Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stop 9: Pennsylvania Angel Food Cake

Fun fact: Nobody knows where the angel food cake originated, but the large number of high-sided tube pans found in southeastern Pennsylvania in the 1800s has led historians to believe that the Pennsylvania Dutch developed what we now consider to be the angel food cake.

Fun fact #2: The Pennsylvania Dutch weren't actually Dutch.  They were German.  But when they said they were Deutsch, the meathead English misinterpreted what they said as Dutch, so they're now known as the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Moving on...

Since the cake for Pennsylvania is the angel food cake, I had to face a fact of my life that I don't like to admit too often.  I am afraid of meringue.  Honestly, the stuff scares the crap out of me and the idea of cooking with them in any form that isn't "whip, add sugar, put on baking sheet, bake" is kind of intimidating.  

So here's the deal.  I made the angel food cake.  I used Brown's funky recipe that involved basically making an Italian meringue (pouring boiling hot sugar syrup into whipped eggs).  I guess this way the egg whites don't overexpand while baking and it maintains the cloud-like texture.  I followed all the directions to the best of my ability and I made the cake....

Here are my recommendations for making an angel food cake from scratch: 
1. Don't make it from scratch, buy a box, add the water and eggs and go with it.
2. If it says to boil the sugar syrup to 245 degrees, actually boil the sugar syrup to 245 degrees.  Don't just pretend you can tell how hot sugar syrup is without a candy thermometer.  You can't.
3. Continue whipping the egg whites on high speed for quite a while after you add the sugar syrup to make sure they get and stay all fluffy.  

If you follow these three suggestions, your cake will not come out like my cake, which was approximately 2" tall.  

Here are some pictures of my sad, sad angel food cake.

I decided that because of the disastrous outcome of the angel food cake, combined with the fact that I had to use six eggs to make it, and the fact that I was going to make another version of an angel food cake right away, AND that I don't even like angel food cake - I decided not to make another one.  I brought the weird one to work and it was eaten kind of like cotton candy.

Next Stop: We're staying in Pennsylvania with one of Brown's own recipes.  A spin on angel food cake: Chocolate Chiffon Angel Food Cake.

1 comment:

  1. Hey :) aren't we cousins or something? I think so. I can never resist a baking science problem. So, I am no angel food cake expert--BUT when I was a baker in South Philly (humidity central, during about half the year), I learned that it was pretty much hopeless to even bother with angel food during the wet season. Turns out that merengues are super sensitive to humidity--they simply refuse to rise--or they rise and then collapse right back into themselves as soon as they emerge from the oven. Don't know if this is the problem you're having, but if you tried the cake on a wettish day, give it another go when its hot and dry out--you might have better luck.

    Luke Dani