Tuesday, 1 February 2011

First Angel Cake Trial (with Orange Blueberry Reduction)

Back in the day, I was first and foremost a baker and was into the measurements and precision that go into baking from scratch. One of the cookbooks that made it into the early days of my cookbook shelf was one titled "1000 Class Recipes," from which I drew most of my non-chocolate creations. Again, given all the "free time" I had today because of the freezing rain, I returned to the kitchen and made my first attempt of adapting an angel cake recipe (p 480).

The recipe that follows is fairly easy to prepare. First, preheat the oven to 350°F. Uncertain as to how many individual cakes my adapted recipe could make, I divided the batter into four ramekins. However, I found this resulted in cakes with very little height to them, so just use three.

For the cake batter, whip up two egg whites to stiff peaks (if using an electric hand mixer, about 2 min on medium speed); at that point, you should be able to hold the bowl upside-down without the egg white falling. As you continue to whip on low, gradually add 1/4 c granulated sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract; the whites should end up appearing smooth and glossy. Once the sugar and vanilla extract have been incorporated, use a large metal spoon to incorporate 1 scant tbsp each of flour and cornstarch.

Next, use two spoons to transfer the angel cake batter into the ramekins. I thought I could just dollop these in, but this batter is both thick and sticky. You'll also need to do your best to smooth out the tops of the batter. I eventually ran into some trouble because I had huge air pockets that compressed the angel cake together, undoubtedly aided by the way I spooned in the batter. See the gaps in the ramekins above? You don't want these; when you level the batter out, you'll most likely trap a lot of that air in. So, working quickly, spoon enough batter to cover the bottom of the ramekins and build up carefully, making sure the batter sticks to the walls of the ramekins. Again, only divide the batter between three instead of four. The ramekins I'm working with here hold about 2/3 c liquid. Get the ramekins onto a baking sheet and put these in the oven for 30 min (I originally had mine in for 35, but because these are so small, they overbaked a tad; the full-out recipe requires about 40-45 min).

While that's going, wash what little dishes you may have from this recipe, and then get to work on the orange blueberry reduction. I definitely made more sauce than I really needed for these little cakes, so let's scale back by 4: into a sauce pot goes 1/4 c orange juice (you choose the level of pulp), 1/4 c washed blueberries, and 1 tbsp granulated sugar. Heat this up on medium heat and let it boil away. 15 minutes into the cooking process, begin smashing some of the blueberries against the side of the pot and continue doing this every couple of minutes. For the amount I made, it took about 30 min to get to a smooth consistency; with fewer ingredients, I imagine you should be good a little before then. If/when the sauce begins to boil rapidly, reduce the heat to low and allow it to simmer until you're happy with the consistency (for mine, it took about 10 more min). At the very least, the sauce should be able to evenly coat the back of the spoon. Be sure to taste the sauce and add more sugar if necessary.

During some point in this reduction process, the cakes should be done. Take them out and allow them to cool before handling! Especially for bigger baking vessels, the suggestion is to sprinkle some parchment paper with granulated sugar and turn the vessel upside-down, over the sugar. Doing so will prevent the cake from collapsing on itself as it cools. Also, if everything works out correctly, the cake will just fall out of the vessel. However, this wasn't the case with these small ramekins, and I wouldn't suggest doing that for these; the result seems to be a sticky mess as the steam melts the sugar below. Anyway, the point is to let the cakes cool. Running a knife about the perimeter will result in a flop like the one above.

This should give you enough time to let the reduction finish up. You can also create an orange-flavoured icing to compliment the orange juice in the sauce. For each little ramekin, the combination that worked best for me was 2 level tbsp powdered sugar to a scant tsp orange juice. Play around with the ratios, depending on how much you need and how sweet/tangy you want the icing to be. (This orange icing is the clear stuff in the photo at the start of this post.)

I've also included a photo here of the air pocket issue I was having with the cakes. If nothing else, it at least gives me a vessel to pour in some more of the sauce! Click here for more photos from this trial run.

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