You’ll always find angel food cake but never angel’s food; conversely, you’ll always find devil’s food cake, but never devil food. This sponge cake owes its fluffy texture to a tremendous amount of egg whites and no butter. This use of egg whites is similar to that for a souffle; the bubbles expand in the oven heat, and like a souffle, an angel food cake does take time and precision. You can find mixes for this cake in the store, but they cannot compare to scratch. It’s a delicate, impressive recipe, a perfect platform for summer fruit in season, particularly stone fruit and berries. It also makes beautiful toast. Learn how to make it.
Preheat oven to 350. Separate a dozen eggs while cold, using caution to ensure no yolks make it into the whites. Bring whites to room temperature and stir in a tablespoon of water. Sift a cup of cake flour with a half cup sugar until it’s very light. (Yes, you can use plain flour.) You want to sift several times; some recipes say as many as five. Beat the egg whites in a large, very clean, dry bowl. Start on a low speed. When the eggs are foamy, sprinkle in a teaspoon of cream of tartar. This acid helps stabilize the egg whites when they are whipped. Since most of the volume and structure of the cake comes from these egg whites, you’re not going to want to take the risk of substituting this ingredient. As the texture of the bubbles begins to even out, add a teaspoon or two of pure vanilla extract, and incorporate another cup of sugar bit by bit, about a tablespoon at a time. Keep beating at a medium speed until the sugar is dissolved and the whites form stiff peaks. Then carefully FOLD in the flour while sifting it over the egg whites. Use a spatula, and turn the bowl; the key is not to deflate the bubbles. Make sure the flour is evenly combined throughout the whites, but don’t over-mix.
Gently pour the batter into a 10-in. ungreased tube pan; the cake has to cling to the sides as it rises, forming a bit of a crust. Bake for 30 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN BEFORE THAT TIME. When done, the cake should spring back when touched. Remove from oven and invert the pan until over a rack while it cools, otherwise it might deflate. You’ll find specially-made tube pans with legs for this cake. When cool remove by running a thin knife around the sides of the pan. You can buy a comb to slice this cake, otherwise use a serrated knife dipped in warm water before each cut.
A blancmange is a sweet molded pudding usually made with milk or cream, though you’ll find a savory version with chicken from Turkey. It’s very simple and quite old; Chaucer makes a revolting joke of it in his “Prologue” to The Canterbury Tales. The thickening is usually achieved with either cornstarch or gelatin. In this version I use both because while buttermilk gives the dessert a nice acidy zing, it tends to separate with heating so just using gelatin will give you a 2-layer dessert of clear yellowish whey and a sort of grainy white cream. The corn starch stabilizes the buttermilk for an even, creamy consistency. This recipe makes four 6 oz. servings.
3 cups low-fat buttermilk
A half cup of sugar
2 pkgs. unflavored gelatin
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (check the label)
Mix gelatin and cornstarch and dissolve in 1/4 cup warm water. Add this mixture to warm buttermilk and whisk to a smooth consistency. When it just begins to thicken, add lemon zest and vanilla. Cool and refrigerate. When just firming, spoon into lightly oiled (6 oz.) molds, and refrigerate for at least three hours. Serve with a fruit puree and crushed almonds.
Make this recipe your go-to throw-together for an outdoor summer get-together. Whip a 14 oz. can Eagle brand milk with an 8 oz. bar of softened cream cheese. Add a half cup freshly-squeezed lemon/lime juice with a little grated peel or mashed banana along with a jolt of vanilla. Pour into a cooled 8 in. graham cracker crust (just buy one, for Pete’s sake) and freeze. Remove, cut into 8ths, and serve.
Toss fresh berries, drupes or pomes (in this case, peaches and cherries) with granulated sugar and macerate overnight in the refrigerator. Make a crust by mixing one and a quarter cup of plain flour, two tablespoons of sugar, a teaspoon of salt, cutting in a stick of butter very finely and adding enough very cold water and additional flour to make a stiff dough. Form into a ball and refrigerate for perhaps an hour, then roll out to form a 12” circle. (It doesn’t have to be perfect.) Drain syrup from fruit and mound in the center of the dough, leaving a 2” edge. Fold the crust over the fruit, brush the dough with a mixture of melted butter mixed with a little dark brown sugar or molasses and place in an oven at 375 until crust is browned and fruit is bubbling. Cool, slice and serve with thick sweetened cream. Serves 4-6.
Homemade ice cream makes everyone happy, and though we do have an (electric) churn, most of the time we just use this recipe, which is easy, with simple ingredients, and you don’t have to bother with ice. Most recipes for no-churn ice cream recommend a loaf pan lined with parchment paper, so that’s your first step, line a loaf pan with parchment paper. Pour one chilled 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk into a cold bowl, and add two teaspoons vanilla. Whip two cups of heavy cream to stiff peaks. Working quickly, GENTLY fold the whipped cream into the sweetened condensed milk, along with any additions—mashed macerated fruit, chocolate syrup, or crushed cookies or nuts—until thoroughly blended. Pour into the prepared loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for at least four hours. Some recipes will tell you to stir the mixture after about two hours (while you still can) but this is superfluous. I recommend making this in the morning for an afternoon gathering.
My grandmother Monette was a woman of many parts: a wit and a wag, a poet and historian, she raised two children who became remarkable people in their own right. She belonged to a generation of women who entered the workplace in time of war, and unlike her mother or daughter she never became a good cook. She along with millions of other women relied more on any given product’s “recommended recipes” than hand-me-downs or innovation. As a result, my Southern Baby-Boomer cuisine—for which, I might add, I barely qualify—is peppered with dishes fabricated in test kitchens.
Green bean casserole is the most popular of these concoctions, but there are dozens of others, including lemon icebox pie. Many early recipes include the word “magic”, as if cooling ingredients for preparation were more metaphysical than heating. Ingredients usually include canned milk of some sort, sweetened or not, as well as meringue or whipped cream, either in the filling or lightly-baked as topping. This recipe is from The Country Gourmet, distributed by the Mississippi Animal Rescue League in 1983, which includes a short forward by Eudora Welty ending with the marvelously ambiguous: “Guarding and protecting, trying to save, all life on earth is a need we all alike share.”
Beat six ounces of whipped topping with a thawed can of lemonade concentrate and a can of condensed milk. Pour into a graham cracker pie crust and chill one hour before serving.
This rich custard makes a sumptuous base for any homemade ice cream, simply add flavorings to taste. Admittedly it is a little time-consuming and takes a bit of patience, but custards were most likely the basis for the rich, unforgettable ice creams your grandmother made on the porch when you were growing up.
Combine 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and a scant teaspoon salt in a saucepan. Gradually stir in a quart of half-and-half, stirring constantly and place over low heat. In a large bowl beat together 2 large eggs and a tablespoon of pure vanilla extract until whites and yolks are thoroughly blended. Add this mixture very slowly into the half and half, stirring constantly and gradually increasing heat until thickened. It should have the consistency of eggnog. Stir in a pint of whipping cream and remove from heat. Refrigerate for 45 minutes to cool, then add fruit, nuts and/or flavorings and sugar to taste, place in your ice cream freezer and process according to directions.