Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Real History of Angel Food Cake with Recipes

Think angel food cake is a recent invention? Well, you'd be thinking wrong. Angel food cake has been around a very long time, and the author of The American Pastry Cook, Jessup Whitehead, who goes into detail about its origins way back in 1894, and makes you appreciate this gem of a cake. His tips, which are still put to use in today's kitchens:
  1. Deep molds are best for angel food cakes
  2. Molds should not be greased
  3. When the cake is done, turn it upside down to cool
  4. The rule for angel food cake in large quantities: a pound of sugar, pound of whites, half a pound of flour, an ounce of cream of tartar.
According to him, here is the remarkable story and history behind this fancy but very simple cake. And with what eventually happens to the originator to the recipe, it makes you think the recipe was eventually cursed, or he simply went insane with the knowledge that his prized cake was now an American icon.
"Angel food, as this peculiarly white and light sponge cake is fancifully named has quite a history to be recorded. It originated in St. Louis a few years ago [Renee's Note: This book was first published in 1894] and is seen oftener in the hotel bills of fare [Renee's Note: Bills of Fare were what Hotel and Restaurant Menus were called] of that city than anywhere else. S. Sides, who kept a large cafe or restaurant there invented it and did not fail to make the most of his discovery, and it soon came into such a great demand that not only was no fine party suppler complete without it but it was shipped to distant cities, orders coming even from London. For some time the method of making it was kept a profound secret but at length the inventor yielded so far as to sell the receipt for twenty-five dollars, having it understood that it could not be made without a certain powder that could be obtained from him alone. It did not take long to discover that the powder was nothing but cream of tartar and the receipt once communicated gradually became common property. Many of the caterers for parties make a specialty of it, for it is still sufficiently difficult to make always alike to prevent its becoming utterly common, and a considerable number of the cakes are sent out packed in boxes to surrounding towns, and occasionally to the east and south. The difficulty such as it is, that makes the caterers say this cake has been more trouble to them than anything else, and leads to the use of special molds to bake it in is the tendency to fall in at the centre after baking. The mold not being greased holds up the cake up to its shape until cold. The lamb's-wool texture of it may be made finer by stirring after the flour is added. The cake will be better when a day old than when first baked, but to keep the outside from drying and to make it better eating, as it has no richness to the ingredients, it is always covered with a flavored sugar glaze or icing. It may have no direct connection with it, but Sides, who originated angel food, afterwards lost his reason and was taken to an insane asylum, his wife continuing the business he established."
This contrasts with what others have said about what the origins of angel food cake are. Popular historical theories:
  • It was adapted from a 'silver cake', which contains creamed butter and powdered sugar
  • It was a form of a 'snowdrift cake' which contains milk, lots of flour, and uses baking soda for leavening
  • It was a lightened pound cake
Since the basis to angel food cake are that the ingredients are nothing more than egg whites, a bit of flour, sugar, cream of tartar, and some flavoring, give Jessup Whitehead's account more credence, since it lives up to the original recipe without change or adulteration.

His original recipe keeps in tune with his accounting of the history of the cake, and with what everyone knows the recipe to be, although current times call for the cream of tartar to be added to the whites, and his glaze for angel food cakes.
Angel Food Cake, or White Sponge Cake (Jessup Whitehead's Recipe)

11 egg whites
10 ounces fine granulated sugar
5 ounces flour
2 rounded teaspoons cream of tartar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Sift flour and cream of tartar together seven times. Whip the whites enough to bear an egg, put in the sugar, add the flavoring, then stir in the flour lightly without beating. As soon as mixed, put the cake into the oven.

Pearl Glaze for Angel Food (While common in the 1800's-1900's, this is not safe for current times as the egg whites are used raw. Use his variations below using water instead of the whites.)
1 cup icing sugar
2 whites of eggs
2 teaspoons flavoring

Mix together in a bowl. As soon as the sugar is fairly wetted it is ready, but may be whitened by beating one minute. It dries pearl white. Spread it over the angel food cake. It does nearly as well with the sugar only slightly wetted with water instead of egg whites, and it dries white. It may also be colored.
While it is common practice now to add the cream of tartar to the egg whites, authoritative 'Desserts' by Olive M. Hulse, uses the above method of adding it to the flour in her angel food cake recipe, from 1912. Instead of being used as an egg white stabilizer, it helps with the baking structure of the cake itself. So, are we in modern times ruining the original intent of the finished product? Hmmm....
Angel Food (Hulse's Recipe)

