Eggs-treme Cooking Part I: Angel Food Cake

23 Apr

Dear PvPF Sisters of Mercy,

Please kindly save me from my own tendencies toward self-destruction via blind ambition.

Faithfully Yours,

Emma

A is for Angel


Soooo.  I’m pretty good at back-bending.  I’ve always been pretty naturally flexible, but I swear that’s my only physical ability.  Everything else I pretty much suck at.  One day in a yoga workshop my teacher asked me to demonstrate a simple back bend for the class.  I sprang from my belly into Locust pose, and everyone oo’ed and ah’ed, as my teacher explained the connection between physical posture and personality.  He said that my natural back-bending ability indicated that I am a person with high ambition.  Wha?!?   I’m not sure how a person who sleeps upwards of 1o-11 hours per night and feels accomplished if she leaves the house can be considered ambitious.  Regardless, I may be overly modest in this case–as I now prepare to describe my incredible feat of recently devouring 12 whole eggs in a single bound of deliciousness.

My mom’s birthday was last month, and I was determined to make her an Angel Food Cake from scratch.  Last summer, in attempt to utilize egg whites left over from making ice cream, I stood in her kitchen for 3 hours, watching the whites slosh frothily in the mixing bowl.  Nothing happened.  I wasted a dozen eggs and a box of cake flour before finally giving up.  Angel Food Cake was just not going to happen.   Eventually I got over it–but when mama’s birthday rolled around, I couldn’t help but desire success in this most holy of realms: to produce, from scratch, the very favoritest dessert of your most loveable mother, on her birthday. (Zoe, maybe you can relate in your quest for a perfect strawberry cake?  …Try Yummy’s!)

In preparation for “the test” (which from here on out is how I will refer to my attempt at making an Angel Food Cake from scratch–because, let’s face it, if I don’t succeed at this I am going to feel like a failure at life), I did a lot of research on Angel Food Cake Theory: Use cold eggs–no, use room-temperature eggs!  Use fresh eggs–no, use eggs that are at least 3 days old!  Personally, when I am faced with this kind of bombardment of conflicting views, I default to a sort of amalgamation of them all combined.  In the end, I used store-bought eggs (i.e., not “fresh), and let them warm to room temperature before I used them.

Like my fellow PvPF bloggers, I am a person lacking some basic kitchen tools.  I recently became the owner of a clearance-rack hand mixer, but I fail to own a mixing bowl that is not plastic.  In the case of “the test”, a metal or glass mixing bowl was a must (this is not a point contested among Angel Food Cake Experts).  Thus, a secret mission to my mom’s better-equipped kitchen was at hand.  I tactfully discerned when she might be away from home during the day, as to ensure my project would remain confidential.

At the helm of her KitchenAid, I began my test (for your reference, I used the Joy of Cooking recipe for Angel Food Cake as my proctor).  I felt like I was performing my first solo surgery on Grey’s Anatomy.  There was no one there to tell me I was doing it all wrong, or that I was about to cause the untimely death of a dozen eggs.  And so, with my blind ambition intact, I soldiered on with separating the yolks from the whites .  My process of separating eggs involves a lot of slime on the hands and a circus-like act of transferring the yolk back and forth between the two halves of the broken shell:

Separating Eggs

Once the eggs were separated, I was faced with the hardest part of the test–the hardest, because it was where I had previously failed.  It was time to beat the egg whites into an ethereal fluff.  My surgery analogy comes in handy here, as beating egg whites requires a sterile field: grease-free, in other words.  It’s advised that you wash your mixing bowl and utensils before attempting to beat your whites (but I can’t help but confessing here that I did no such thing–even after eyeing the mixing bowl and discerning a slight sheen of patina).

It's blurry because it's an "action shot"!

I knew almost immediately that I was not going to perfectly reproduce my previous tragedy (although it was still quite possible that the end result would be a tragedy–it just wasn’t a tragedy yet).  The egg whites roiled with thousands of tiny bubbles, and became a gurgling mass in the mixing bowl, nearly tripling in volume.  Huzzah!  (Here is where I wondered who’s advice I should’ve taken: should I have used cold eggs to produce a more tiny and delicate bubble?)

The best part came next.  Folding the cake flower and sugar into the egg whites, the texture gradually smoothed into a beautiful creamy wonderfulness that kind of made me what to bathe in it.  Appetizing, no?

Creamy rhymes with McDreamy.

“Folding” is a delicate process, but fails to strike me as very different from “very careful stirring”.  The idea is to not crush all the tiny wonderful egg white bubbles of joy and happiness, by carefully folding the flour in (preferably with a giant rubber spatula). Once this phase of the test was complete, it was time to bake.  Again, I lacked ownership of the proper pan for baking an Angel Food Cake, but not matter.  My mom is like, way older than me, and so she has all kinds of things in her kitchen that only grown-ups can own without feeling like their life is ruled by inane objects.

Bundt in the oven.

Everything looked good so far…but you know how on Grey’s Anatomy things seem to go fine and you’re ready to close the chest cavity–and then all of a sudden the blood pressure’s dropping and alarms are going off and doctors are glaring purposefully at each other over their surgical masks?  Yeah, that’s the moment I was waiting for.  I had read too much about Angel Food Cake Collapse Syndrome to feel I was yet in the clear.  Once the cake had reached golden perfection, I pulled it out and carefully inverted it to cool.  Did you know that’s what the little feet on the pan are for?  If you don’t have a pan with feet, you can invert it by resting it on the neck of a bottle (again, did you know that’s what the hole in the middle is for?).  Apparently, people who make a lot of Angel Food Cake have special bottles they use just for this purpose.

Hours later, I returned to the scene of the crime with my mom it tow, expecting to find my cake a collapsed disaster.  But behold, it was perfect and fluffy and golden and delicious (and almost totally eaten by the time I remembered to take a picture):

I got an A+++

With a simple sauce of strawberries, and a dollop of whipped cream, it was a treat deserving of the beautiful sunny spring weather we’ve been enjoying.  Not to mention my lovely mother and her birthday.

Ok, so things turned out pretty awesome in the end.  But what I haven’t shared here is the dark side of making an Angel Food Cake: the leftover yokes.  In olden days, Devil’s Food Cake was made in tandem with Angel Food Cake, because it called for the remaining yolks.  But try finding a cake recipe like that these days, and you will start wondering if maybe they’ve all been subverted by the dominant culture.  Needless to say, my test was not complete.  What was I to do with 12 egg yolks???  Stay tuned for Eggs-treme Cooking Part II: The Dark Side to find out: Did I make a face mask?  Did I make 6 pounds of pudding?  Did I close my eyes and wash them down the sink?

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3 Responses to “Eggs-treme Cooking Part I: Angel Food Cake”

  1. Bec April 28, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    I sort of just want to comment “lol” because that’s basically what I was doing throughout this post. Also, the cake looks delicious.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Eggs-treme Cooking Part II: Homemade Ravioli « The People v. Picket Fence - May 13, 2011

    […] until recently, when I found myself with a surplus of 12 yolks after making an angel food cake (See Part I).  In search of something creative to do with my seemingly innocent yolks, I went to google.  […]

  2. I have a lot of questions for you, also some excuses, and also I made mayonnaise « The People v. Picket Fence - May 26, 2011

    […] egg yolks lying around?  For starters, you may consider getting over your snobby self and buying egg whites in cartons, instead of separating entire dozens and then standing over a bowl of yellow yolks […]

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