We’re not big fans of the classic frosted cake. There’s nothing wrong with it — none of us dislikes cake, exactly; it’s just not our go-to dessert for special occasions. Therefore, Tom and I had a wedding brownie, a lovely tower of fudgy brownies drizzled with white and dark chocolate and accented with chocolate-covered strawberries. It was, as you can imagine, deliciously different.
We often go the brownie route for birthdays as well. But my favorite choice for birthday celebrations, the one I made for my own birthday a few days ago? Individual chocolate soufflés.
They have such an air of extravagance: that lofty crown, deep brown with a hint of gloss; the texture, simultaneously airy and rich; and that decadent aroma that fills the house with the promise of chocolate.
But the secret reality of these soufflés is that they’re simply and quickly made with a very few ingredients. In fact, they actually qualify as healthy (for a dessert, anyway). The only fat is in the chocolate, there’s very little sugar, and the egg whites provide protein.
I used 8-ounce ramekins, but anything from 4 oz. to 10 oz. will work as long as the bowl has straight sides. It’s important to prepare the ramekins so the batter has a surface to cling to. Butter every speck of the interior of the dish, then dump in a tablespoon or so of granulated sugar. Turn the bowl around so that sugar clings to all the butter. Pour any extra sugar into the next ramekin.
I’ve also made them in hollowed-out oranges, which is very pretty, although the soufflés don’t rise as much in them. The soufflés are even better with a scant teaspoon of grated orange zest stirred into the melted chocolate, or a heaping tablespoon of crushed peppermint candy.
Serve them straight out of the oven. Like most soufflés, they’ll fall if left too long. We like them with a few orange segments on the side, or with a spoonful of our favorite ice cream nestled in the center, or with a big dollop of whipped cream on the side, or with a few gingersnaps to dip in… you get the idea.
Individual Chocolate Soufflés
about 1 tbs. soft butter, for the dishes
2 oz. excellent quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/2 tbs. excellent quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup water
3 egg whites
2 1/2 tbs. sugar, plus more for the bowls
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Smear the insides of 4 ramekins with the butter. Pour a few tablespoons of sugar into one of the ramekins. Tip the ramekin, rotating it, to coat the entire inside with sugar. Pour the excess sugar into another ramekin. Continue with all the ramekins until they’re all well coated with butter and sugar.
Put the chocolate in a small microwave-save bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Give it a good stir. Continue microwaving at 30-second intervals, stirring in between, just until the chocolate is completely melted. Stir until smooth, then stir in the cocoa powder, then the water. Set aside to cool slightly. (If you’re adding zest or peppermint, do it now.)
In a separate medium bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add about a tablespoon of the sugar. Continue beating and adding the sugar until the whites reach stiff peaks.
Stir a large dollop (about 1/3 cup) of the whites into the melted chocolate mixture until well combined. Pour the chocolate onto the remaining whites. Fold gently just until combined.
Put the prepared ramekins on a cookie sheet. Divide the batter equally among the ramekins. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the soufflés are puffed and only have a slight jiggle. Serve immediately.