#293 Mrs Beeton’s Chocolate Soufflé

I’ve cooked quite a few – and eaten quite a few – soufflés in my time, but this is my first sweet one. It comes from the great Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, or to give its full title, The Book of Household Management Comprising information for the Mistress, Housekeeper, Cook, Kitchen-Maid, Butler, Footman, Coachman, Valet, Upper and Under House-Maids, Lady’s-Maid, Maid-of-all-Work, Laundry-Maid, Nurse and Nurse-Maid, Monthly Wet and Sick Nurses, etc. etc.—also Sanitary, Medical, & Legal Memoranda: with a History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all Things Connected with Home Life and Comfort. Those Victorians do go on, don’t they? The book is actually a collection of articles that she published in The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine between 1859 and 1861, and although she conjures up imaginations of austerity and matronliness, she actually died at the rather young age of 46 of tuberculosis, or consumption as the Victorians called it, and her great masterwork was published when she was just thirty years of age.

I’ve been putting off doing the sweet soufflés not because I don’t like the idea of them, but because I like to make desserts in advance and soufflés require a certain amount of time and concentration before baking immediately – not something I have the inclination to attempt after cooking a main meal (and perhaps polishing off a few glasses of wine). However, I thought that it was about time I tackled one, and it turns out that it is quite straight-forward, and although the whisking of egg whites and folding them into the chocolate mixture does need to be done at the last minute, much can be prepared in advance.
Preheat your oven to 190°C (375°F) and butter a cake tin (I used a 6″ one), so you can pop the soufflé straight into the oven. Separate four eggs, place the whites in a large bowl, and beat into the yolks 3 heaped teaspoons of caster sugar, a heaped teaspoon flour and 3 ounces of good quality grated dark chocolate. Now whisk the egg whites to the stiff-peak stage, remove a spoonful of egg white and mix it into the chocolate mixture to ‘slacken’ it. This makes it easier to fold the rest of mixture into the egg whites without losing the air. It is also worth mentioning that using a metal spoon to fold in your egg whites also helps to reduce loss of air. Pour the mix into the buttered cake tin, scatter a little more caster sugar and bake for 20 minutes. Mrs Beeton says to pin a napkin around the tin and bring it to the table straight away before it falls. Serve with pouring cream.

#293 Mrs Beeton’s Chocolate Soufflé. This was a very good soufflé. It wasn’t very sweet, which really showed off the bitter chocolate taste. In fact is tasted just like a whipped up mug of cocoa. The chilled cream – which Americans don’t seem to use on their desserts – in combination with the hot soufflé, really set it off. The only problem was that 20 minutes was a little too long; the centre of the soufflé wasn’t soft, as I like it to be, so it’ll be 15 minutes in the future. That’s my only gripe though. 7.5/10.

#120 Mr Frost’s Chocolate Cake

This one is a piece of piss to make and comes from a chap who owns (or, I presume owned now, as this book is quite old) a restaurant in Cirencester. Griggers likes it as it’s a nice classy version of chocolate cornflake or Rice Krispie cakes (though try my Mum’s recipe).

For this you need chocolate (plain or dark or a mixture), butter, nuts (any type – I used almonds and hazelnuts which are essential, you could use walnuts but peanuts are “right out”) and digestive biscuits. Weight out equal amounts of chocolate, butter and digestives and half the total weight of nuts. Roast the nuts for about 25 minutes in a low oven and remove any skins by rubbing them with a cloth, then chop roughly. Melt the butter and chocolate over a low heat. Keep an eye on them whilst you chop up the biscuits into small squares – don’t worry if there’s loads of crumbs, this is a good thing. Once the chocolate and butter have melted, mix in the nuts and biscuits. Pour into a lined tin so that it’s about a finger thick and cool in the fridge. Cut the cake into squares or fingers and keep cool.

#120 Mr Frost’s Chocolate Cake – 6/10. Good old Mr Frost. The Grigson was right in that this is much better than crappy old cornflake cakes. It could’ve been improved with a few sultanas, but the good thing about this is that you can add whatever you fancy – crystallised ginger would be good, or marshmallows maybe.

Rice Krispie Cake

Everyone has a favorite recipe for Rice Krispie cake and it’s usually their Mum’s. But when people try my Mum’s they soon see the error of their ways. My Mum used to own her own bakery many years ago before I was even thought of and this the RKC she sold. It has to be the best one. I dare anyone to better it: the secret ingredient is… Mars bars! Although I did try it with Snickers and it worked quite well. Either way, it must be eaten with a cup of tea.

