Delia Smith's Winter Collection
FEBRUARY 11 2012


Here I am again, for the third time in my life (and all within the last month) watching a bowlful of butter and dark chocolate slowly melt into glossy swirls. I'm watching and worrying to myself that I will miss the moment when the egg whites are peaking softly and will accidentally whip them to death. And how will I know when the egg yolks are ribboning perfectly?!? I just know I'm gonna screw this all up.

chocolate and butter become one

And I still can't quite convince myself there is really any point to making this stupid souffle which I don't even want to eat. I am going to a party, so hopefully someone there will be in the mood for a shot of sugar straight into their veins.

I will admit to having cheated a little in regards to the prunes. I am actually using leftover prunes that I pureed and froze from the Frankies red wine prune dessert (gasp!). I know, I know, they aren't even soaked in Armagnac like Delia wants, but I'm already using a generic brandy we have in the liquor cabinet anyway so I don't think it really matters. I did stir a little brandy into them to make up for it.

So, since the prunes are all ready to go, I can focus on those eggs. First the yolks: whip them with the sugar until they make "ribbon-like trails". I keep checking and checking and... ooohhh, I think it happened!

ribboning egg yolks

stirring yolks into chocolate... what a beautiful marbled pattern!

Once the yolks are thoroughly mixed with the chocolate and prunes, I turn my attention to the whites. I obsessively check them every 2 seconds as they whip, but finally am happy that they have gentle, soft, loving peaks, which hold their shape, but not too aggressively.

softly peaking egg whites

Now, although I have never made a souffle before, I do know the key is to gently, every so gently, fold in the whipped whites. The goal is to maintain as much of the trapped air as possible which makes the souffle light and fluffy. Since I will be intentionally letting this one fall, I don't worry about it too much, but try and practice for future souffles (of which there are more to come).

folding in the egg whites

Finally into the oven for 30 minutes and it's done. I'm a little disappointed it's not towering over the sides of the springform pan, puffed up to extreme heights. But, it does look nice and settles into a rich, dense cake.

Served with a prune & crème fraîche sauce, this is just about the most intense dessert I have ever eaten. So sticky and dense... one bite is plenty. And, at the end of the day, I conveniently abandon the remaining squares at the party to be enjoyed by someone else. Yessss!

So now, I have dutifully worked my way through three of the five or so chocolate-heavy desserts. I feel that I have learned what I wanted to learn and lack the desire to make the oh-so-outdated Return to Black Forest (chocolate cake rolled around a whipped cream and cherry filling, topped with chocolate curls) or the too-intense-to-even-imagine Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake with Fruit and Nuts (and more chocolate curls). Therefore, unless the mood strikes me sometime in the next six months, I am not going to make these recipes. It is a waste of my time, and even more importantly, many bars of chocolate that could find a much more loving home with someone else. And I don't even feel bad about it...


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.

Serves 6 - 8

8 oz dark chocolate (75% cocoa solids)
4 oz unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Armagnac
4 large eggs, separated
4 oz caster sugar
A little sifted icing sugar for dusting

For the Armagnac prunes:
12 oz Californian pitted ready-to-eat prunes
5 fl oz Armagnac

For the prune and crème fraîche sauce:
5 fl oz crème fraîche


The prunes need to be soaked overnight, so simply place them in a saucepan with ½ pint 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 325°F. 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).

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.

This recipe is taken from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection.

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