Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Warm Chocolate Soufflé with Pistachio Crème Anglaise

No doubt about it, soufflés get a bad rap. They are generally regarded as fussy, temperamental and prone to failure, and home cooks avoid them like the plague. Most people wouldn’t dream of

 making them for, say, an intimate dinner party for eight. In my mind, though, they are the ultimate dinner party dessert, for the following reasons:

            ͻThey can made up a day in advance (up to the point of baking).
            ͻThey are very easy to prepare.
            ͻThey are served in their own ramekins, so no slicing or spooning out is required.
            ͻTheir presentation is dramatic, and is bound to elicit lots of ‘wows’.
            ͻAlmost everyone loves them.

Since dark chocolate and pistachio is a favorite flavor combo of mine, I opted to make a warm chocolate soufflé served with a pistachio custard sauce. The cold sauce is served alongside the

 soufflé, and poured into its center at serving. The key to a successful soufflé is serving it straight out of the oven – dawdling to admiring your work is not recommended. Once served, the rich, warm center of the soufflé melds with the cold, fragrant sauce, creating an unforgettable texture and flavor. Make sure to use a high-quality chocolate here, as there’s quite a bit of it in this recipe. 

Warm Chocolate Souffles with Pistachio Custard Sauce

Makes 6 servings

Pistachio Crème Anglaise:
1 cup (tk g) shelled pistachios
1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
1/4 cup (1.7 oz/50 g) granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks

Chocolate Soufflés:
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used a 68% chocolate), chopped
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 large egg yolks
Pinch of salt
6 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Make the crème Anglaise:
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the shelled pistachios on a baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Let cool completely. Transfer the pistachios to a food processor and grind to a fine powder.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk with the cream and pistachios and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from the heat and let stand to infuse for 30 minutes.
3. Strain the pistachio cream through a fine sieve into another medium saucepan. Add the sugar and salt. Whisk in the egg yolks and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes. Do not let the custard boil, or it will curdle.
4. Pour the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium stainless steel bowl. Set the bowl containing the sauce into a large mixing bowl filled one-third of the way with ice water (be careful that the water doesn’t splash into the sauce). Stir the sauce frequently until it is slightly chilled, about 15 minutes. Cover the bowl of sauce and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make the soufflés:
5. Butter the bottom and sides of six 6-ounce ramekins; sprinkle with sugar, tilting cups to coat completely and tapping out any excess. Arrange prepared soufflé dishes on large baking sheet.
6. Combine chocolate and cream in large metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove bowl from over water. Stir egg yolks and salt into chocolate mixture. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating until semi-firm peaks form. Using rubber spatula, fold 1/3 of beaten egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten. Fold remaining egg whites into chocolate mixture in 2 additions. Divide chocolate mixture among prepared ramekins, filling dishes completely. At this point you can refrigerate the unbaked soufflés for up to 24 hours before baking.
7. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Bake soufflés on baking sheet until puffed and tops feel firm, about 16 minutes if at room temperature and about 18 minutes if chilled.