I think that February is the best month for desserts. It’s post-holiday madness, which means there are less extraneous events and celebrations to take up your time, and it’s still technically winter so cozy activities, like baking projects, are high up on our to-do list. Also, Valentine’s Day gives us an excuse to consume more chocolate than we should and a reason to bake something special for someone we love. Enter these chocolate soufflés.
Soufflés can be super daunting, but they don’t have to be! The backbone of soufflé making comes down to basically two sauces- pastry cream and crème anglaise. They are very similar in how they are made and are both a milk/cream based sauce thickened with eggs. The only real difference is that pastry cream also has a starch added to it, which means you cook it slightly longer to cook out the flour taste. To make these soufflés, you start by making a chocolate pastry cream. You then beat a bunch of air bubbles into egg whites and sugar to create a smooth, luxurious meringue that you fold into the pastry cream along with some more eggs. Lots of eggs. Ta-da! You have a soufflé.
When the soufflés come out of the oven (working super quickly so that they don’t deflate), you use a spoon to poke a small hole in the top of each soufflé and you pour some creme anglaise inside. This creates a kind of melted ice cream in the pudding part of a molten cake feel and it’s perfect. I wanted my crème anglaise to be pink because Valentine’s Day and all, but I wanted to color it using something that would provide a subtle, yet complex flavor. I chose to use beets and simply steeped them in my milk before making the crème anglaise to give that pretty fuchsia color. You could use strawberries or raspberries, or nothing at all, if you wanted to, but the beets give the final product a unique flavor that I love.
Soufflés are very time sensitive and need to be served right as they come out of the oven, but you can make the pastry cream and the crème anglaise ahead of time. This makes for a pretty simple, but show-stopping dessert, perfect for the ending to your Valentine’s dinner!
Chocolate Souffles with Beet Creme Anglaise
Yield: 8- 6oz ramekins
for the beet creme anglaise:
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 beet, chopped
for the chocolate pastry cream:
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1.5 oz egg yolks (2-3)
3 T butter
6 oz dark chocolate, chopped
for the souffles:
chocolate pastry cream, recipe above
4 egg yolks
5 egg whites
1/4 cup + 1 T sugar
To make the creme anglaise:
Heat milk and cream in a medium saucepan until simmering at the edges (between 180-190 degrees). Add the beets, remove from heat, and cover with a lid. Let steep for 30 minutes and then strain out beets.
After the milk is strained, return to heat and bring back to a simmer.
In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar to make a paste.
When the milk is hot, pour some of it (about half) into the egg mixture, whisking continually. Pour the egg mixture back into the milk and return to heat. Heat, stirring continually, until thickened and sauce coats the back of a spoon. You don’t want this to boil, but you want it get up to about 180 degrees.
Strain through a mesh strainer and stir in vanilla extract. Set aside.
To make the pastry cream:
Heat milk and cream in a medium saucepan until simmering.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and flour. Add the eggs and egg yolks and whisk to form a paste.
When the milk is simmering, add about half of it to the egg mixture, whisking continually. Pour the egg mixture back into the rest of the milk and return to the heat. Cook, stirring continually, until boiling and thickened.
Pour pastry cream through a mesh strainer.
Add butter and chocolate and whisk until smooth and combined. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly to the surface of the pastry cream and let sit at until room temperature.
To make the souffles:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 8 6-oz ramekins with butter (all the way up the sides) and sprinkle with sugar.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Start mixing on low speed and, once frothy, increase speed to medium. When the whites start to get foamy, sprinkle in sugar and increase to high speed. Whip until medium-stiff peaks form.
Add egg yolks to the chocolate pastry cream and whisk until smooth.
Fold meringue into pastry cream mixture in three batches.
Divide batter into prepared ramekins and bake for 20 minutes. Do not open the oven door!
Remove from oven and immediately use a spoon or a knife to poke a hole in the center of each souffle. Pour creme anglaise into the middle of the souffle and serve warm.