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James Close: Restaurant quality dessert from your kitchen on Valentine's Day

James Close, Michelin Starred Chef at The Raby Hunt Restaurant in Darlington gives a step by step guide to a Chocolate Souffle

Chocolate souffle by James Close
Chocolate souffle by James Close

Being the only Michelin starred chef in the North East has its advantages, but for my long suffering partner Charlotte it has its downfalls too.

While some might see Valentine’s day as a day for romancing and showing your partner just how much they mean to you, for me its the busiest day of the year, and my ever so understanding partner has to make do with a belated card and a face that says sorry I’ve missed it again.

So if, like mine, your significant other reminds you that every year we end up spending Valentine’s at home, here is a quick and super impressive recipe to bring restaurant standard food into your kitchen.

There’s an undeniable wow-factor when a soufflé, puffed up like a robin’s breast, emerges from the oven. There’s also a deep terror that such a beautiful creation will fall, sinking into the ramekin that was (probably) purchased just for this occasion. But this particular occasion is worth a hundred ramekins if you succeed. Your partner will love you all the more after sinking a spoon into this springy soufflé, uncovering the mousse-like centre.

Then, she (or he) will forget all about those slippers you bought last year as a “present.” And yeah, as of right now, he (or she) still remembers. They always remember!

Every Valentine’s Day, the question comes up again: wine is romantic, and chocolate is romantic, but is it romantic to enjoy these two things together? Does wine go with chocolate? And if so, what kind of wine?

I’ve had a quick word with Craig, our restaurant manager to help me marry the two together. When it comes to wine Craig knows his stuff.

He says: “Make it a sweet wine. That is the key. Dry is out for this one. Vintage-style port is a tried and true classic, but think Italy and France for a number of interesting, less costly and less high-alcohol options. From a sweet sparkler like France’s unique Cerdon du Bugey rosé or Italy’s Moscato d’Asti to more robust reds like the French Banyuls from the rocky Roussillon coast or the Italian Recioto di Valpolicella - essentially a sweet version of Amarone.

If pushed to pick one I would go for Banyuls Rimage ‘Les Clos de Paulilles’ Château de Jau 2011. You can buy this online at www.aduv.co.uk . I’m almost certain I’ve also seen Banyuls-type wine in my local supermarket.”

If you need any further ideas or want to ask me any questions you can tweet me @therabyhunt – where I will be more than happy to help with any advice you need – but for now I’d better go and buy some ramekins.

Chocolate Soufflé with Nougat cream

Servings: Makes 8 Individual soufflés


For the Soufflés

12 ounces high-quality milk chocolate (such as Lindt, Perugina, or Valrhona), chopped

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

2 large egg yolks

Pinch of salt

6 large egg whites, room temperature

2 tablespoons sugar

For the Nougat Cream

1 large egg white, room temperature

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1/3 cup chilled heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon amaretto or other almond liqueur

1/4 cup whole almonds, toasted, chopped

Special Equipment

8 3/4-cup soufflé dishes



Butter eight 3/4-cup soufflé dishes; sprinkle with sugar, tilting cups to coat completely and tapping out any excess. Arrange prepared soufflé dishes on large baking sheet.

Combine chocolate and cream in large metal bowl. Set the bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove bowl from over the water. Stir the egg yolks and salt into the chocolate mixture.

Using electric mixer, beat egg whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add two tablespoons of sugar, beating until semi-firm peaks form.

Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/4 of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten. Fold the remaining egg whites into chocolate mixture in two stages. Divide chocolate mixture among the prepared soufflé dishes, filling dishes completely.

(Can be made two days ahead. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled.)

Nougat Whip

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg white in medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add honey, beating until soft peaks form, for about three minutes.

Combine cream and amaretto in another medium bowl and beat until thick and soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream mixture and almonds into the meringue. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and chill.)

Position rack in centre of oven and preheat to 220°C. Bake soufflés on baking sheet until puffed and tops feel firm, about 16 minutes if at room temperature and about 18 minutes if chilled.

Serve soufflés immediately, passing nougat whip alongside.


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