I have a collection of subjects to comment on today. One is that, in looking through my kitchen pantry, I discovered that, while I don't have Creme de Menthe liqueur, I do have Peppermint Schnapps. The main difference between the two is that the Schnapps is not green. I plan to make the Grasshopper Pie anyway, using green food coloring paste to tint the pie filling, as you can do if you happen to be in the same situation.
Second, I watched Alton Brown walk us through the Angel Food Cake recipe and learned something very valuable. Suppose you separate a number of eggs because you only want the yolks. In the event that you don't want to use the prepared egg whites that are sold in your friendly neighborhood Tucson supermarket, his advice was to separate the yolks from the whites into a small ingredient container, and then transfer the whites one by one into an ice-cube tray, and--ta da!--freeze them for later use.
I wouldn't attempt to freeze egg yolks, but it will work for whites, as Brown demonstrated.
Now, if you are in the market for a tube pan in which to bake your Angel Food Cake, be advised that there is such a thing as a two-piece tube pan, which works like a regular spring form pan but does not work with a spring. You simply place the top on the bottom half, and when your cake is done you remove it by moving the top off and separating the cake from the bottom surface upon which it was resting. Look them up on the Internet at Amazon.com, or you might fine one at Super Target in Tucson, or at Bed, Bath & Beyond here.
There were some complaints on the web pages that I looked at, to the effect that such a tube pan can leak with a lighter-type batter. As we know, the Angel Food tube pan is intended for the rather stiff, definitely not runny beaten-egg batter that is very close to meringue in texture. This tube pan will not leak with that batter, but it could leak with a Bundt-cake batter, so it might be best to stick with your conventional tube pans for that. Besides, I simply adore my startling Spiral Tube Pan from Nordic Ware.
Brown also demonstrated beating his egg whites in a copper bowl, and I discovered that you can obtain one for about twenty dollars if you look around the Internet. One of them is making its way to me right now from Amazon.com, where I shop frequently.
Now, to walk through the Alton Brown cake that he taught us in loving detail, here is the gist of it:
ALTON BROWN'S ANGEL FOOD CAKE
1-3/4 cups superfine sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cake flour, sifted
12 egg whites (the closer to room temperature the better)
1/3 cup warm water
1 teaspoon orange extract, or extract of your choice
1-1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Sift half of the sugar with the salt the cake flour, setting the remaining sugar aside.
In a large bowl, use a balloon whisk to thoroughly combine egg whites, water, orange extract, and cream of tartar. After 2 minutes, switch to a hand mixer. Slowly sift the reserved sugar into the egg whites, beating continuously at medium speed.
Once you have achieved medium peaks, remove the electric beaters. Sift enough of the flour mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Using a spatula fold it in gently. Continue until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.
Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 35 minutes before checking for doneness with a wooden skewer. (When inserted halfway between the inner and outer wall, the skewer should come out not quite dry).
Among Brown's hints for baking an Angel Food Cake is that you do not lubricate the cake pan in any way. The nature of this cake is to "climb the pan" by sticking to the sides, and as long as you can separate it later, do not worry about it.
Brown says that he does not beat the egg whites all the way to the stiff-peak stage, nor does he use a very high beating speed with his electric mixer. Either of these methods can ruin the batter by toughening the egg whites, resulting in something that resembles a sponge cake much more than it is supposed to.
He also stressed the importance of folding in the flour mixture by using a hand sifter to place just a light coating of flour over the egg whites, folding it in and then repeating until you have incorporated all your flour. However, if you are using the Kitchen Aid type of stand mixer, you will probably have the wire-whip attachment that comes with most of them. Using the whip attachment I believe that you could fold in the flour gradually and not break the air bubbles.
Brown's Angel Food Cake was quite browned on top when he took it out of the oven, so do not worry if your cake looks the same. He also stressed that you DO NOT ATTEMPT to remove the cake from the pan before it has cooled completely.
What you must do is invert the cake pan and leave it alone. In order for this to work, be sure that your angel-food cake pan has either the four "legs" that hold the surface of the cake above the counter top, or the tube itself extends above the rim of the pan in order to accomplish the same thing.
In case you already have an angel-food cake pan that doesn't have either feature, my mother used to upend her tube pan on the neck of a glass bottle to hold it up until the cake cooled.
When the cake is cool, don't be surprised that you have to cut gently around the edges with your thinnest knife to separate it from the pan. That is also par for the course.
Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least an hour before removing from pan.
And by the way, did you know that Angel Food Cakes are fat-free? I say that only in relation to "scratch" cakes, though. I won't answer for what is in a box of cake mix.