23 March 2011

Angel Food

This is a story about faith. About waiting and trusting that an un-seen, hoped-for result (as in the picture above) will take place. Like waiting for crocus to bloom in my yard after it seems everyone else's are up. And my all-too-often lack of such faith.

Armed with some brief instruction and a hand-written recipe on a slip of pink paper, I set out to make--for my younger brother and sister's joint birthday party--my first-ever Angel Food Cake. From scratch. I had deliberated about this, as it seemed like a complicated, unpredictable thing to make an angel food cake from scratch and the box mix costs just a few dollars. However, the list of un-pronouncable ingredients on the back of said box (along with some I can pronounce but prefer not to ingest), a little love of adventure, and not a little bit of pride helped to convince me to bake the scenic route (like that line?).

So to make angel food cake the "scenic route", you take a ton of egg whites, beat them into a heavenly frenzy with some sugar, vanilla (and almond, if you like) flavoring, and then--so as not to distress the airy batter--fold in some softly sifted flour/salt mixture, and bake it! Simple.

Let me tell you. If any part of this is going to cause you to have a nervous breakdown, sigh and moan frequently, and give in to a few curses, it will be the egg whites. Not that I know this from experience.

I whipped. And beat. And beat. And beat. Sugar. Beat. Beat. Beat. For about 30 minutes. This is not an exaggeration. I may be a wimp, but my arms hurt. And I was using an electric hand mixer! Whoever invented this recipe (if it was before the age of electric kitchen appliances) got a devilish delight out of calling it anything that refers to the heavenly realm!

Finally! It seemed I had achieved "medium peaks". And if they weren't medium, I didn't care!

Next, gently stir in the flour . . . a little . . . bit . . . at a time . . .

I had to test the consistency a lot.

Then--also gently--spoon the batter into the pan. No grease or that cake won't cling to the pan and rise properly!

You can see the lack of faith on my face, mingled with anxious hope.

I put it in the oven, turned on the timer, and left the kitchen. I'm not sure how I passed the time, but I did get up once to check on the cake. I made an audible exclamation which caused my husband to wonder if in distress or relief. It was a miracle! The cake was rising! Hooray!

Once it was done baking, the cake came out of the oven and was turned upside-down on the counter to cool. If cooled with the pan upright the cake can fall back down and ruin the effect.

To dress it up for the party, I bought a tub of whipped cream and some frozen blueberries to make blueberry sauce. Isn't it pretty?!?

And it tasted good too. Relief! Since I used raw sugar (whizzed to a fine powder in my food processor) it looked a little darker than a normal angel food cake.

Would I do this again? Maybe. But probably only for a special occasion!

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