The perfect ... chocolate souffle
The one thing that unites us as a nation at Easter is our boundless appetite for chocolate eggs – we spend £220m a year on the things. If you’re out to impress, however, turn those eggs into a souffle instead: richly flavoured, yet featherlight, it’s the perfect end to an Easter feast and, crucially, far easier to pull off than its fearsome reputation suggests. Not that your guests need to know that … Many sweet souffle recipes start with either a crème pâtissière
(egg custard thickened with flour, favoured by chefs Daniel Clifford, Rowley Leigh and Gordon Ramsay) or a bechamel (a butter-based white sauce, used in Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook), which gives them more substance.
Martha Stewart, Delia Smith and the folk at the US magazine Cook’s Illustrated prefer a flour-free recipe, relying on the thickening power of eggs alone.
The problem, I find, with flourthickened souffles is not that they tend towards the slightly cakey in texture, it’s that the flavour of the chocolate is diluted. The more intense character of the flour-free versions appeals more to the testers, and the simpler recipe to me. Once the chocolate and cocoa are melted together, and the egg yolks beaten with the sugar, combine the two That said, even these don’t deliver quite the chocolate hit I want in a dessert, so I’m going to add a spoonful of cocoa, which will help to boost the flavour without too much extra cocoa-butter weight. Berry, Stewart and Cook’s Illustrated put vanilla essence into their batter, and the last of those adds some Grand Marnier for good measure: feel free to include whatever flavourings you fancy.
Because I’m not adding any extra fat in the form of dairy, my recipe will include as many egg yolks to thicken and enrich the base as egg whites to lighten it – beaten with sugar, they will give extra volume, too.
As I find to my cost, it’s imperative the egg whites are Carefully fold in the whipped egg whites – you want to retain as much air in the mix as possible, so the souffles remain light