In this recipe, we return to one of our most beloved ingredients, chocolate. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like chocolate. Some people I know aren’t mad about it, but I don’t know a single living soul who actually dislikes the stuff. What an amazing ingredient it is. We have the Aztecs to thank for discovering the delightful properties of the cacao plant – one of those many culinary discoveries I’m amazed someone actually first got round to, a bit like the bravery of the first person ever to look at an oyster and think “Mmm! That looks lovely!” We owe a great debt of gratitude to the first person to take a cocoa bean apart and start nibbling…
So, to our chocolate recipe. We’re going to make chocolate soup-soufflé, a little cracker of a pudding, and laughably simple to make. It can also be prepared in advance, and then chilled until needed. At times it’s a real relief to be able to simply whip the cling-film off something and whack it in the oven, especially when you get results like this. This is my interpretation of a dessert by the fantastic chef Pierre Gagnaire, whose restaurant in Paris is often rated in the world’s top 5, and whose Sketch restaurant in London is the height of culinary decadence. It’s a fantastic, quivering bowlful of fluffy, liquid hot chocolate, with a slightly risen ‘crust’ of soufflé-esque top. And the extra is the added scoop of clean and fresh-tasting ice-cream, melting slowly, providing both textural and temperature contrasts. It’s one of those dishes that looks desperately complicated and time-consuming, yet it’s as simple as it gets. The quintessential dinner-party pud. You don’t even have to bother with the parfait – your favourite ice-cream will do just as well. It might be worth pointing out at this early stage that you’ll need some serving dishes that can bear to sit in the oven for a bit.
Chocolate Soup – Soufflé
400ml double cream
200 g bitter chocolate (at least 70%), chopped
A tiny pinch of Maldon salt
6 egg whites
6 tablespoons unrefined golden caster sugar
Gently warm the cream with the salt, and when almost boiling, remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Whisk until perfectly smooth. Allow this mixture to set and cool completely. At this stage you can refrigerate the chocolate cream for up to 48 hours.
To prepare the soup-soufflé, you should beat the chocolate mixture on its own initially, in order to loosen it and make it easier to incorporate the egg whites. Whisk the egg whites to a very soft peak, then add the sugar and whisk for a few seconds more, until a shiny soft peak forms. For each portion, you will need about 3 tablespoons of chocolate mixture folded with about four tablespoons of egg white. It’s not necessary to fold as gingerly as one might with, say, a sponge mixture. Pour about 3/4 of the way up your serving bowls.
To finish, heat the oven to Gas 7, 220ºC, 425ºF, and bake the puddings on a low shelf, until the top of the ‘soup’ rises slightly and begins to crack a little. This takes about 10-15 minutes. The soup should have a wonderful ‘Jayne Mansfield’ wobble to it when you jiggle the bowl.
Serve immediately with ice-cream or a little chilled pouring cream.
You can also, as I’ve done in the picture, pop a soft poached pear into the soup just before baking, for a more fancy dinner party dessert.