Why It Works
- A dark chocolate ganache, deepened with the addition of unsweetened chocolate, makes a simple base that bakes up into a moist, not dry, soufflé.
- The significant quantity of cocoa powder produces a soufflé base that’s stable enough to last overnight in the refrigerator before baking.
Chocolate soufflé has stood the test of time as a go-to for chocolate lovers everywhere. Light, airy, and served à la minute, this dramatic dessert, gluten-free and delightfully rich, rises up out of its ramekin in the oven and must be delivered promptly to the diner before it begins to shrink back into itself. While many soufflés are served with a sauce poured inside, this one stays moist enough on the inside that it's not entirely necessary. Crème anglaise, though, would make a great optional garnish for pouring into a small hole made in the center.
Unlike some sweet soufflés, this version doesn’t use pastry cream as its base. Instead, a deep chocolate ganache—made with three types of chocolate—produces a stable base with a pronounced and well-rounded chocolate flavor.
Making a successful soufflé is not nearly as difficult as it sounds, but it does require doing a few things properly. They include:
- Liberally buttering and sugaring your ramekins. This includes the inner base and walls, all the way up to the top rim. First, slather the butter all over the inner surfaces, up to and including the top edge of each ramekin, then thoroughly coat the insides with sugar. This will ensure the soufflés rise up without any snags or cracks.
- Making sure the bowl holding the ganache does not touch the simmering water below; success with the ganache hinges on it not getting too hot.
- Not being shy about fully incorporating the egg whites. Thoroughly stirring in a quarter of the beaten egg whites first lightens the soufflé mixture and prepares it for the rest, which must be gently folded in until there are no visible whites left. Note that any pockets of unincorporated egg whites will rise more rapidly than the surrounding batter and cause cracking. So take your time and make sure all of the egg whites are completely incorporated.
This recipe was adapted from one of many featured in the curriculum of the French Culinary Institute.
- For the Ramekins:
- Softened unsalted butter, for greasing the ramekins (approximately 3 tablespoons)
- Granulated sugar, for coating ramekins (approximately 3 tablespoons)
- For the Soufflés:
- 2 1/2 ounces (about 1/4 cup; 70g) heavy cream and/or whole milk
- 1 3/4 ounces 68-71% dark chocolate, chopped (about 1/3 cup; 50g)
- 1 3/4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped (about 1/3 cup; 50g)
- 1 3/4 ounces (1/2 cup; 50g) Dutch process cocoa powder
- 3 1/2 ounces (scant 1/2 cup; 100g) water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Whites from 8 large eggs, straight from the fridge (8 3/4 ounces; 250g)
- 3 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup; 100g) granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume
Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C) with the convection fan turned off and oven rack in center position. Liberally butter the interiors of eight 4-ounce ramekins, making sure to butter right up to the upper edge of the rim of each ramekin. Sugar the buttered insides evenly, tapping out excess, and set ramekins aside.
Place 2 1/2 cups water in a 3-quart sauce pan on the stove over medium heat. In a large, heat-proof bowl that will sit comfortably on the pot without toppling over or touching the water below, combine cream and/or milk, dark chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate. Whisk gently until chocolate is melted, cream and/or milk are fully incorporated, and a smooth ganache has formed.
Turn off heat, then carefully whisk in cocoa powder, water, and vanilla extract until smooth. Leave bowl atop pot of hot water, off the heat, to keep the ganache warm.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on high speed until they become foamy, about 20 seconds. Reduce mixer speed to medium and gradually add sugar and salt, then return to high speed and whisk the egg white mixture until firm, glossy, smooth peaks form, about 2 minutes.
Using a silicone spatula, stir about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate ganache until thoroughly incorporated, to lighten it. Then gently but thoroughly fold in the remaining egg whites, taking care not to deflate the mixture, until no visible whites remain. As soon as there are no more unincorporated whites, spoon soufflé mixture into prepared ramekins just to the top, then even the tops with an offset spatula. (You may prepare soufflés up to this point, and bake later; see note.)
Evenly space ramekins on a rimmed half-sheet tray and bake in the center of the oven for 12 minutes for soufflés that are wet on the inside, or 13 to 14 minutes for ones that are drier. The soufflés will have risen tall above the rims of the ramekins and look dry on top. Serve immediately.
To achieve the ideal level of richness, we prefer an equal mix of heavy cream and whole milk, but the recipe will work with one or the other (the richness will subtly vary accordingly).
Make-Ahead and Storage
If you choose to prepare the soufflés in advance: After filling each prepared ramekin with the soufflé mixture, wrap each ramekin with plastic and refrigerate for up to one day. When ready, preheat the oven and bake the soufflés, straight from the fridge, for 15 minutes, then serve immediately.