sugar gradually and whip until stiff peaks.

Gently fold the whites into the chocolate base using a rubber spatula.  Fill the ramekins almost to the top.  Smooth the tops and run your thumb around the ramekin (this is supposed to help the soufflé rise evenly).  You can leave the filled ramekins at room temperature for a few hours before baking when you are ready. 

Bake for about 12 minutes or so.  They are done when they are firm but still wiggle when moved.  Serve right away.

Orange Crème Anglaise

- For 1 cup (double it as per the original recipe but this is more than enough to go with the soufflé) -

1 cup whole milk
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
small pinch of salt
2 medium oranges, organgic or unsprayed
3 large egg yolks

Pour milk, sugar, and salt into a saucepan.  Grate orange zest from 1 1/2 oranges directly into the milk and warm gently.  Turn the heat off, cover the saucepan, and let the milk and orange zest steep for about an hour.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl by filling with ice cubes and a bit of cold water.  Set another, smaller bowl, over the ice bath and have a strainer ready over the top of the smaller bowl.

Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl.

Rewarm the milk over medium heat.  Slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, as you pour.  Scrape the egg yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low-medium heat (we don't want the egg yolks to cook or milk to curdle), stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until the custard sauce begins to thicken and coats the spatula.  Be patient since this takes about 10 minutes or so but you will know it's ready once it thickens.

Pour the custard over the strainer and into the bowl set over the ice bath.  Press the zest into the strainer to extract the flavor.  Stir the custard over the ice bath until cooled.  Grate a bit more fresh orange zest from the last orange over the custard - this looks nice, adds a little more flavor, and lets people know what they're eating. 

Store the custard in the refrigerator until very cold.  It is intended to be used ice-cold.  The sauce can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.  Aside from a soufflé, the sauce is good with a slice of cake or to dress up some berries. 


  1. One can not, "You can leave the filled ramekins at room temperature for a few hours before baking when you are ready." It just doesn't pop up perfectly...and we all want perfection. The flavor on the other hand was deli.

  2. Hi Anonymous, thanks for the feedback. I think I left the filled batter out for roughly 1 1/2 hours in a cool kitchen before baking in the photos you see here. It makes sense that immediately baking is best but I wanted the convenience of enjoying my meal and popping the filled ramekins straight in the oven.



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