I thought of naming this post something along the lines of "The Successful Separating of 12 Eggs" but decided the name of the recipe was far more descriptive of what this post is actually about. My birthday was last Thursday, but I put off making anything because, I can't remember, I think I was lazy. I'm not terribly into birthdays, the only reason I made anything at all was because it was a great excuse. Plus, my birthday is the only time I can make any dessert I please and not ask R his opinion, which inevitably involves chocolate and rolling. I personally love a good citrus dessert, and this is only possible when it's all up to me. So I wanted something I'd never tried making before, something that would be a challenge (at least for me) and something that had nothing to do with chocolate.
I turned to Regan Daley's wonderful In the Sweet Kitchen again and came up with this Poppyseed Angel Food Cake with Grapefruit Curd. And I just happened to have all that grapefruit from the candied peels! (That's a lie, it was all part of the master plan to begin with, although I did make the peels earlier and quite separately.)
I used to love angel food cake when I was little, I loved that it was light and sticky and that I could eat it forever and get sick with sugar before I actually got full (like a more solidify form of cotton candy). Plus the thought of all of those egg whites seemed a fitting enough challenge, plenty for a Saturday morning anyway.
A few notes on the recipe, be sure to use cake flour and make extra sure that it's not the self-rising kind. Although you can often substitute self-rising for regular cake flour by eliminating the leavening agents like baking powder, baking soda and salt, angel food cake relies on the egg whites for its volume, so there's no substituting to be done. (Yes, I realize there's salt in it, but there's not much, and the cream of tartar is there to prevent crystallization and to help the whites reach their maximum potential). Also, this is a good time to follow that rule that I know we all know: separate your eggs into smaller bowls first, one at a time, and transfer the contents into larger bowls after each egg. That way, if a yolk contaminates a white, all you've lost is one egg, not a dozen. Because, of course, those finicky, high-maintenance whites will remain liquid if even the thought of fat or grease crosses their little minds.
If you can't find superfine sugar, Alton says that you can wizz regular sugar in a food processor for two minutes instead. This seems to be a pretty standard angel food cake, other than the addition of the poppyseeds, which add a nice little crunch to the pillowy slices.
Poppyseed Angel Food Cake
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
12 large egg whites are room temperature
2 tablespoons lukewarm water
1 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons poppyseeds (these could easily be left you, if you prefer)
1 batch of grapefruit curd (recipe follows)
Oven preheated to 350, be sure your 10" tube pan with a removable bottom is immaculately clean and ungreased.
Sift the flour and 1/2 cup of the sugar together three times.
With an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, whip the egg whites with the warm water until they are foamy. Add the cream of tartar and the salt and continue to whip until the soft peak stage. Gradually begin adding the remaining 1 cup of sugar and whip until the hard peak stage. Whip in the vanilla.
Once the whites are whipped, Daley suggests using your hands to incorporate the flour mixture in 4 batches so as to deflate the egg whites as little as possible and to really feel when the lumps have been combined. This is great fun, so take her suggestion, but fold with care. When the final 1/4 batch of flour is almost incorporated, add the poppyseeds and fold to combine.
Pour the batter into your waiting pan and smooth the top. Here, Daley suggests running a knife through the batter to deflate any air bubbles. I did it, so you should do it, too.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, then cool the cake still in the pan, but turned upside down. I did this by setting it in a colander and it worked just fine. Be sure the pan is totally cool before you dislodge your cake by running a knife around the perimeter.
12 large egg yolks (hey, that works out well!)
1 cup superfine sugar
2 teaspoons grapefruit zest
3/4 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 cup cold, unsalted butter cut into chunks.
You're going to make this in a double boiler, so get the water gently simmering in your pot and have a sieve placed over a bowl all ready and waiting for you. In the bowl of the double boiler whisk the egg yolks until they are foamy then whisk in the rest of the ingredients other than the butter.
Put the bowl on top of the simmering water and stir constantly. No, seriously, constantly. You don't want to end up with a bunch of cooked egg. Continue stirring until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, leaving a nice defined line when you draw your finger down it. This should take anywhere from 7-10 minutes.
Once thickened, pour the curd through the waiting strainer and into the bowl. Stir the butter into the warm curd a few pieces at a time until all the butter has been combined. The butter cooled the curd down to lukewarm for me, so at this point, I simply covered it with plastic wrap so that the wrap was touching the top of the curd (to prevent a skin) and put it in the fridge. Keep it refrigerated for at least 2 hours, and up to 8.
Drizzle as much grapefruit curd as you want over as large a slice of cake as you desire. If you have any grapefruit peels left over, may as well stick those on as well.