Right now my life consists of grad school interviews (!!!!) and angel food cake. Both of which I'm super excited about. It looks like we'll be going to Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco (twice) over the next three weeks. My bank account is empty, my carbon footprint is huge, and my heart is full. We'll see what happens.
On another note, it's almost Valentine's Day, a silly holiday if I do say so myself. I've never been much of a fan, until I clicked through my favorite food blogs earlier this morning and got super inspired. I'm debating between a simple pasta dish with mascarpone, hazelnuts, spinach and homemade pasta, or going big on a french theme with french onion soup (did you know you can make it without beef broth?) salad, and creme brûlée. Classic. Either way there will be angel food cake.
You see, angel food cake is my husband's favorite, ever. Whenever I ask him what he wants for his birthday/first night home after a long trip away/anniversary the answer is always angel food cake. Being the crazy that I am, I refuse to buy the stuff, which in honestly way easier and not far off from the homemade version. You see, angel food cake is finicky. We're talking borderline french macaron finicky. So finicky I almost resisted posting it. So finicky it needs a special pan (I tried it in a bundt once to save money and it was disastrous), perfectly room-temperature egg whites, and an upside down cooling strategy. So finicky that my attempts to simplify and adapt an already perfect recipe failed miserably. So this recipe is from Alton Brown. Follow the directions exactly and you will be fine. Don't adapt, don't skip anything, or you will waste a dozen eggs. Yeah, I know it's a lot, but you can and should totally make ice cream with the yolks.
Angel food cake is most traditionally served with whipped cream and strawberries. But alas it's February and I wish I could scream at every supermarket in the country right now to "STOP TRYING TO MAKE OUT-OF-SEASON STRAWBERRIES DURING VALENTINE'S DAY A THING". There is nothing romantic about over-priced, imported, tasteless out of season fruit. Just wait until Spring people, it will be worth it. In effort to replace the strawberries, and in keeping the the whole red v-day theme, I went with a sweet pomegranate syrup instead. And I made a dark chocolate whipped cream which is literally icing on an already fantastic cake, because chocolate is already a good idea.
Angel Food Cake with Dark Chocolate Whipped Cream & Pomegranate Syrup
Cake recipe by Alton Brown
For the cake:
1 3/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour
12 large egg whites, room temperature
1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.5 teaspoons cream of tartar
For the whipped cream:
4 ounces dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Pomegranate syrup
1.5 cups pomegranate juice (about 3 pomegranates - see notes) + a handful of arils for serving
1/3 cup cane sugar
Make the whipped cream. Place chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan heat heavy cream to a soft boil. Remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Let sit for a minute, then stir until completely incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. Once cool, use a hand mixer with a whisk attachment and whip until it becomes whipped cream.
Make the cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pulse sugar in a food processor or blender for about 2 minutes until finely ground. Reserve 1/2 of the sugar. Whisk the other 1/2 of the sugar with cake flour, and salt. Combine egg whites, water, vanilla, and cream of tarter in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk on medium high, slowly incorporating the remaining half of the sugar, until medium peaks form and the whisk forms grooves in the egg whites. Using a fine mesh strainer sprinkle about 1/5 of the flour mixture onto the egg whites. Being mindful you don't de-flat the egg whites, gently fold in the flour, sweeping the spatula from the bottom of the bowl to the top, turning the bowl as you go. Repeat four more times until all of the flour is incorporated. Try to do this step quickly. Pour batter into an angel food cake pan, take a sharp knife and pierce it into the batter, drawing a circle (martha stewart taught me this gets rid of air bubbles), then use a spatula to lightly even out the top. Cook for 45-50 minutes until the top is lightly brown and a skewer comes out clean.
To cool, invert upside down over a bottle for at least an hour. I'm not kidding. See photo. Once cooled take a butter knife and glide it between the cake and the edges and center of the pan. I also had luck with a little shaking and smacking. Trust, it will come out.
Make the pomegranate syrup. Combine juice and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally until juice has thickened and reduced by half, about 30-40 minutes.
Serve the cake with whipped cream, pomegranate syrup and a small handful of pomegranate arils. Cake keeps for about 5 days covered at room temperature.
- Wanting to save time by not blending the sugar in a food processor, and thinking powdered sugar is basically the same thing? We think alike. And I tried it. It doesn't come out as well, I suspect because powdered sugar actually has some anti-clumping additive that must mess with the egg whites.
- Feel bad about tossing all those egg yolks? Save them and make ice cream!
- Here's a fantastic article with pictures for juicing your own pomegranates. All you need is a blender/food processor and a fine mesh strainer. If you don't have time, Pom pomegranate juice works, it's just more expensive.