Angel Food Cake

Whenever I make something that calls for egg yolks (hollandaise sauce, etc), I freeze the leftover egg whites.  When my 1-cup freezer container is full, I know I have enough to make an angel food cake.  If you are starting with frozen egg whites, you will get best results by not only thawing the egg whites, but allowing them to come to room temperature before beating.

As with all recipes that call for beaten egg whites, it’s important to make sure your egg whites have no trace of egg yolk, and that no oils or fats come in contact with them.    This means the freezer container that you store them in, the bowl you beat them in, and your beater and spatula must all be clean, and have no oil clinging to them.

Angel food cake is held up in the oven by the batter clinging to the sides of the pan.  It’s important that the pan be clean and dry, and not oiled in any way.  

Angel food cake is cooled by inverting or "hanging" it upside-down.  This prevents the cake from falling as it cools.  The little “feet” on the pan are to facilitate this, but I find they often are not quite tall enough to allow for good air circulation.  You can improve this by cutting a couple of corks  (from a wine bottle) in half and pushing a half onto each foot of the cake pan after you take it out of the oven.  This will elevate the pan and allow the cake to cool better.

When cutting angel food cake, I like to use a serrated knife (e.g. bread knife) and a gentle sawing motion with very little downward pressure.

Beating a single egg white

I don't have a handheld mixer.   I got rid if it when I hadn't used it for several years after owning a stand mixer.  But now that I'm down-sizing recipes, I have a quandary: how to successfully beat a single egg white?  My stand mixer will beat two egg whites very nicely. But one egg white just isn't quite enough volume:  it sits in the bottom of the bowl, and the beaters barely disturb it.  After running the mixer for several minutes, I decided I would burn out the motor before that egg white got beaten.  

I next tried my immersion blender.  It also did nothing to my egg white.  I wondered about my regular blender (because the blade is right down there in the bottom), but wasn't sure a blade was really the way to go.  And in any case, I was starting to worry about how many more times I could pour that egg white from one bowl to another before I lost it all along the way.  So I decided to try beating it by hand.  Maybe, I reasoned, if I could get some volume started, my stand mixer would have something to work with.  

So I poured the egg white into a small bowl and beat it vigorously with a wire whip, channeling my inner Laura Ingalls Wilder.  At three minutes on the clock, my arm was pretty tired, and I was feeling more like Laura's wimpy sister Carrie, who gets out of all the housework and faints a lot.  But my egg white had at least doubled in bulk, and looked very foamy indeed.  So I scraped it back into the stand mixer bowl and turned it on.

Before you know it, perfectly beaten egg white!  In fact, I may have over-beaten it a tad, just to prove that I could.  So there you have it:  with a pioneer make-do attitude and a high-tech mixer, you too can beat an egg white.