Chocolate souffles are three simple dishes in one: Creme patisserie, chocolate ganache and meringue. Souffles lend themselves well to ratio-baking. The standard custard ratio is 1 egg per cup of liquid, but it isn't a fixed rule; you need a rich, high-protein custard for a souffle base. The basic ganache ratio is equal parts chocolate and cream, and a basic meringue consists of 1 tablespoon of sugar for every egg white.
Prepping the Souffle Cups
Use straight-sided souffle cups, buttered liberally, to enjoy an airy rise. You can sprinkle cocoa powder, finely shaved chocolate or sugar over the butter; they all help the souffle rise while adding richness and contrast to the souffle's exterior. Brush room-temperature, or tempered, butter over the interiors of the cups and chill them in the freezer for a few minutes to set. Brush the interiors a second time with tempered butter and lightly sprinkle sugar or cocoa powder over them. Chill the cups in the refrigerator while you make the creme patisserie.
Building the Base
Dessert souffles use creme patisserie, or French pastry creme, as their base. Creme patisserie uses starch as its thickener and stabilizer, giving the egg whites something to stand on during baking. For each souffle, you need 1/2 cup of milk, 2 tablespoons of flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 whole egg, 1 egg white and 1/8 cup of heavy cream. Mix the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Bring the milk and cream to a simmer and mix it into the dry ingredients.
Basic chocolate ganache, perhaps the simplest of pastry ratios, comprises equal parts cream and chocolate. For a heavy ganache, you need 2 parts chocolate and 1 part cream, and for a light ganache, you need 1 part chocolate and 2 parts cream. Use a basic or light chocolate ganache for souffles. For a basic ganache, heat 1/2 cup of heavy cream for each souffle on the stove over medium-low heat for several minutes and take it off the stove. Vigorously stir in an equal amount of finely chopped chocolate until smooth and lump-free.
Meringue and Assembly
Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and turn the light on while you make the meringue and bring the souffle together. Whip 6 egg whites and 6 tablespoons of sugar for each souffle until stiff peaks form. Combine the ganache and creme patisserie until it has a uniform consistency. Gently fold the egg whites into the souffle base 2 tablespoons at a time. Don't dissipate the fluffy egg whites by mixing them too much; a few streaks of egg whites in the souffle batter won't hurt anything.
Baking the Souffles
Set the buttered cups in a deep baking dish. Add enough boiling water to reach about halfway up the cups. Spoon the souffle batter into the cups until they're 3/4 full; wipe the rims if chocolate dripped on them. Bake the souffles until they rise 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the rims of the cups, or about 30 minutes. Don't open the oven during baking.
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