Angel Food Cake

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Well, after making Chai Tea Ice cream a few days ago, I was left with an abundance of egg whites. When I think of having lots of leftover egg whites, I think of making two things. Meringues, or angel food cake. Now, I have nothing against meringues, but they can be finicky. Whether you want crunchy meringues, or soft meringues, everyone has their own opinion. (I actually prefer a soft meringue on top of a pie – Paul likes meringues that are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.) Either way, it has been a long time since I have made an angel food cake.
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If you are not familiar with angel food cake, (and you should be!) it is a light and fluffy cake that gets its texture from the egg whites whipped into the beginnings of a meringue, then folded into the dry ingredients. One of the best ways to eat angel food cake is with whipped cream and strawberries.

If you have leftover egg whites, or feel like going to get a carton of egg whites, try making some angel food cake. From-scratch anything is usually better than store bought, and angel food cake is no exception. Store-bought angel food cake is similar to sweetened edible styrofoam. If you are going to eat angel food cake, trust me, do yourself a favour, and make it from scratch. I promise you will not be disappointed!

I say a couple things as well! When I make angel food cake, I use a bundt tube pan. However, if you can find a flat 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom, snatch it up while you can! I have a tube pan with a removable bottom, but it is only 8 inches, so it is not big enough to fit the cake. Make sure you use a 10-inch pan, because the cake does expand quite a bit.
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Lastly, the original recipe, found here, specifies to use cake flour. I have already told all of my dear readers that I do not normally buy cake flour. In the recipe, I substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour and sift the dry ingredients a couple more times, and it has always worked for me! Good luck!

Ingredients

Yield: 1 10-inch cake

1¼ c. cake flour (or all purpose – see above note)
1¾ c. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
1½ c. egg whites
1 tsp. cream of tartar
½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. almond extract

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Repeat five times (if using all purpose flour, repeat seven times). I use two bowls and a fine metal sieve to sift ingredients together.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until light and frothy. Add the vanilla and almond extract, and beat until eggs form medium-stiff peaks (they should be almost stiff – but still have soft points, not sharp points).

Add the egg white mixture to the dry mixture, and gently fold in the egg whites to the dry mixture. Do not use a mixer or beater! Use a spatula. If you are too aggressive, the cake will not rise properly. Transfer the mixed batter to an ungreased tube or bundt pan.

Place the cake in a cold oven, and turn the oven to 325°F. Bake for about an hour, or until the cake is an even, golden brown. Invert the cake on a cooling rack, and allow it to cool completely before removing from the pan.

Slice and serve with fresh whipped cream and strawberries.

**I did recommend using a tube pan with a removable bottom because angel food cakes can be stubborn when it comes to taking them out of the pan. Use a tube pan with a removable bottom if it is big enough, but bundt pans are okay as well. Whatever you do, though, do not grease or spray the pan! The cooking spray can actually stop the cake from rising as much as it should – the meringue mixture needs to grip the sides of the pan so that it will rise to a beautiful, lofty cake.

My advice is this: it can be done with a bundt pan, but be patient when you go to take the cake out of the pan. I use a butter knife, and run it slowly around the edges of the cake pan. It will not come out perfectly, but that is why you wait until the cake is completely cooled. Take your time, and the cake will come out of the pan eventually, I promise you this!**

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Chai Tea Ice Cream

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For Christmas, Paul got us an ice cream maker! I was incredibly excited. We have been wanting an ice cream maker for a long time, and have been contemplating buying the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid. However, Paul took the liberty to pick us out a huge independent ice cream maker instead of an attachment, and it can make up to four litres of ice cream.

Now, we can explore the entire world of ice cream making! For the first creation, Paul made a cookies and cream flavour while I was at work. It was a good first attempt, but we agreed I could choose the next flavour to make. I found this chai tea ice cream here, and was immediately drawn to it.

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This recipe was fairly simple and straightforward. The only item needed that you may not already have is the ice cream maker itself. However, there are only a few ingredients, and, one more upside of the recipe is that it does not contain sugar! How is that for sweet? Instead of sugar, it uses honey to sweeten the mixture.

If any of my dear readers ever decide to invest in an ice cream maker (and you should!), make this ice cream! Tea, and ice cream? Sounds like a fabulous combination to me!

Ingredients

Yield: About 2L ice cream

2 c. whole (homogenized) milk
2 c. heavy cream
¾ c. honey
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt
5 chai tea bags (I used Tetley Vanilla Chai)
5 egg yolks

In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, 1 c. of cream, honey, vanilla and salt to a simmer until the honey is dissolved. Remove from the heat and let the tea bags steep in the warm milk mixture, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove the tea bags and let the mixture cool for 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks together. Whisking constantly, pour about half a cup of the cream mixture into the eggs to temper them. Add the tempered eggs back into the cream mixture.

Heat the cream mixture on low until the mixture reaches about 170°, or until the mixture thickens. The mixture should be thick enough that when a spoon is dipped in the mixture, a line drawn across the back of the spoon with your finger stays. Place a strainer over a bowl, and strain the mixture for any cooked egg pieces, then stir in the remaining cup of cream.

