Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Recipe: Angel Food Cake

It's been a long time in the making.

I've been wanting to make and angel food cake for a while now, but I haven't had the guts until just recently. I saw a Good Eats episode on the topic. Alton Brown gave some great tips and insight, and made it look easy enough, but I was put off from the task when a friend told me about her trouble with his recipe.

I found a recipe in Alice Waters' "The Art of Simple Food," which is actually very similar to Alton Brown's, so I tried it. Brown suggests using superfine sugar (aka caster or baker's sugar) in order to sift per the recipe, which can be purchased or made by blitzing the sugar for a couple of minutes in your food processor. As for the egg whites, I made an effort to store egg whites every time had an extra one (e.g., after yolk-only recipes). When I made the cake, I had only accumulated 9 whites, but the liquid volume came to 1.5 cups (the amount required for the Waters' recipe), so I didn't add more. The cake didn't seem to suffer as a result...just ask my husband ;-)

Keep in mind that the right pan is essential. The cake will not rise as well with a non-stick (or buttered) pan because it needs to climb the sides of the pan. I had a hard time finding a simple angel food cake pan with legs, but I finally found one at Joanne Fabric & Craft stores. Since then, I've also seen them at Smart & Final at a great price.

And remember...no egg yolks = less guilt. As long as you don't eat half the cake in one sitting :-)

Angel Food Cake
from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Tall, airy angel food cake is lovely just plain, but I usually serve it with summer fruit compote and whipped cream. Day-old angel food cake is delicious sliced thin and toasted.

10 servings

1 cup cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 12 egg whites), at room temperature
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon orange flower water or rose water
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Sift together the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, and salt.

In a medium bowl or in a stand mixer with the whip attachment, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Whisk in the water, lemon juice, cream of tartar, and rose water. Keep whisking until the foam is very soft, holds a slight shape, and has increased 4 to 5 times in volume. Whisk in the final 3/4 cup of sugar. Continue whisking until thye mixture forms glossy, soft peaks. The mixture should not be stiff or dry. Transfer to a large bowl. Sift a fine layer of the dry ingredients over the whites, and fold them in with a rubber spatula, gently and quickly. Continue sifting and folding until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Pour the batter into an ungreased 10- by 4-inch tube pan with a removable bottom. Smooth on top. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. When done the cake should spring back when touched gently. Invert the pan to keep the cake from sticking or deflating. (If the cake pan has legs, turn it over onto them, otherwise invert the tube pan onto the neck of a large bottle.) Cool completely.

To remove the cake from the pan, run a knife around the inside of the pan and around the center tube. Gently push up the bottom, using the knife to help guide the cake out, if necessary. Use a sharp serrated knife into water between cuts to help keep the cake from sticking.