Chocolate Peppermint Soufflés

IMG_0824There is no culinary experience as sensual – as sinfully decadent – as dipping a spoon into a warm chocolate souffle and raising it to your lips. I’ll admit my body betrayed me, and I went back for more.

For a spectacular and satisfying finish to your holiday meal, make a warm Chocolate Peppermint Soufflé for each guest. The top is encrusted with sugar and crushed candy cane, and the inside is a heavenly blend of dark chocolate, espresso, and peppermint.

Be prepared to bring the soufflé straight from the oven to the table, because even though this version has a little more density than most, it’s still the nature of the soufflé to deflate quickly. Enjoy them while they are warm and fluffy!

Oh, and you can make them ahead and keep them in the fridge. Just remember to bring them to room temperature before baking.

Chocolate Peppermint Soufflés
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Ingredients
  • 3 candy canes (1/2 oz. each)
  • ⅔ cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (good quality, no chips!)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • ½ teaspoon cornstarch
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup half & half
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature!
  • 4 egg whites, room temperature!
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 F. Place the rack in the lowest position.
  2. Finely crush the candy canes and move to a small bowl. If necessary, sift the crushed candy through a strainer. Larger pieces may be re-crushed or saved for decorating the soufflés.
  3. Add ⅓ cup sugar to the bowl and combine well.
  4. Prepare the ramekins by buttering generously and then adding sugar and candy cane mixture, tipping the ramekin to entirely cover the butter. Pour excess back into the small bowl. Set aside.
  5. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.
  6. In a small pan, whisk the flour, remaining ⅓ cup sugar, espresso powder, cornstarch, and salt together until well blended.
  7. Turn the burner to medium heat and slowly add the half & half, whisking continuously. Continue to cook until it begins to thicken. It can just start to bubble, but don’t allow it to boil.
  8. Pour over the chocolate and let it sit for one minute. Gently stir until it is combined. Let it cool for at least 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  9. Add the vanilla, peppermint extract, and egg yolks. Stir well.
  10. In a medium bowl, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and pinch of salt until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.
  11. Divide between the 4 ramekins. Ideally, the ramekin should be ¾ filled. A little more or less is just fine.
  12. Sprinkle generously with some of the remaining sugar and peppermint mixture. Add a few larger pieces of candy cane if you’d like for more color. Not too many, or it won’t rise properly.
  13. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and put into the oven. Close the oven door and turn the heat down to 375 F.
  14. Bake for about 16-18 minutes. Serve immediately!

 

Folding egg whites into chocolate mixture

Folding egg whites into chocolate mixture

Spoon batter into ramekins

Spoon batter into ramekins

Sprinkle generously with sugar/candy cane

Sprinkle generously with sugar/candy cane

Dig in!

Dig in!

S’mores Soufflé

Eating the toasty marshmallow first!

Eating the toasty marshmallow first!

I’ve been on a soufflé binge lately, which is funny because until a couple of weeks ago I’d never even eaten a soufflé, and had never considered baking one! But for some reason I had my heart set on making them the focus of my monthly “Food for Thought” column in Yummy Northwest, and fell in love. (I was going to add a simple French phrase here, telling you how MUCH I love them, but Google confused me. Je les aime? Je les adore? That is why I took good old no-nonsense Spanish in school!)

Making soufflés was so much easier than I expected, and the best part of experimenting with them is you have to eat them right away!  All of them, because they don’t last long without collapsing. When there are only two people in the household, this means gorging on warm chocolate fluffiness so they don’t go to waste. Yep, I’ve been a complete martyr to the cause. You’re welcome.

My concept of S’mores Soufflés worked perfectly – they turned out great and tasted just the way I imagined them. But…the pictures I took weren’t as cooperative. The chocolate soufflés look like they have an egg baked into them. Please look past this – because that is actually a toasty marshmallow. The great thing about this recipe is, when the marshmallow looks perfectly toasted, the soufflé should be ready too.

But wait, there’s more! These soufflés don’t deflate right away like most of them do. I had two taste testers this time. I dragged invited one of my husband’s friends into the kitchen as a guinea pig and did my usual grab-the-hot ramekins-and-scurry-to-the-table-where-the-plate-and-spoon-were-ready-for-action routine, waiting for the inevitable collapse, and it never happened! Two hours later I checked the remaining ramekins, and the brave little soufflés still held their own – not quite as tall and proud, but still attractive.

For my S’mores Soufflé, I took my recipe for Chocolate Mocha Soufflé (for three yummy soufflé recipes, click on this link: Yummy Northwest) and added crushed graham crackers in the bottom of the ramekin and a marshmallow in the center. I also added a little cornstarch to the hot mixture to stabilize it a bit so the marshmallow wouldn’t just melt into oblivion. Here’s the recipe:

 

S'mores Soufflé
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Makes 8 servings, using 10-ounce ramekins.
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons softened butter
  • 6 double graham crackers, finely crushed
  • 5 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups half & half
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 8 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 8 large marshmallows
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 400 F with rack in the lowest position.
  2. Prepare eight 10-ounce ramekins by buttering them and dusting with crushed graham crackers. Sprinkle enough additional crumbs to thickly cover the bottom of the ramekins. Set aside.
  3. Place the chopped chocolate in a large bowl.
  4. In a medium sauce pan, combine the sugar, flour, espresso powder, cornstarch, and salt.
  5. Turn the burner to medium and slowly add the half & half, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until the mixture thickens and just begins to boil.
  6. Pour the hot mixture over the chopped chocolate in the bowl. Don't stir yet. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes until the chocolate is mostly melted, then stir gently to blend.
  7. Allow mixture to cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the vanilla and the egg yolks, stirring to combine.
  8. In a medium bowl, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. (For best results, make sure your bowl and beaters are very clean.)
  9. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture in 3 parts, gently lifting from the bottom and turning mixture over the egg whites as you turn the bowl with each fold. A few wisps of egg white showing is fine, but don't leave any big blobs or the soufflé will cook unevenly.
  10. Spoon into the prepared dishes, filling approximately ¾ full. Put one large marshmallow in the middle of each ramekin, pressing down until it just touches the bottom.
  11. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and put in the oven.
  12. Immediately turn the temperature down to 375 F. Bake for about 15 minutes. The marshmallows should be a deep golden brown.
  13. Serve immediately!

My only words of wisdom are these:

  • Use squeaky clean utensils, and whip the room temperature egg whites until they’re stiff and a little glossy.
  • Use a light hand when folding the egg whites into the base mixture.
  • Preheat the oven well, and don’t open the oven door while the soufflés are baking.
  • And unless you have a few people ready and waiting to eat them, you might want to fill some of the ramekins, cover them tightly, and put them in the freezer; they can go right into the oven whenever you want a quick dessert!

 

Coating the buttered ramekin with crushed graham crackers.

Coating the buttered ramekin with crushed graham crackers.

Pouring hot mixture over chopped chocolate.

Pouring hot mixture over chopped chocolate.

Whip the egg whites until they stand at attention!

Whip the egg whites until they stand at attention!

Ready to bake.

Ready to bake.

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Don’t let these little delights intimidate you! Once you let a bite of soufflé melt in your mouth, you’ll be a believer. I already have two holiday soufflé ideas spinning around in my head, and you can be sure they’ll demand to be tested this fall.
Until then, bises a tous!