Historic Recipe: Apple Fool (1944)

Source: Puddings & Sweets, Ministry of Food War Cookery Leaflet 13 (1944)

A couple of my university friends came to visit the week before last. After wrestling with the fact that we’d known each for 20 years, we had a lovely couple of days jaunting around Edinburgh and its environs, including a trip to somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a long time, Scotland’s Secret Bunker. Located just outside St Andrews, this massive nuclear bunker was built in 1951. It was manned for many years and would have been the centre of command in Scotland in the event of a nuclear attack. It is huge and fascinating and I have a lot of thoughts about the patchy interpretation, but I’ll save those for another time. Suffice to say, it is worth a visit alone for the great bacon butties served in the underground bunker canteen.

The gift shop is also an experience and that is where I picked up this reproduction two-page leaflet on making sweet treats under severe rationing conditions. As the leaflet notes, “Puddings may be rather a problem these days because fat and sugar are rationed and not much of either is left after we have buttered our bread and sugared our tea. However, with care you will probably be able to spare sufficient of these ingredients to make some of the wartime recipes given in this leaflet.” This explains everything you need to know for the below to make some sort of sense…

½ lb cooked mashed potato
1lb grated raw apple
1 tablespoon powdered milk
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon lemon substitute
A few drops of cochineal

Mix all ingredients together and beat well till creamy. Serve in individual glasses.
N.B. – The cochineal may be omitted but in this case the fool turns brown

The recipe was easy enough to follow, although I did half it to avoid wastage. The only thing that tripped me up was the ‘lemon substitute’, which after some intense googling, I’m still not quite sure what this meant for a 1940s housewife. I used lemon essence as that seemed to provide the appropriate chemical substitution for real lemon juice, but I’m open to input if anyone knows more about this than I do?

I beat the ingredients for quite some time and it didn’t really get what I would call creamy. Instead, I ended up with a pale pinkish lumpy goo in a glass. I had real trouble making this look presentable in a photo. I can only imagine what it would have looked like if I had omitted the cochineal and it had turned brown as suggested in that rather sinister last sentence.

There’s a lot going on in this one, and you can taste it all. The first thing you notice is a hint of synthetic lemon mixed with the sweetness of apple, this is followed by an aftertaste (and weirdly, an after-texture) of mashed potato. There is also a very slight grittiness, I assume from the milk powder? There are strong mashed potato chocolate truffle vibes with this one, but worse. The recipe didn’t recommend it, but I tried chilling the fool and it did improve it marginally, but not enough to make it remotely palatable.

Suggested alterations: Just nope

Final verdict: So many flavours, so little time


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