Whenever I imagine an intimate, candlelit dinner for two, there are certain foods that are always on the menu, like lobster, oysters, decadent dark chocolate and a fluffy, ethereal soufflé – especially the soufflé. To me, a soufflé is the ultimate indulgence, reserved for only the most special occasions. Maybe because it’s French, and I find all things French impossibly romantic and luxurious. There’s a certain mystique about the soufflé. It has the reputation of being temperamental, unpredictable and a tad capricious. There’s no doubt about it. The soufflé is a diva. And, divas often get away with their bad behavior because they are brilliant and adored.
Until today, I’d always worshipped the soufflé from afar. Too fickle for me! I like a sure thing, and a chocolate cake has never let me down. But there comes a time when you have to face your fears and this was my time. After all, didn’t I overcome my aversion to dough? And, what about when I stared my terror of deep frying right in the eye and kicked its butt? I even survived two Yule Logs and lived to tell about it. If I could do all that, I figured one poufy, phoofy, Valentine’s Day soufflé couldn’t take me down.
Once I made the decision to go for it, I then had to decide what kind of soufflé to make. Chocolate was the obvious choice, but If I wanted Mr. SGCC to even taste it, that wasn’t going to work. I looked at a lot of different recipes and I finally settled on Daniel Boulud’s version of Passion Fruit Soufflé. What could be more perfect for Valentine’s Day than a passion fruit dessert?
Boulud pairs his soufflé with a caramelized pear sauce, which honestly, sounds fantastic. But, I really wanted to find a way to work some chocolate into the dish. Even though Mr. SGCC doesn’t like chocolate, I still do, and it wouldn’t be a Valentine’s Day dessert to me without it. So, we struck a happy compromise and I made David Lebovitz’s luscious bittersweet chocolate sauce to drizzle on top.
Surprisingly, the process of making the soufflé was not nearly as difficult as I expected it to be. I whipped some egg whites and sugar into oblivion, and then gently folded them into a mix of egg yolks and passion fruit puree. Then, I plopped the resulting mixture into small soufflé dishes and popped them into the oven. To help things along, I made the sign of the cross and prayed like hell that they would rise!
Boulud suggests piping the soufflé mixture into the dishes using a pastry bag. Don’t do it! That stuff is way too thin and fragile. I lost almost a whole cup of it as it oozed out of my pastry bag and all over my kitchen counter! I make these mistakes so you don’t have to. Do yourself a favor and use a spoon.
I’m pleased as punch to report that my little soufflés turned out perfectly. They were brown and crusty on top and soft and pillowy inside. And, they rose up like they had wings! I was so excited that I did a little happy dance all the way to my photo set-up.
I’d read that you have to move quickly when trying to photograph soufflés. There is a very short window of time before they start to fall. That’s an understatement! My soufflés began to sink before I could even get them in front of the camera. You can see the various height differences in the photos. Forget food styling! I was frantically snapping shots like a madwoman! And, still they fell!
Sinking soufflés aside, I am so glad that I took the plunge and made these. First, because I proved to myself that I could do it. I will never fear the diva of desserts again! And second, because they tasted as divine as they looked! And, I have to give an extra shout out to David for his fabulous chocolate sauce. He calls it his little black dress of sauces because it goes with everything and never fails to impress. He is so right! That sauce took about five minutes to prepare and was just amazing. Plus, it didn’t have a drop of butter or cream in it.
Please, please, please don’t be afraid to try these soufflés for yourself. If I can do it, so can you. And just think how special your sweethearts will feel when they see what a masterpiece you created just for them!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Passion Fruit Soufflé
adapted from Daniel Boulud
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup passion fruit purée
3/4 cup egg whites (about 4 large), at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Generously butter the inside and rims of four 6-ounce soufflé dishes. Dust the insides and rims with sugar, making sure that they are thoroughly coated. Tap out the excess sugar and put the dishes on a baking sheet.
Whisk together the egg yolks and passion fruit purée in a large bowl until well blended. Set aside.
Put the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-low speed just until foamy. Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the sugar, beating until the whites form glossy medium-stiff peaks. Using a large rubber spatula and a light touch, fold the meringue into the yolk mixture in three additions until well incorporated but not overmixed.
Spoon the mixture into the soufflé dishes up to their rims. Run your thumb along the outside edge of the dishes to remove any excess butter and sugar. Bake the soufflés for 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. If you touch the tops of the soufflés, they should be firm with centers that are still a bit jiggly.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar, drizzle with chocolate sauce and serve immediately.
Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce
adapted from David Lebovitz
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Whisk together the water, sugar, corn syrup and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Once boiling, remove from heat and stir in the chopped chocolate until melted. Let stand for an hour or two before serving to give sauce time to thicken.
Store the chocolate sauce in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. Rewarm before serving.
Makes about 2 1/2 cups.