Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chocolate Soufflé Cupcakes

I believe in all things in moderation.  Chocolate is great, but I don't want to be overwhelmed by it.  Sweet is nice, but I like a little bitter.  Crumbly can be comforting, but moist is good too.  These fluffy chocolate soufflé cupcakes with crackly tops and moist interiors are the Goldilocks of desserts.

If you look at the recipe, it is essentially a baked chocolate mousse.  Now who could say no to that?  The cupcake is moist and chocolate-y, like a flourless chocolate cake, but it also puffs up in the oven and rises like a soufflé.  This recipe basically combines the best of all our favorite chocolate desserts.  It is to die for.

The coffee notes complement the darkness of the chocolate perfectly and the little dark cloud of sweetness is delicious when paired with some raspberries or slice of Bartlett pear.  I baked this with rum marinated plums tucked inside and the acidity and tartness of the plums and the warm earthiness of the rum was just what was called for on a chilly fall day.

And when storing these, if you refrigerate them and then come back to them later when they are chilled, they truly do melt-in-your-mouth.  These cupcakes are rich, complex, and  intensely satisfying.  They don't take all that long to make and they are bound to impress any company, so if you need to fix a chocolate craving, here is the Goldilocks of the chocolate world.  These chocolate soufflé cupcakes are just right.

Chocolate Soufflé Cupcakes
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons (86 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
heaping 1/4 tsp instant espresso or coffee powder
3 large eggs, separated
6 tbsp (97 g) sugar, divided in half
1/4 tsp salt
Optional: 3 plums, 1 tbsp sugar, and about 1/4 cup rum

Do ahead of time: Wash and slice the plums into quarters.  Halve these to get chunks of eights.  Combine the sugar, rum, and plums in a small plastic containers and refrigerate.  Allow to "marinate" overnight.  (note: This can also be done with firm, tart apples or pears)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a standard-size cupcake baking pan with 12 paper liners.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt the butter in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Add the chocolate and espresso powder and microwave for two to three 30 second intervals, stirring well between each interval until everything is fully melted and smooth.  At no point should the chocolate get so hot that it steams/bubbles up and is too hot to touch.
Cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally.

Using a hand mixer (better than a stand mixer, since the volumes are so small) beat the 3 egg yolks and 3 tablespoons sugar in medium bowl until mixture is very thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Briefly beat lukewarm chocolate mixture into the yolk mixture.

Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another medium bowl until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and all of the salt, beating until medium-firm peaks form.

Fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. Divide batter among prepared cups, filling each one-half of the way.  Add a couple pieces of plum.  Then fill the cup up to three-fourths of the way.

Bake cakes until tops are puffed and dry to the touch, about 15 minutes. Turn off your oven and leave the cupcakes in for another 5 minutes.

Remove the cupcake pan and cool on a cooling rack, where the cupcakes will almost immediately start to fall.

Before baking

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