The holidays are coming, and soufflés are a high-impact but still relatively simple dessert to make when entertaining.
A soufflé is an egg-heavy baked dessert that relies on beaten egg whites - or rather the air held within them - for oomph. Soufflés will rise when baked and fall shortly after they leave the oven. They get a bad rap for being temperamental - which they can be - but when I made my first one a few years ago, I found out that I had built up the experience of making soufflés into something more intimidating than it actually is.
The recipe that changed all of this for me is one of my favorite dessert recipes of all time. It's a simple, four-ingredient recipe from Gourmet (February 2002) for a "Chocolate Soufflé" calling on Valrhona chocolate for star power.
In fact, it's even stripped of milk, which is usually added to soufflé recipes. The editors remark that without the milk, the result has a slightly crisper, airier texture.
More recently, I've been wondering how I'd ever make my way through the bottle of Bermuda Black Rum in my fridge and started to think of ways to bake with it. I fell back on the chocolate soufflé recipe for inspiration.
At first, I thought about using eggnog in the soufflé, what with the holidays and all - eggnog is basically eggs and booze in liquid form, and if baked, not a far leap from a soufflé. But somehow eggnog seemed wrong baked. I like that stuff to coat my gullet, and besides, a lot of people hate eggnog.
Back to the drawing board with eggs and rum. Rum is distilled from sugarcane, so I tinkered with burnt sugar as an ingredient. I liked the idea of caramel flavors from the burnt sugar working with the rum to bring personality to the soufflé, instead of relying on chocolate for flavor. I substituted a neutral white chocolate (actually not chocolate at all, but cocoa butter, usually with some added sugar and milk). Finally, I top the hot soufflé with vanilla bean whipped cream for added pop. (Plus I save my leftover vanilla-bean whipped cream for topping my coffee and hot chocolate.)
The recipe below does call for more ingredients and a few more steps than the Gourmet recipe, but it's still easy peasy. If you can separate eggs and operate an electric mixer, you'll do just fine.
Burnt Sugar Rum Soufflés
I used Gosling's Bermuda Black Rum; however, any dark rum or spirits will do. Bourbon would also go nicely with the vanilla flavors in this dessert. The original recipe uses sugar as a stabilizer for the egg whites, but you could use a little cream of tartar instead.
- 2/3 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for coating ramekins plus 2 tablespoons for egg whites
- 1/2 cup dark rum
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 5 ounces white chocolate
- 3 egg yolks, room temperature
- 6 egg whites, room temperature
- pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter 4 6-ounce ramekins and dust with sugar.
In a small saucepan, melt 2/3 cup sugar until it turns the color of caramel. Carefully add 1 tablespoon butter, then rum and vanilla - mixture will bubble. Mix well.
Transfer contents to a medium-size, heat-safe mixing bowl (such as Pyrex) and keep warm over a hot-water bath. Add white chocolate and stir with a rubber spatula until melted; mixture will be pasty.
Remove from heat and beat in egg yolks until mixture is the consistency of chunky natural peanut butter. (Don't worry about beating smooth the burnt sugar lumps - those will fall to the bottom of the soufflé and create a lovely gooey foundation.)
In a separate mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt and sugar until soft peaks form. Gently fold egg whites into burnt sugar mixture; the air bubbles in the egg whites are what will make your soufflé rise properly.
Spoon batter into four ramekins and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve immediately, with vanilla bean whipped cream if desired.
Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
Because the accompanying soufflé is fairly sweet, I like the sugar barely there in this whipped cream, but of course feel free to increase the sugar to taste.
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 vanilla bean pod
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon dark rum
In a large bowl, combine heavy whipping cream, sugar, rum and vanilla bean pod contents (scraped from pod; discard pod). Beat until soft peaks form. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.