With its deep chocolaty flavor and airy texture that practically melts in the mouth, a chocolate soufflé is a spectacular triumph.
But it’s also notoriously ephemeral.
For the best results, the batter must be prepared right before it goes in the oven and the soufflé rushed to the table before it can collapse. No wonder cooks shy away from making this dessert for a high-stakes dinner.
What if I told you there’s a way to make a chocolate soufflé up to a month ahead, so all you need to do is pop the dessert in the oven just before serving?
Discover how we engineered a recipe that does just that; plus, it’s baked in individual ramekins that make the dessert feel all the more like a special, festive treat.
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The 5 Keys to Individual Make-Ahead Chocolate Soufflés
We decided from the get-go to portion the soufflé into 1-cup ramekins, which make for a more elegant eating experience than soufflé spooned onto a plate. And besides being make-ahead, we wanted the dessert to embody all the qualities we consider essential in this beloved classic: intense chocolate flavor, a flat (versus domed) top, an airy outer layer, and a gooey molten center. Here’s how we got there.
1. Make a base from egg yolks.
Every souffle needs a “base”—the mixture that gives substance and flavor to the loft provided by the whipped egg whites. We found the usual béchamel base, made from butter, flour, and milk, muted chocolate flavor. For a base that allowed chocolaty flavor to shine, we used egg yolks whipped with sugar.
2. Whip a hot sugar syrup into the yolks.
Instead of using dry sugar, we made a syrup with the sugar and a little water and then whipped the boiling mixture into the yolks.
The hot liquid precooked the yolks, denaturing their proteins and allowing them to create a foam that held more air. Why was this important?
Baking the batter in ramekins made it cook evenly from edge to edge, instead of leaving us with the loose center we were seeking. (In a full-size soufflé, the greater amount of surface area means the outside cooks through faster than the middle, so a molten center is easier to achieve.) Since air is an insulator, more of it in the batter slowed the heat transfer to the center, preventing it from setting as quickly as the edges.
3. Whip the egg whites with sugar.
Another trick to bring more volume to the batter was to whip the egg whites with confectioner’s sugar. This enabled them to sequester more water, making the egg structure even more solid and allowing it to hold more air.
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4. Freeze the batter until firm.
Freezing the batter immediately after filling the ramekins preserved all the air we had so carefully folded into it.
5. Bake the frozen soufflés at a higher temperature for less time.
Increasing the temperature to 400 degrees, instead of the 375-degree oven we used for a single large (unfrozen) soufflé, set the soufflé tops before they could dome. Reducing the baking time dramatically, from 25 minutes for a full-size soufflé to 16 minutes for the mini desserts, ensured this higher temp also didn’t make the soufflés burn.
With these make-ahead mini chocolate soufflés, you’ve got a carefree showstopper dessert you're sure to return to again and again.