Well, College Boy almost had me convinced to set up a chicken coop in the backyard, but I am quite certain that my neighbors in our quasi-urban area would not be sympathetic to such a project. Certainly a few free eggs now and then would not be enough to mollify them. The foxes from the nearby urban golf course might enjoy them though.
Meanwhile, I still have access to good farm eggs, so I will seek them out more regularly. Farmers’ markets abound in the Boston area, and I can almost always score a few dozen eggs every week or so in the summer. I will have to be more determined once the weather cools and these markets close. I love cooking and baking with farm eggs; their yolks are firm and deep yellow, the way eggs should be. I also feel much better knowing that the hens have not been confined to scandalously small quarters and subjected to terrible conditions.
For some reason, my son begged for angel food cake with lemon curd, even though he is not much of a dessert eater. Certainly it has an old-fashioned appeal, and I think he is waxing poetic about farm life now that he is home and getting ready to go back to college. As it happened, one of his friends came to dinner on the day I planned to make it, so the cake became a gluten-free dessert. I am not an experienced gluten-free baker, but with my trusty box of gluten-free multi-purpose flour from King Arthur Flour, I had no problems. If you like, you can substitute cake flour for the gluten free flour in the recipe.
We ate it with lemon curd (recipe below) to use some of the egg yolks. I also love angel food cake with fruit sorbet. You can cut off the top, hollow out the center and fill it with sorbet. Replace the top and freeze and slice. To gild the lily, frost the cake with some lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Gluten-Free Angel Food Cake
You will need an angel cake pan for this cake so that the cake can rest upside down as it cools. If you skip this step, the cake will still taste good, but it surely will be deflated and sad looking. (I know, I hesitated and the first cake drooped.)
Makes 1 nine or ten-inch cake
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup King Arthur gluten-free multi-purpose flour (or cake flour for non-gluten free)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups egg whites (11 to 12 eggs)
1 tablespoon lemon juice or 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons vanilla
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
1. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. With a strainer or a sifter, sift 1/2 cup of the sugar, the flour, cornstarch and the salt together onto a piece of waxed paper.
3. In a squeaky clean bowl of a mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the lemon juice or cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 1 cup of sugar, beating until stiff peaks form when you raise the beater. Beat in the vanilla.
4. With a large rubber spatula or your hand, quickly and carefully fold the flour mixture into the whites in three additions.
5. Rinse a 9 or 10-inch angel cake pan with warm water. Do not grease it! Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Rap the pan gently on the countertop once or twice to release air bubbles. Bake for 45 minutes or until it is golden brown and feels bouncy to the touch.
6. Immediately invert the pan so it stands on its “legs.” Leave the cake in the pan until it cools completely. Run a knife between the cake and the sides of the pan to release the cake and set it on a cake plate. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and slice with a serrated knife.
You could use all yolks in this recipe, but the whites lighten the mixture a bit, giving you a smooth, custardy texture. Straining eliminates little bits of white that may have overcooked (although this shouldn't be much of a problem if you take the pan off the heat and strain it pronto.) You still need to strain out the bits of lemon zest which add flavor when the curd cooks, but detract from the finished texture.
Makes 2 cups
3/4 cup lemon juice (4 to 6 lemons)
1 1 /3 cups sugar
3 egg yolks
3 whole eggs
Pinch of salt
1/4 pound (8 tablespoons, 1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in small cubes
1. Set a strainer over a bowl and place it next to the stove.
2. In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, egg yolks, whole eggs and salt. Add the butter pieces.
3. Set the pan on the stove over medium heat. Stirring constantly with the whisk, cook the mixture until it thickens and comes just to a boil around the edges.
4. Quickly remove the pan from the heat and scrape the lemon curd into the strainer. Strain and cool. Serve cold or at room temperature with the angel food cake.
5. To store, press a piece of plastic wrap onto the surface of the lemon curd and refrigerate. For a special treat, serve it spread on brioche or toast for breakfast.
LOOK AND COOK: HOW TO MAKE MERINGUE
Start with a squeaky clean bowl. Any oil residue or bits of yolk interfere with the expansion of the whites. Beat until foamy and add cream of tartar (first choice) or lemon juice. This helps stabilize the egg whites and makes for a very creamy but firm finished meringue.
Beat the eggs until they start to form soft peaks. Now you can add the sugar.
Slowly add the sugar, a tablespoon or two at a time , beating constantly. The meringue starts to look creamy and firm.
Once all the sugar is added, the meringue should look creamy and hold firm peaks when you lift the beater.
Return the sifted dry ingredients to the sifter and lightly sift 1/3 of the flour over the meringue.
With a rubber spatula or your hand. Yes! your hand is the best tool, a trick I learned from a very experienced pastry chef. (However, you may not want to get your hands in the batter.) Either way, draw the spatula from the far side of the bowl towards you, scraping it along the bottom.Turn it to fold it over as pictured here. Continue, turning the bowl 90 degrees each time, until the flour is incorporated. Repeat with another 1/3 of the flour. Finish by adding the final 1/3 of the flour.
Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the back of a spoon. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes, until the cake is browned and springy to the touch.
IMMEDIATELY flip the pan over so it stands on its legs and let it cool completely in the pan.
Note: I had a major computer/camera breakdown at this point, so no pictures of finished cake. Being thus preoccupied, I did not flip the pan right away and my cake drooped. I had to start over!!