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random musings of a crazy cat lady

Friday, March 27, 2009

Day 11: Angel Food Cake

My knee continues to improve. Yesterday I was able to sit normally and stand for longer periods of time. It still hurts to go up or down stairs, so I have to take those one step at a time, literally.
To celebrate the fact that I did not have to collapse on the couch as soon as I got home, I tested the whisk attachment on my stand mixer and made an angel food cake. I've made them in the past, and it's not one of my baking strengths. I'm not very dainty and never was very good at gently folding flour into egg whites.

Back when I was in junior high, I took a cooking class. We spent at least half the semester learning to bake. I had helped my mom but this was my first introduction to recipes and kitchen chemistry. (Mom doesn't really use recipes.) Towards the end of the baking unit, our homework assignment was to bake something and report on how it came out. I chose to make an angel food cake. It came out pretty dry and tough due to my inexperience with folding. Fortunately, it was tasty so it didn't last very long. I got an A nonetheless for trying something complicated. I've gotten marginally better at folding but I don't think I've made an angel food cake from scratch since high school.

So anyway, it seemed appropriate to revisit my old homework assignment to test the mixer. This time around, I whipped up the egg whites and cream of tartar. For the baking geeks out there, the proteins in the egg white uncoil when the egg whites are beaten and trap air bubbles. The cream of tartar prevents them from cross-linking through sulfur atoms in the amino acids in the protein. This would lead to graininess. Anyway, it only took about two minutes for soft peaks to form and then it was ready to add the sugar. This was a lot faster than if I used a handheld mixer. I then sifted the flour over the eggs and gently mixed it in. It was definitely faster and easier than folding it in by hand. The batter seemed like it didn't lose as much volume as it normally does.

When I pulled it out of the oven, it looked beautiful and smelled great, with just a faint whiff of egginess. After it cooled, I removed it from the pan. It seemed a bit damper than usual, so I probably should have baked it longer or been careful to measure the egg whites. I tasted it this morning. It was tender and moist but not soggy. I haven't eaten a from-scratch angel food cake in 20 years, and had forgotten how much nicer they taste without all the additives. It's tenderer, less sweet, and has a much more delicate flavor. I'm going to take some of the cake over to my mom, along with some strawberries.

The mixer works great for bread and cakes. I am very pleased with my purchase and with the fact that it allowed me to finally conquer the angel food cake. For biscotti, it was convenient but didn't provide an advantage in the final product.

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