Soufflés are the bane of many pastry cooks' lives. Up until I got hold of this recipe from L'Arpège, it was for me, too. This recipe saved me many times. I love it and will testify to its success. Dusting the ramekin with grated chocolate instead of sugar gives extra flavour without unnecessary sweetness. You'll need to begin this recipe a day ahead. - Alistair Wise
- 200 gm pitted prunes (see note)
- 200 ml Armagnac
- For greasing: melted butter
- For dusting: finely grated dark chocolate (about 30gm)
- 14 eggwhites
- 120 gm caster sugar
- To serve: vanilla bean ice-cream
- 60 gm plain flour
- 90 gm caster sugar
- 45 gm butter, softened
- 350 ml milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 3 egg yolks
- 1Combine prunes and Armagnac in a bowl and stand overnight. Drain prunes (discarding excess liquid), then pulse in a food processor until a fine paste forms (makes 240gm).
- 2Meanwhile, for soufflé base, combine flour and 70gm sugar in a bowl, then rub in butter with fingers until fine crumbs form, and set aside. Combine milk, remaining sugar and vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan, bring to the boil over medium heat, whisk in flour mixture and stir continuously until mixture is thick and flour is cooked out (5-7 minutes). Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, whisk in egg yolks and cool.
- 3Preheat oven to 180C. Brush the sides of ten 1 cup-capacity ramekins with butter, refrigerate until firm and repeat, dust with grated chocolate, shaking off excess and set aside. Place 400gm soufflé base (there will be a little left over) in a heatproof bowl over gently simmering water until warmed (2-3 minutes), add 200gm prune mixture (there will be a little left over) and beat until smooth. Whisk eggwhites in an electric mixer until soft peaks form, then gradually add sugar and whisk until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of eggwhites into prune mixture to lighten, then fold through remaining eggwhites. Divide among ramekins and smooth tops with a small palette knife. Clean excess mixture from rim of ramekins and bake until risen and golden (8-10 minutes). Serve immediately with vanilla bean ice-cream.
Note Use the best prunes you can find. Look for the very moist ones. Alistair uses prunes d'Agen, a professional pâtisserie product.