Big hit.  Big Big hit.  Sooo delicious.  Pure chocolate, pure happiness.  Rob ate one, and said – you know, I could easily eat the whole tray and I mean it.  Sylvie, Andy and Greg all said so good mom…so so good.  I gobbled mine up fast – as if someone was trying to steal it from me.  Greg and Andy’s friends were over – Connor said, “did I just eat that, or did I die and go to heaven?”  He sure knows how to compliment me (maybe he just wants to keep the treats coming.)  Matt was also verrrry happy and loved the freshly whipped cream that went with it.  I decided to make these on the fly on Saturday afternoon.  I had all the ingredients in the house and I bet you do too!  (Maybe?)  Rob and I thought we’d go out and catch up – but suddenly we had 5 extra boys and at that point it just didn’t seem like a good idea.  Rob seemed so sad, I think he was looking forward to a yummy meal (since he splurges a bit on Saturday nights) and here we were ordering in.  In addition to all that, this was my last meal because I had to fast (liquids) on Sunday for my upcoming colonoscopy on Monday so I too really wanted a good treat that would last me 24 hours.  I scanned my books and found this delicious and fairly simple recipe from Alice Medrich’s book, Bittersweet.  Sylvie jumped right in, enjoying prepping the ramekins (buttering and sugaring) while I got the ingredients together.  Not too much work here – just whipping up egg whites which I guess is the only part that some may find intimidating – but it isn’t.  The best thing about these is that you can make them up to two days in advance (store in the fridge) – and bake them on the day you plan to serve which is such a treat for a dinner party.  Make these and enjoy!

Please use the BEST chocolate you can possibly find and afford as this dessert will showcase that chocolate.  Alice Medrich uses 70% bittersweet chocolate.  I used half 70% bittersweet chocolate and half 62% semisweet – as I was not certain that the kids would like it if it was too bitter.  Up to you – and you know your guests.  If you only have semisweet chocolate and would like it richer in chocolate flavor then you can reduce the sugar to 1/4 cup if desired as well.

This recipe calls for eight 6 oz. ramekins.  I used that size but also added 2 larger ramekins and with added baking time they worked just as well.

I doubled the following recipe.

bittersweet chocolate souffles (from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet with the addition of a speck of salt):

about 2 – 3 tablespoons sugar for ramekins
little melted butter for ramekins
8 ounces bittersweet 70% chocolate, finely chopped (or as mentioned above a sweeter chocolate if preferred)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup milk (this worked with the skim I had in the house but if you have whole, go for it)
3 large eggs, separated, at room temp
plus one large egg white, room temp (I forgot this!  So my rise wasn’t great…but yours will be!)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 skant teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sugar

If you are baking the soufflés immediately, then preheat the oven to 375 degrees and place the rack in the lower third of the oven.

Melt a little butter and with a pasty brush or paper towel, cover the entire ramekin, including the top lip.  Place some sugar on top of the butter and rotate the ramekin around so that the sugar sticks to all of the butter.  As you rotate, pour the extra sugar into the next ramekin and begin again.

Place the chocolate, butter and milk in a medium sized metal bowl and place over a pot of barely simmering water (water shouldn’t touch the bowl). (Or use a double boiler.)   Gently melt and remove the chocolate from the water bath once smooth.  Add the egg yolks and mix well.  (Batter might seem oddly stiff at this point, don’t worry.)

With the whisk attachment and on medium speed (or hand held beaters) beat the egg whites (remember to add the 4th white) with the cream of tarter and salt until soft peaks form (so eggs have a form, but they don’t really hold their shape.)  Then gradually pour in the 1/3 cup sugar and then mix at high speed until the whites get nice and stiff but don’t look dry.

Fold about a fourth of the egg whites into the chocolate/egg mixture to lighten it a bit.  Then fold in the remaining whites carefully – and try to incorporate with out over mixing.

Fill each ramekin 3 quarters full.  ** The soufflés can be prepared up to this point, and placed covered, and refrigerated for up to 2 days – then bake directly from the fridge.

Place the soufflés on a baking sheet and place in the oven.  Now this is the most important part…as you don’t want them too soft and don’t want them to dry out.

Bake until they rise and crack on top.  A wooden skewer or toothpick should come out with moist and gooey but not liquidy.  This will likely take 14-16 minutes but you really need to watch them as all ovens vary.  Oh, and if you refrigerated them, they might take a minute or two longer.

To make the whipped cream, place all ingredients into the mixer and whip on medium high speed until it holds a soft shape.  Please don’t buy whipped cream.  Really, this makes a huge difference!

Serve immediately from oven with a little powdered sugar and a dollop of whipped cream.  Yum!

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