Sift a teaspoonful of cream of tartar with a quarter of a pound of flour five or six times. Beat the whites of ten eggs to a stiff froth, add a cupful and a half of sugar, and mix carefully. Add the flour, gradually stirring all the while, and, last, the flavoring. Turn quickly into an ungreased pan three-quarters full, and bake in a moderate oven - 260 degrees F - for forty-five minutes. Take from oven, turn pan upside down on a rest, and let stand until the cake falls out. Coat with white icing.
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Friday, February 11, 2011

Foodie Friday - Squirrel Soup

I don't think squirrel soup would make as nice a dish now as it did back in the late 1800's. This recipe is from The White House Cook Book.

Squirrel Soup - Was and quarter three or four good sized squirrels; put them on, with a small tablespoon of salt, directly after breakfast, in a gallon of cold water. Cover the pot close, and set it on the back part of the stove to simmer gently, not boil. Add vegetables just the same as you do in case of other meat soups in the summer season, but especially good will you find corn, Irish potatoes, tomatoes and Lima beans. Strain the soup through a coarse colander when the meat has boiled to shreds, so as to get rid of the squirrels' troublesom little bones The return to the pot, and after boiling a while longer, thicken with a piece of butter rubbed in flour. Celery and parsley leaves chopped up are also considered an improvement by many. Toast two slices of bread, cut them into dice one-half inch square, fry them in butter, put them into the bottom of your tureen, and then pour the soup boiling hot upon them. Very good.
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Monday, February 7, 2011

Seven Unusual Baked Goods: Tongue and Foot Pie, Meat and Blood Bread, and Pork Cake

Here are several unusual recipes. Will you recreate them?

This pie is from American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons from 1798.

Tongue Pie:
Made with tongue, apples, sugar, raisins & currants, and spices.

Foot Pie:
Made with calf's feet that was first placed in a vessel of water for a week, then boiled until tender, meat removed and chopped with more fat, beef suet and apples. Then the mixture is baked with wine, raisins and cinnamon & mace, and sugar.

These are from The Complete Bread, Cake and Cracker Baker by J. Thomson Gill, Manager Confectioner and Baker Publishing Co., 1881.

Meat Bread:
1 lb. raw beef chopped fine with 2 to 2 1/4 lbs. flour.

Blood Bread:
Use 20% of uncoagulated blood from raw flesh, preferably beef.

Pork Cake:
Using salt pork with molasses, citron, spices and raisins.

From The Way to a Man's Heart - "The Settlement" Cook Book by Mrs. Simon Kander, 1901.

Cabbage Strudel (with goose oil):
Made with cabbage, sugar, goose oil and raisins.

Two Recipes for Suet Pudding:
Suet made into spiced steamed puddings.

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Foodie Friday - Homemade Seasonings and Spice Mixtures

For this Foodie Friday, here are some homemade seasonings and spice mixtures that were used in cooking.

From The New System of Domestic Cookery, by "A Lady," from 1807 - Recipe for Kitchen Pepper.

Kitchen Pepper: a mixture was used to flavor meats, sauces and soups.
Kitchen Pepper: Mix the finest powder, one ounce of ginger; of cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, and Jamaica pepper, half an ounce each: ten cloves, and six ounces of salt. Keep it in a bottle - it is an agreeable addition to brown sauces or soups.
Spice in powder, kept in small bottles close stopped, goes much further than when used whole. It must be dried before pounded; and should be done in quantities that may be wanted in three or four months. Nutmeg need not be done - but the others should be kept in separate bottles, with a little label on each.

From The Model Cook Book, by Mrs. Frances Willey, in 1890 - Recipe for Soup Powder.
The recipe was in the Soups section, and was a mixture of herbs.
Soup Powder: Two ounces each of parsley, summer savory, sweet marjoram, and thyme, one ounce each of lemon peel and sweet basil. Dry, pound, sift and keep in a tightly corked bottle.

This recipe is for Bouquet Garni, from The Hotel St. Francis Cook Book, by Victor Hirtzler, from 1919.

Bouquet Garni - Tie in a bundle a small piece of celery, of leek, and of parsley in branches, with a bay leaf, two cloves, a sprig of thyme, and, if desired, a clove of garlic, in the center. This is used for flavoring stews, soups, fish, etc.
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