Once strained, refrigerate until very cold. Churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturers’ instructions, then transfer to an ice cream pail and freeze until solid.

Pistachio Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Buttercream

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Happy New Year to all of you, my dear readers! I hope you were able to celebrate in style! I had to work, but Paul and I celebrated on the 4th – our first day off together – with mimosas! It was a fantastic Sunday off together. I wanted to start the year off with a bit of a bang – a recipe for something I don’t make often, cupcakes. I don’t know why I don’t make cupcakes more often. I guess I’m just a big fan of cakes.

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Either way, we have had a bag of pistachios in our pantry for a while now, and they have been pleading me to use them. I took to Pinterest, and that lead me to Keep It Sweet Desserts and the original recipe I used. This recipe was exactly what I wanted it to be – a multi-component dessert to keep me engrossed and busy, and something that seemed extremely indulgent while not being over-the-top and in-your-face.

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Pistachios are the perfect ingredient that way. They are subtle and nutty, with that amazing soft green colour, but without having a completely overpowering flavour. I also had some cute Charlie Brown cupcake liners that I’ve been dying to use. They went perfectly with the cupcakes, because they were also green! (I’m a sucker for things that match!)

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I published this last night, and realized this is my first post on Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting. The first thing I have to say about this type of frosting is that it is very finicky. Trust me on that. I have made a Swiss Meringue frosting a few times before, and this brown sugar buttercream did give me some troubles. However, I did want to give you some tips.

Firstly, do not overcook the meringue mixture. Cook it to temperature, or, if you do not have a candy or kitchen thermometer, cook it until you can dip your finger into the mixture without harm. The mixture should be warm, not hot. Secondly, your butter must be room temperature. I cannot stress this enough. If it is too cold, the mixture will take extremely long to mix together.

Even if it begins to look soupy or curdled, don’t worry. It will come together. Trust me on this. Even though I took out my butter well in advance to making these, my butter was still too cold. After mixing for about 10 minutes, the frosting was still not coming together. I tried refrigerating the mixture to see if the butter was too warm, and it was a no go. Finally, I got the double boiler going again, and put the bowl of my mixer on the double boiler for 1 minute increments, whisking the whole time. When the butter reached the right temperature as I was whisking, I transferred the bowl back to the mixer with the whisk attachment, and it turned out beautifully.

I am telling all of my dear readers this so that they do not get discouraged. It may look like a mess. Stick with this frosting, and you will not be disappointed!

Ingredients

Yield: 2-2½ dozen medium/large sized cupcakes

Cupcakes:

1 c. roasted and salted shelled pistachios, plus more for garnish
3¼ c. flour (I used all-purpose – the original recipe states using part cake flour, but I didn’t have any)
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1½ c. ice cold water
1 c. butter, softened
1¾ c. sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
4 egg whites, separated
¼ tsp. cream of tartar

Frosting:

4 egg whites
1 c. brown sugar, packed
Pinch of salt
1 c. butter, softened and cut into tablespoons (tip – a ¼ c. = 4 tbsp.)
½ tsp. vanilla

For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325°F. In a food processor or blender, pulse the pistachios until they are almost all finely ground. Some bigger chunks are okay, it does not have to be perfect. This will add texture to the cupcakes. Do not blend for too long, or a paste can form. Transfer the ground pistachios into a medium mixing bowl. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together, and set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add 1 egg white and vanilla, and beat until combined. Using the paddle attachment, add the dry ingredients and the water, alternating between them, but starting and ending with dry ingredients. If you only have one mixer bowl, transfer the batter to another mixing bowl and wash and dry the mixer bowl and whisk attachment extremely well.

In the bowl of the mixer with the whisk (they must be extremely dry – any water residue left will ruin the egg whites) attached, combine the remaining egg whites and the cream of tartar, and beat until soft peaks form. Gently fold in the egg whites into the rest of the batter. Scoop into lined cupcake tins, and bake for 14-16 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into one of the center cupcakes comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in pan about 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack until to completely cool.

For the brown sugar buttercream, set up a double boiler on the stove. This consists of a pot about ¼ to ½ full of simmering water, with a metal mixing bowl on top. The bowl must not touch the water.

In your metal mixer bowl, combine the brown sugar and egg whites, whisking until the mixture reaches 160°, or until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm. Transfer the bowl back to the mixture, with a shallow bowl of ice underneath the mixer bowl to help the mixture cool down. Use whisk attachment and beat until a creamy meringue forms. It should be thick, but not stiff, and the bowl should be cool. There is also the option of using a metal mixing bowl in the double boiler, then transfer the hot mixture to your cool mixer bowl. If you use this method instead, skip the bowl of ice. The mixture will cool down with beating.

Once texture is right and the bowl has cooled, add in the butter, 1 tbsp. at a time until combined. Add in vanilla.

Pipe or spread buttercream over cupcakes, top with extra coarsely chopped pistachios for garnish.

**This is a swiss meringue buttercream. This is so called because of the technique of using the egg whites, beating into a meringue, and finishing with butter. It may not come together at first, but don’t worry. It will eventually. Be patient, I promise! Swiss meringue buttercream frostings are always worth the effort – you will not be disappointed!**