Historic Recipe: Chocolate Souffle (1954)

Source: The Art of Home Cooking, Stork Margarine Cookery Service (1954)

I found this gem on my parents’ cookbook shelf – it’s so gloriously 1950s, from the cartoon illustrations to the over-tinted photographs. It also has a number of recipes that contain gelatine. Obviously I decided to try one.

But before we get on to that, what was the post-war obsession with gelatine and how did it come about? During the 1950s (and 60s) encasing pretty much anything from salads to meat to desserts in gelatine or aspic became hugely fashionable and this was very much a reflection of the wider changes going on in the post-war household.

Gelatine-based food was, by no means, a new concept having been in existence since the Medieval period. It was, however, very time-consuming to make – animal bones had to be boiled to extract the collagen and then the jelly needed to be clarified, meaning that it was predominantly eaten by the wealthiest families. This changed at the very end of the nineteenth century when instant gelatine was invented. Moving into the twentieth century, this was swiftly adopted by the middle classes to create meals formerly only available to the upper echelons of society. Gelatine dishes, particularly salads, remained popular throughout the 20s, 30s and 40s.

In the 1950s convenience products such as tinned and frozen foods became widely available and hugely popular, they hinted at the future and were part of a wider obsession with domestic technology and labour-saving. Gelatine dishes fitted perfectly into this aesthetic and gelatine (or jelly) brands were promoted through a range of mediums in the new bright advertising styles of the period. Brands also began to produce cookbooks (this one is a Stork Margarine production) but particularly in America a huge number of books and recipes containing gelatine were created by the Jell-o company. Alongside this was an increasing emphasis on the presentation of food and gelatine also allowed the creation of interesting and colourful dishes.

Recipe:

Have ready a glass dish or five individual dishes. Take 2 eggs and separate the yolks carefully from the whites. Beat the yolks slightly in a basin. Dissolve 4 heaped tablespoons sugar and 6 rounded tablespoons drinking or grated chocolate in ¼ pint and 5 tablespoons milk. Then bring to the boil, pour over the beaten egg yolks, stirring all the time. Return to the saucepan and stir over a low heat until the mixture thickens slightly. Do not allow to boil. Remove from the heat. Dissolve 3 level dessertspoons gelatine in 5 dessertspoons water over a low heat, stirring all the time. Do not allow to boil. Strain and stir into the egg mixture. Stir in ¼ pint cream or evaporated milk. Beat the egg whites very stiffly, whisk the soufflé mixture lightly, then fold in the egg whites. Pour into the soufflé dish or divide equally between the five individual dishes. Leave until set. Decorate with whipped or Mock Cream.

This was a pretty easy one to follow apart from trying to work out the difference between ‘heaped’ and ‘rounded’ and navigating the weirdly specific measurements. Also HOW much gelatine? That’s like twice the recommended amount for this volume of liquid.

I didn’t have any suitable moulds, so I used round tapas dishes and that seemed to work and in case you’re wondering Mock Cream is milk mixed with cornflour, I stuck to the real stuff.

Lets start with the fact that this is definitely not a souffle, not just that but even masses of whipped cream and blueberries did not redeem it. In any way. It was too dense to be jelly, sort of slimy and didn’t really taste of chocolate at all.

Suggested alterations: I don’t see how you could make this any better, other than by not making it, of course.

Final verdict: Kind of icky in a whole range of ways

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