COMMENTS

Beaten egg takes cakes to new heights

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Harvest Chocolate Pumpkin Roulade Cake. (AP Photo/Hershey Kitchens)

Harvest Chocolate Pumpkin Roulade Cake. (AP Photo/Hershey Kitchens)

Reader Margaret Dahl e-mailed a chart from a book by the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences published in 1993 giving the proportionate amounts of flour to sugar to fat to liquid to egg to leavening for various types of baked goods. Relevant to a recent column, these are the proportions for muffins and cakes:

Muffins: 2 cups flour, 1 cup milk, 4 to 6 tablespoons fat, 1 egg, 2 to 4 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 1/2 to 4 teaspoons baking powder

Cake: 2 cups cake or all-purpose cake flour, 1/2 to 1 cup milk, 4 to 8 tablespoons fat, 1 to 2 eggs, 1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, 2 to 4 teaspoons baking powder

The chiffon, sponge and angel food cakes on the chart were a reminder that there is a whole “family” of foam cakes that get all or most of their volume and leavening from the air beaten into whole eggs or egg whites.

According to joyofbaking.com, roulades, Genoise, meringue and dacquoise also are part of this group in which the proportion of eggs to flour is quite high. They have a spongy texture and the only fat they contain comes from egg yolks except for Genoise and chiffon which contain small amounts of butter or oil. Angel food cake contains no fat.

Here’s the rundown.

Sponge: Room temperature eggs, sugar and flour are the main ingredients in this light and airy cake. Egg yolks and sugar are thoroughly beaten together and the stiffly beaten whites are folded in. Extracts, nuts, citrus zests and liqueurs are among the traditional flavorings for sponge cakes, which may be baked in round cake pans or a sheet pan (see roulade below). They are good eaten plain and even better when filled with whipped cream, buttercream, jam or preserves, fruit, fruit purees, nuts or chocolate.

Roulade: A light and delicate sponge cake baked in a sheet or jelly roll pan and rolled up in a towel while still warm. Once cooled, it is unrolled and filled with whipped cream, ganache, buttercream, lemon curd, fruit, fruit purees or nuts and then rerolled. It may be dusted with confectioners' sugar or frosted with whipped cream, buttercream or ganache. The popular holiday Buche de Noel is a roulade.

Genoise: Named for Genoa, Italy, where it originated, Genoise is similar to sponge cake, but contains a small amount of melted butter, which makes it more tender and flavorful, but less sweet than sponge cake. Whole eggs and sugar are warmed and then beaten until very thick. Dry ingredients are carefully folded in and then a small amount of clarified butter is added.

Baked in a round pan, Genoise may be eaten plain, but is often split into 2 or 3 layers, brushed with sugar syrup and filled with jams or preserves, fruit purees, fresh fruit, whipped cream, buttercream, and/or nuts.

Chiffon: Traditionally baked in a tube pan, chiffon has the texture of sponge cake and the richness of butter cake, although oil is used instead of butter. Egg yolks are beaten with the oil, water and a flavoring of some kind. A little baking powder boosts the leavening power of the stiffly beaten egg whites which are carefully folded in.

Angel food: This cake gets its leavening entirely from stiffly beaten egg whites which are carefully folded into a mixture of sugar, flour and salt. It contains no fat and has the highest proportion of sugar to other ingredients of any of the foam cakes. It may be flavored with extracts or cocoa powder. The absence of egg yolks or other fats makes it cholesterol-free.
Traditionally baked in a ring-shaped tube pan, angel food cake may be served plain or with fresh fruit, fruit purees, and/or whipped cream.

Meringue: Made from beaten egg whites, sugar and sometimes flavoring, meringue may be soft or hard. For soft meringue, which tops cakes, pies, pudding, mousse and Baked Alaska, the egg whites are beaten to a soft peak stage and less sugar is used than for hard meringues, for which the whites are beaten to a stiff peak stage and which use more sugar. Hard meringue is baked into dry, crisp shells or discs to be filled or topped with fruit, whipped cream, custard, ice cream or chocolate.

For either type of meringue, the egg whites should be at room temperature and free of any specks of egg yolk. To ensure maximum volume, it is crucial that the bowl (preferably glass) and beaters are free of grease.

Superfine sugar dissolves more readily for a smoother meringue. You can make superfine sugar by putting granulated white sugar into a food processor for about 30 seconds. Adding the sugar gradually to the egg whites while beating them ensures that the sugar completely dissolves and does not produce a gritty meringue. Rub a little of the mixture between your thumb and index finger. If it feels gritty, the sugar has not fully dissolved. Continue beating until it feels smooth between your fingers.

Baking hard meringue can be tricky. If the oven temperature is too high, the outside of the meringue will dry and set too quickly and the inside will be chewy and sticky. Too high an oven temperature will also cause sugar to caramelize and meringue to turn brown. Plan to increase baking time if you are making them on a rainy or humid day. To prevent meringues from cracking, do not open the oven door until the last quarter of baking time. Some recipes call for turning off the oven and leaving the meringues in the oven overnight to be sure they are dry and crisp.

More meringue notes: Adding a small amount of cream of tartar will maximize the volume and stabilize the beaten egg whites, preventing the foam from collapsing. But if you are using a copper bowl (which is sometimes recommended for maximizing egg white volume), don't use cream of tartar as it will react with the copper and discolor the whites.

I like vanilla-flavored meringues, but not the off-white color that results from the brown vanilla extract. I came up with a couple of solutions, but if any readers or experienced bakers have a better one please share. I suppose I could use a clear extract, such as almond or orange. Or if I had it on hand, vanilla sugar (sugar in which vanilla bean pods have been buried for several weeks).

Dacquoise: This traditional French cake consists of two to three layers of nut-flavored (almonds or hazelnuts) discs of crisp meringue that are sandwiched together with whipped cream or buttercream and sometimes fruit (especially strawberries). The top is dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

ORANGE CHIFFON CAKE
Ingredients:
6 large eggs, plus one additional egg white
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups superfine white sugar, divided use
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons grated orange zest (outer orange skin)
1/2 cup vegetable, corn, canola or safflower oil
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 or 3 large oranges)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)

Method:
Separate eggs and place the 6 yolks in one bowl and the 7 whites in another. Cover with plastic wrap and bring to room temperature (about 30 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 325 F and have ready a 10-inch, 2-piece ungreased tube pan.

Using a hand or stand mixer, beat until combined: flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking powder, salt and orange zest. Make a well in the center and add the egg yolks, oil, orange juice and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl as needed.

In separate bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. With a large rubber spatula or wire whisk, gently fold egg whites (in 3 additions) into the batter just until blended, being careful not to deflate the batter.

Pour batter into the ungreased tube pan and bake for about 55 to 60 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (When lightly pressed, the cake will spring back.) Immediately upon removing the cake from the oven invert pan: The center hole in the tube will just fit over a glass soft drink bottle or you can invert it on the counter balanced on the center tube. Let the cake cool completely before removing from pan, about 1 to 1½ hours.

To remove the cake from the pan, run a long metal spatula around the inside of the tube pan and center core. Invert onto a greased wire rack. Dust with confectioners' sugar or drizzle with confectioners' sugar mixed with a little water or orange juice.

Serve with softly whipped cream or ice cream and fresh fruit.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

E-mail brandtlinda11@gmail.com

Last modified: September 30, 2013
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