Friday, February 15, 2008

Respect for the Old School: Betty Crocker’s Angel Food Cake

We’ve been talking a lot about cookbooks around here the last week. On my end, it’s been super fun and educational, but it’s also made me very, very hungry. Like, I’ve-been-gnawing-on-my-hand hungry. (It’s delicious, if anyone wanted to know.) To sate this ravenous yen - for puffy, sugary things in particular - I decided to break out some Betty.

Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook was my very first cookbook. Or at least, the first one I used with any regularity. It had everything a poor, culinarily challenged college student needed in 1998: big pictures, easy directions, and cheap ingredients. (Er, nutrition wasn’t really an emphasis at that point. My metabolism was firing on all cylinders.) Some of the recipes were fairly impressive, too, at least at the time: Stuffed Peppers, Szechuan Pork, and of course, Pepperoni Pizza-Hamburger Pie (a.k.a. 20-Year-Olds Having Heart Attacks? This Makes it Possible Pie).

The zenith of Betty’s gastronomic masterpiece was, and continues to be, the Angel Food Cake. It’s airy, it’s sweet, it’s company-appropriate, and best of all, it’s fat-free. I’ve tried other versions (including Alton’s, which surprisingly bombed), but keep coming back to Betty. If you choose to accept her Angel Food mission, I might make the following suggestions:

1) This type of cake needs a very specific pan, which you can procure for a few bucks at any kitchen equipment store. A cheap one will last years (mine’s going on 11), so there’s no need to break the bank.

2) When the recipe calls for stiff peaks, it means stiff peaks. Underbeaten batter will result in a brick. It takes me many, many minutes of high-speed beating to accomplish this.

3) “Folding” means: “to gently cut down through center of egg whites, along bottom and up side of bowl; rotate bowl a quarter turn. Repeat.” Here’s another brief description from Kathleen Daelemans.

4) The recipe calls for cake flour. I use all-purpose flour (and always have). It works.

5) If you don’t have almond extract, use 2 teaspoons of vanilla. It works, too.

6) There will be something like 12 egg yolks left over from the cake. Don’t throw ‘em away! Instead, try one of the suggestions in this Serious Eats thread. (Perhaps a hollandaise sauce, madam?)

Miss Betty provided the fat and calorie information, so only the price computations are included below. Happy caking, everybody!

Angel Food Cake
Makes 16 servings
Adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Cook.

1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cake or all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups large egg whites (about 12)
1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract
¼ teaspoon salt

1) Preheat oven to 375º F and drop oven rack to the bottom rung.

2) In a medium bowl, combine powdered sugar and flour.

3) In a separate large bowl, "beat egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed ... until foamy." Turn mixer to high and very slowly add granulated sugar (about 2 tablespoons at a time) into bowl. Once the sugar is all in, immediately add vanilla extract, almond extract, and salt. Keep beating until you get stiff peaks (which will be "meringue-like" and "glossy"). For the love of Pete, DO NOT UNDERBEAT.

4) Slowly fold flour mixture into egg white mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, "just until sugar-flour mixture disappears." When finished, push everything into an ungreased, standard-size angel food cake pan (a.k.a. tube pan). Using a butter knife, gently slice through the mixture a few times. This will eliminate air bubbles.

5) "Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until cracks feel dry and top springs back when touched lightly." (I also do the toothpick test. If the toothpick comes out with batter on it, put the cake back in for about 5-10 more minutes.) Remove from oven and quickly flip pan upside down. Rest on a soda bottle, beer bottle, or even a plate,  making sure the cake doesn't touch the plate. Keep it there for a minimum of 2 hours. Cake should be totally cool when you flip it back over. Gently "loosen side of cake with knife or long, metal spatula" to get it out of the pan. Serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
130 calories, 0 g fat, $0.21

1-1/2 cups powdered sugar: $0.43
1 cup cake or all-purpose flour: $0.05
1-1/2 cups large egg whites (about 12): $1.79
1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar: $0.55
1 cup granulated sugar: $0.33
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla: $0.18
½ teaspoon almond extract: $0.06
¼ teaspoon salt: $0.01
TOTAL: $3.40

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LJ said...

Yum! I need to try this! Thanks for posting it...I am off to print and gather ingredients!

Take Care


Anonymous said...

Sounds good. So, what do you do with angel food cake ? Eat as is, or use a a vehicle for fruit/cream/ice cream additions ? Does it freeze well ?

Kris said...

LJ - that's great! Lemme know how it comes out!

Mike - the cake's delicious on its own, but the addition of a simple glaze or berry ups the ante quite nicely. A quick 'net search reveals that they can be frozen, though I've never tried it myself.

Jordan said...

The angel food cake was fantastic! Thanks for passing it along.