Fallen Chocolate Souffle with Armagnac Prunes
Yes, it's really true – this soufflé is supposed to puff like a normal one, but then it is removed from the oven and allowed slowly to subside into a lovely, dark, squidgy chocolate dessert.
It is served slightly chilled with a prune and crème fraîche sauce. The only problem I can foresee with this recipe is that someone will write and tell me that their soufflé wouldn't sink! Let me pre-empt that by saying, don't worry I'm sure it will taste just as good. This also works superbly with prunes in amaretto or port, so use whichever flavour you like best. The prunes soaked in Armagnac and served with crème fraîche make an extremely good dessert in their own right.
Also, the soufflé and sauce freeze very well for up to a month.
The prunes need to be soaked overnight, so simply place them in a saucepan with ½ pint (275 ml) of water, bring them up to simmering point and let them simmer very gently for 30 minutes.
After that pour the prunes and their cooking liquid into a bowl and stir in the Armagnac while they're still warm. Leave to cool, then cover the bowl with clingfilm and chill in the refrigerator overnight. To make the soufflé, preheat the oven to gas mark 3, 325°F (170°C). Meanwhile, break the chocolate into squares and place them, together with the butter, in a bowl fitted over a saucepan containing some barely simmering water (the bowl must not touch the water). Leave it for a few moments to melt, then stir until you have a smooth, glossy mixture. Now remove the bowl from the heat, add the Armagnac and leave to cool.
Next take a large roomy bowl and combine the egg yolks and caster sugar in it. Then whisk them together for about 5 or 6 minutes, using an electric hand whisk – when you lift up the whisk and the mixture drops off making ribbon-like trails, it's ready.
Now count out 18 of the soaked prunes, cut each one in half and combine the halves with the whisked egg mixture along with the melted chocolate.
Next you'll need to wash the whisk thoroughly with hot soapy water to remove all the grease, and dry it well.In another bowl whisk up the egg whites till they form soft peaks. After that, fold them carefully into the chocolate mixture. Spoon this mixture into the prepared tin and bake the soufflé in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes or until the centre feels springy to the touch. Allow the soufflé to cool in the tin (it's great fun watching it fall very slowly). You can also watch all about whisking egg whites in our Cookery School Video on the right.
When it's quite cold, remove it from the tin, peel off the paper, then cover and chill for several hours (or it can be made 2 or 3 days ahead if more convenient).
Serve the soufflé dusted with icing sugar and cut into small slices (it's very rich)To make the sauce, simply liquidise the remaining prunes together with their liquid, place the purée in the serving bowl and lightly stir in the crème fraîche to give a slightly marbled effect.
Hand the sauce round separately.
You will also need an 8 inch (20 cm) round loose-based cake tin, greased and with a non-stick base liner.