For Christmas my daughter in law gave me a copy of a fabulous cookbook by Virginia Willis called Bon Appetit, Y'all: Recipes and Stories from Three Generations of Southern Cooking. It is a unique cookbook in that it combines many of her family's traditional southern recipes with the french techniques she learned while studying in France. This angel food cake is a perfect example of what she calls "refined Southern cuisine"
For those of you who don't know her, she apprenticed under Natalie Dupree, graduated from both L'Academie de Cuisine and La Varenne and has cooked for President Clinton, Julia Child, chef Roger Verge, and Jane Fonda. Formerly Martha Stewart Living's kitchen manager, she now lives in Atlanta Georgia.
This is the first recipe I have made from her cookbook and I found it simple and straightforward. Do notice that the flour needs to be sifted a total of five times. Yes, five. Once before measuring and four times with the sugar. This is necessary to achieve the traditional light-as-air texture of angel food cake.
Read the recipe through once and you will see that it is not complicated at all.
There is an unusual implement for cutting these cakes found in many silver chests throughout the South, including mine. These old fashioned rakelike cutters typically have a long slightly offset handle with 3-4 inch long tines that actually split rather than cut the cake. They are wonderful to cut any type of cake and can still be found online and in gourmet catalogues. If you do not own one, you can use a serrated knife. Here's a photo of mine
The Bourbon Creme Anglaise is optional and not necessary although I highly recommend it if you are serving the cake for company. I made mine this weekend for the grandchildren who spent the night while their parents entertained a group of friends, so I skipped it this time. That's another thing, it's a great cake to make for the little ones. No fuss and very little mess. They can walk around with a handful and with the sous chef following close behind there's no need for cleanups. Oh, and for the old foggies like me who are trying to watch their diet and cholesterol (boring) it's the perfect dessert!
- 1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 12 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- Bourbon Creme Anglaise, optional
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees with a rack set in the center of the oven.
- Sift the flour before you measure it. THIS IS IMPORTANT!
- Sift flour together with 3/4 cup sugar. Repeat process three more times; set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites, cream of tarter, and salt on medium speed until foamy. Add vanilla-bean seeds and almond extract. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly add remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Continue mixing until whites are glossy and stiff peaks form.
- Sift enough of the flour mixture over the egg white mixture to lightly dust the top. Gently fold flour mixture into the egg white mixture. Repeat process until all the flour is incorporated into the egg white mixture.
- Gently spoon batter into a 10-inch tube pan. With a spatula or knife, using a circular motion, cut through the batter twice to eliminate any large pockets of air. Smooth top to remove any large peaks.
- Transfer to oven and bake until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Invert pan over a bottle (such as a 2-liter soda bottle or wine bottle) until completely cooled, about 2 hours.
- To serve, set upright, and using a butter knife or a long spatula, loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Invert onto a serving plate. Slice using a serrated knife or an angel food cake cutter; serve drizzled with bourbon creme anglaise, if desired.
BOURBON CREME ANGLAISE
Yield Makes 3 cups
- 2 cups whole milk
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 1 tablespoon bourbon
- Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside.
- Place milk in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. In a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, and salt until thick and light. Slowly pour in half of the hot milk, while stirring constantly. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the remaining milk mixture, stirring constantly. Stir in bourbon.
- Place saucepan over low heat and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring constantly. Continue cooking until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and reaches 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat.
- Strain creme anglaise through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Set bowl in ice water bath and stir creme anglaise until cooled. Keep refrigerated until ready to use, up to 1 day.
Top photo Martha Stewart.com
Middle photo Lindaraxa