When I read on Anita’s blog that this month’s Sugar High Friday theme is Spices, I immediately knew I wanted to make a cardamom dessert. Cardamom is an underutilized spice in my kitchen–I love the flavor, but I rarely make desserts that can showcase its unique, exotic flavor. I considering pairing it with fruit like pears or plums, but in the end I returned to my one true love: chocolate. But not just plain chocolate, of course.
I made deep, dark chocolate souffles with a hint of spice from cayenne pepper, and served them with silky smooth, vanilla-specked cardamom creme anglaise.
The former teacher’s pet in me wants to point out that that’s two spices, and four major flavors, going on in one small souffle cup. But don’t worry–everybody plays nicely together. The chile isn’t overwhelming, just a mild burn in the back of the throat that appears as the bittersweet chocolate melts from the tongue. The heat is cooled by the fragrant vanilla and cardamom creme anglaise, which is just sweet enough to balance the dark chocolate, but not too cloying.
A note on cardamom: If you’ve only ever baked with cardamom powder, I encourage you to track down some green cardamom pods and experiment with the real thing. (And if you’ve never baked with cardamom at all, what are you waiting for?! Go! Shoo! It’s like if cinnamon, vanilla, and chinese five spice powder had a baby! You won’t regret it.) The flavor that comes from steeping the cream with the crushed pods is unlike anything you can get from a dry powder. It pairs wonderfully well with chocolate, fruit, nuts, and vanilla.
But back to the dessert. I know what you’re thinking: souffles and creme anglaise. Sounds fancypants, so it’s probably one of those dishes that takes a million years and ends up being underwhelming, right? Absolutely not! I think souffles have gotten a bad rap as being “difficult,” when they’re really not much different from making a mousse or chiffon cake. This particular souffle is made from a cooked chocolate base that can be prepared a day or two ahead of time, so when you’re ready for dessert, you simply whip your whites, fold them in, and pop these babies in the oven.
Of course, the souffles do start to deflate soon after they leave the toasty oven (and I could spend plenty of time whining about how hard it is to photograph them in the magic 2-minute window before they’re sad shells of their former puffy glory…) but that’s part of their beauty. Few things can compare with a souffle warm from the oven, with a crackling top that is pierced to expose a moist, mousse-like interior, the whole thing drenched with a pool of warm spiced creme anglaise.
Ready to begin your own souffle experiments? Recipes and more pics after the jump! And if you’re craving spiced desserts now, the Sugar High Friday deadline isn’t until next Monday, so you have the whole weekend to go crazy with the spice cupboard.
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4-1/2 tsp (to taste) cayenne powder
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg yolks
5 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
Place chocolate and butter in medium bowl. Whisk 1/4 cup sugar, flour, cayenne powder, and cocoa powder in small bowl. Bring milk and vanilla to boil in heavy small saucepan. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into sugar mixture to blend. Return mixture to same saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat until thick paste forms, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. Scrape mixture into bowl with chocolate and butter; stir until chocolate is melted (mixture may look curdled). Add egg yolks and whisk until mixture looks shiny and creamy. (Soufflé base can be prepared 1 day ahead. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface and refrigerate. Bring soufflé base to room temperature before continuing.)
Butter eight 3/4-cup soufflé dishes or custard cups; dust with sugar. Using electric mixer, beat egg whites until frothy. With mixer running, gradually add 3 tablespoons sugar, then salt; beat just until soft peaks form. Fold 1/3 of whites into soufflé base until well combined. Gently fold in remaining egg whites just to blend (some white streaks may remain). Divide batter among prepared dishes. Place dishes on rimmed baking sheet. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake soufflés until puffed above rim of dish, tops are flat, and edges are set, about 12 minutes. Serve immediately with Cardamom Crème Anglaise.
Yield: 2 cups
2 tablespoons whole green cardamom pods, crushed
1 cup whole milk
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/4 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 large egg yolks
Place cardamom pods with seeds in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until pods brown, about 5 minutes. Add milk, cream, and 1/4 cup sugar. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into pan; add bean. Bring mixture to boil. Whisk egg yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in hot milk mixture. Return mixture to same saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes (do not boil). Cover and chill until cold, about 3 hours. Strain into medium pitcher. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)