Whip up a chocolate soufflé perfect for Valentine’s Day

Anything goes when buying Valentine’s Day treats for one’s sweetheart. But if one unofficial rule governs the giving of treats on Valentine’s Day, it’s that chocolate should be involved. Men and women who want to surprise their significant others with a homemade chocolate treat this Valentine’s Day can try the following recipe for Chilled Chocolate Soufflé with Lots of Ginger, courtesy of Lori Longbotham’s Luscious Creamy Desserts(Chronicle Books).

Chilled Chocolate Soufflé with Lots of Ginger Serves 4 to 6 1/2 cup water 1 1/4-ounce envelope plain gelatin 1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 2 tablespoons brandy 6 large eggs, separated 3/4 cup sugar Pinch of salt 3 large egg whites 1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger 1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Step 1: Wrap a long, folded strip of heavy-duty aluminum foil or parchment paper around a 5-cup soufflé dish to form a collar that extends about 3 inches above the rim of the dish, and secure it with tape or string. Lightly oil the dish and the inside of the foil. Refrigerate the dish until ready to use. Step 2: Pour 1Ú4 cup of the water into a small bowl and sprinkle with the gelatin. Let stand for 10 minutes, or until softened.

Step 3: Place the bowl with the gelatin in a larger bowl of hot water and stir until the gelatin has dissolved and the liquid is clear.

Step 4: Melt the chocolate and butter with the cocoa in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of about 11/2 inches of barely simmering water, whisking occasionally until smooth. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and whisk in the remaining 1/4 cup water and the brandy.

Step 5: With a handheld electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the egg yolks, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the salt in a large, deep heatproof bowl until well combined. Set the bowl over the saucepan of barely simmering water and beat for 15 minutes, or until the mixture is very thick and pale. Beat in the chocolate mixture just until combined. Remove the bowl from the heat, add the gelatin mixture, and beat until the mixture cools to room temperature.

Step 6: With clean beaters, on medium speed, beat the egg whites in a large, deep clean bowl until the whites form soft peaks when the beaters are lifted. Increase the heat to medium-high and sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat until the whites form stiff peaks. Beat in the ginger.

Step 7: With clean beaters, beat the heavy cream and vanilla on high speed in a medium bowl just until the cream forms stiff peaks.

Step 8: Place the bowl of egg yolk mixture in a larger bowl of ice water and whisk just until it begins to thicken and set. With a whisk, gently fold in the whipped cream, and then the egg whites. Pour into the soufflé dish and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until thoroughly chilled and set, for up to 24 hours.

Step 9: To serve, remove the collar from the soufflé. Present the soufflé at the table, and spoon onto the dessert plates.