I will try and give amounts because I do it all by eye; use your judgement.

You will need:
2 Mars bars, chopped up
2 tbs golden syrup
1 1/2 to 2 ounces (45-60g) butter (though my Mum always uses margarine)
Rice Krispies
milk chocolate

What to do:

  1. Melt the Mars bars, golden syrup and butter slowly in a saucepan, stirring often. Don’t let it burn!
  2. Pour the melted mixture into a large bowl containing the Rice Krispies. Add more cereal if you need to; the mixture is very rich so a thin covering is all that is required, but you should do it to your own taste.
  3. Spread the mixture out into a Swiss roll tin that has been lined in greaseproof paper or foil. Flatten it our neatly with a spatula or palette knife.
  4. Melt the milk chocolate over simmering water or on a medium heat in the microwave and spread thinly over the top of the RKC mixture.
  5. Allow to cool (if possible) and cut into squares.

Christmas Dinner, numbers 21, 22

I planned to do alot more than I actually did for the Christmas dinner. It did all go down a treat though. However, only two Grigsons were done. Most of the recipes for the meal were taken from the brilliant Leiths Vegetarian Bible that I bought Greg a couple of years back; I would recommend everyone to buy it whether a vegetarian or not. This was the menu:

Starter: Mushroom pate

Main: Nut roast, (#21) Buttered Parsnips, Brussels Sprouts, Roast Potatoes, Minty Peas, Mustard Gravy

Pud: (#22) Little Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary

Parsnips need butter’ says the Grigson. And so right she is. Buttered parsnips is a way to make roast parsnips without roasting them it seems. Boil your parsnips until nearly cooked, drain, and then saute them slowly in butter. They go all nice and golden and chewy. Yumbo! Add some parsley and salt and pepper and you’re done.

The Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary were a strange affair; dissolve 8 ounces of sugar in 8 fluid ounces of dry white wine and lemon juice, add a pint of cream and simmer until it thickens. Now add either a stem of fresh or a teaspoon of dried rosemary (I used dried as they’d run out of fresh at the shop) and 5 1/2 ounces of grated dark chocolate. Simmer for 20 minutes until nice and thick. Pass through a sieve and pour into ramekins to set. All pretty easy. sprinkle with some slivered almonds. The Grigson did warn that it was a very rich dessert, and she was not wrong! Greg and I managed to eat half of one each!
#21: Buttered Parsnips.7.5/10 – A great way to eat parsnips, but are they better the roast!? I don’t think so!

#22: Little Pots of Chocolate with Rosemary Cream. 4.5/10. The combination of rosemary-infused chocolate works very well indeed. But the vast amounts of wine and sugar made far too rich even for me!

#8 Chocolate Pie

The first Grigson for a bit. Although it’s no excuse I’ve been rather busy doing a PhD. I did the pie for dessert at Greg’s auntie’s. It was great to be baking again. My mum used to be a baker and me and my brother spent many an afternoon when we were little ‘helping’ mum make crumbles, turnovers and all sorts of stuff. As a grown-up, I find it extremely relaxing and therapeutic doing some baking as it takes me right back to those times. Anyway, enough of this schmaltz…

#7 Chocolate pie – a crust make from ground almonds, sugar and egg white blind-baked in the oven; an eighteenth century recipe apparently. Fill it with a ganache – nineteenth century recipe – top with sweetened whipped cream laced with rum. If I wasn’t following the recipes exactly, I would have missed out the rum – I’m not a fan of spirits in sweets. I’m glad I did though – I used dark rum (she didn’t say which type to use) and it was absolutely gorgeous! It was the richest dessert I think I’ve ever had. I’m writing this 4 days after making and eating it and I still feel pleasantly nauseous. My tastes are obviously changing; think I’ll put alcohol in everything. Gin and apple crumble or sambuca trifle anyone!?

Here’s what Greg says:
Chocolate pie chocolate pie! This is the best thing he’s made so far hands down. Dark chocolate, cream, booze, icing sugar sugar, almonds, it’s all your favourite things in one giant ganache of nauseating lurve. Despite what the book says about eat within one hour, we had some the next day and it had settled into a firmer lush cheesecake-like texture and was divine so don’t feel duty-bound to wolf the whole thing at once, not hat you could, it’s VERY rich. Sounds fairly easy to make but looks so impressive. Pics to follow. Yummmm. 5/5.

#8 Chocolate Pie: 4.5/5 – it’s got all the essential ingredients: crispy, nutty crust, loads of chocolate and a pint of cream. The best chocolate dessert I’ve had for ages – and that includes restaurants!