Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Blessing the new year...with angel food

Back in class last night and teaching the section on cakes, I found that my brain had taken a vacation too and had not returned to work as I had... but we managed to make three cakes of which most turned out very good. We made angel food cake, devils food cake (yes on purpose!) and the traditional carrot cake.
The cake to present the most problems was the angel food...
Several years ago, I attended a meeting of the Bakers Dozen in San Francisco and the invitation stated we all must make this recipe (on the invite) of angels food cake and bring it to the meeting where we would taste and discuss the differences and what made them different. 45 people made the same recipe and we had 45 completely different cakes on the table! I think that most recipes will come out differently when different chefs put their flair to them but baking is more of an exact science and I would expect at least a bit of commonality...but NO!
What I learned here was that angel food cake can be one of the finickiest cakes there is to make. It may be the simplest in ingredients (flour, sugar, egg whites basically) but the most complicated when it comes to how you incorporate those ingredients.
First, be sure your egg whites, bowl and whip are clean, clean, clean to get the maximum volume.
Second, they are best whipped at room temperature so I crack my mine the night before and leave them out overnight, don't worry the dangerous part is in the yolk with all the fat that can spoil.
Third, you must have a good deep angel pan or loaf pan with straight sides not a bread pan and NEVER grease the pan or use non stick pans... disaster awaits if you do!
Fourth, usually recipes have more sugar than the egg whites can hold into the meringue so divide the sugar in half and sift half with the sugar.
Finally, whip the egg whites to a perfect SUPER SOFT peak... in other words no peak at all but enough whip to have a bit of structure. I look for the peak to fall onto itself without leaving a just lays over and holds but doesn't actually peak. Then fold your dry ingredients and any flavorings you will use into the soft meringue. Bake it at a lower temperature 325F for about 50 minutes to one hour. Turn the cake upside down immediately after taking out of the oven.
Then for the difficult part... let it cool completely before carefully running a small sharp knife around the edge to loosen the nicely caramelized crust from the edge of the pan and it should fall out like a light soft brown pillow... mmmmm.....serve with cream and fresh fruit or cooked fruit compote.


Zip n Tizzy said...

You have just revealed to me the explanation to my angel food disaster - the non stick pan!
I will try again.

Alison said...

Angel food cake is probably my least favorite cake! But, I've made a few and they are tricky! Your tips are great! I am a huge Alton Brown fan and he had a great episode on these cakes!