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.