Angel Food Cake with Fiery Blueberry Compote

On the first episode of this season’s Great British Bake Off (GBBO), the technical challenge the amateur bakers had to face was an Angel Food Cake with lemon curd (Mary Berry’s recipe). Despite some evident fiascos, mostly due to the bakers not respecting some basics in the preparation of this fluffy cloud-like cake, they all turned out more or less acceptable. I had been toying with the idea of making one myself for a while, mostly because the concept behind it the same as for a Chiffon Cake – same substance, different name. So I did. But before we venture into my take, here are a few tips to turn out a beautiful and effortless Angel Food Cake:

  • You really need an Angel Food Cake tin. They are not expensive and easy to find online. I bought mine off Amazon for £15 and it worked really good. I’ve seen recipes online and bakers saying you don’t need a special tin as you can put an empty can of coke in the middle. Rubbish. Good quality cakes require good quality tins, and this makes no difference. If you’re passionate about it, you might as well spend a little bit more and get yourself one.
  • Ensure your cake tin has the required cooling ‘legs’. These allow you to effortlessly turn the cake upside down (more on this later) and leave it to stand there with no work on your behalf. If you end up with a tin without legs, simply turn it out on a bottle or a wide glass, so that the cake tin can cool upside down.

  • Never. and I mean NEVER, grease the tin. The main feature of an Angel Food Cake tin is that it allows the egg white mixture inside it to slowly climb its way to the top while baking, thus allowing for that beautiful rise. If you grease the tin, the mixture won’t have anything to grab on and will NOT rise, resulting in a flat and dense cake.
  • When you are whisking the egg whites, only whisk until soft peaks form. Over-whisking may result in a denser and heavier cake. Also, the formation of bigger air bubbles (resulting from over-whisking) will deflate too much in the oven and give your cake a weird shape/texture.
  • Last, but not least, cool your cake upside down. I know this sounds weird, but this is the way to go. As soon as the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and turn it upside down on its legs (or not, see above). Leave it to cool for at least 1 hour. This will ensure air can circulate around the cake tin and reach the whole surface of the cake. Also, the force of gravity will push the removable part of the tin downwards, thus giving a neater, flatter result and compacting the cake.

I know this may sound like a lot of information to take in and you’re probably very scared to attempt it, but take your time and follow these guidelines and you also will have a beautifully soft Angel Food Cake. The recipe below is Mary Berry’s with a few slight changes from myself. As I was saying, the accompanying sauce on the GGBO was lemon curd (made with 6 egg yolks, now that’s a lot of curd!). As I was using leftover egg whites I had stashed in the freezer, I didn’t really want to end up with more after I’d separated the egg yolks to make litres of curd. So I opted for something different. Online I came across the recipe for a blueberry and jalapeno compote/jam, which I found extremely intriguing. I’m usually very conservative on flavours, but I do like to experiment. I tried eating the two ingredients together first and I liked it, so why making a compote to drizzle the cake with? The recipe below is mine and was inspired from other similar ones found online.

Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 11 large egg whites
  • 1 tsp water
  • 125g plain flour
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 large lemons, grated zest only
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Ingredients (for the decoration)

  • 300ml double cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Ingredients (for the compote)

  • 250g blueberries
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 30g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 35g red jalapenos, finely chopped (I used the ones in a jar, but pat dried them before chopping them)

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 170C and arrange an oven shelf in the bottom third of the oven. Sift the flour and 100g of the caster sugar in a separate bowl, then set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer (or do it with an electric whisk), whisk the egg whites for one minute, just until frothy, then add the lemon zest, water, juice, salt and cream of tartar. Whisk on medium to high speed until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl. Using a tablespoon, start adding the sugar one tablespoon at a time, still whisking on high speed. You want to form firm but not stiff peaks.
  3. Sprinkle about a third of the flour and sugar mixture on top, then use a spatula or a wooden spoon to fold that in with ample and gentle movements, ensuring to knock out as little air as possible. Repeat with the rest of the flour and sugar mixture, folding it in in two batches.
  4. Pour the mixture in the cake tin, then level the top with a palette knife. Run a knife in the middle of the cake to dislodge any big air bubbles, then put in the oven and bake for 45 minutes, or until springy and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
  5. When cooked, remove from the oven and turn upside down straight away, then leave to cool for about 1 hour.
  6. In the meantime, make the blueberry compote. In a saucepan, add the blueberries with the sugar and 2 tbsp water, then gently bring to a simmer. Tumble in the chopped jalapeno peppers, lemon juice, cinnamon and the rest of the sugar, then cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes, pressing gently on the berries to help them burst. You want a jam-like consistency, so don’t overcook or you’ll end up with a very stiff compote. When ready, remove from the heat, transfer to a serving jug and cover with clingfilm. Leave to cool until needed.
  7. Once the cake has been resting for 1 hour, turn it upside down again, then gently run a palette knife between the cake and the sides of the tin to release the cake. Do the same in the middle, but use a small knife. Remove the cake from the tin pushing it outside in the same way as you would do with a tart, then run the palette knife at the bottom of the cake tin too before turning it upside down on a serving platter.
  8. In the meantime, whip the cream with the vanilla extract until soft peaks form, then spread it onto the cake and use it as a crumb cover. Try and smooth the surface as best as you can.
  9. Dribble with the blueberry compote, then serve immediately. Keep in the fridge if not eating straight away.

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Oreo Brownies

This is a recipe from Lorraine Pascale. In one of the episode of her TV series Baking Made Easy, she confessed to a full addiction to chocolate brownies. Despite the confession being a bit over the top, who could not relate to those words? If you like chocolate, and I do, then a good chocolate brownie will bring solace and comfort in the darkest and gloomiest days of your life. What could be better, then, than adding some cream cookies to it?

The addition of Oreos (but you could as easily use any other brands – Ringo will be very good too) provides for an extra sweet touch and a creaminess a normal chocolate brownie would not cater for. It also looks drop-dead gorgeous, so what are you waiting for?

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Ingredients

  • 165g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped, 70% cocoa solids
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 165g light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 x pack of chocolate and cream biscuits (Oreos)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C and grease and line a 20cm rectangular (or square) brownie tin with some parchment paper. Experience teaches me to leave the paper a bit overhanging at the sides so that it will be easier to take the brownie out of the tin once it has cooled down.
  2. Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat, then remove from the heat and stir in the copped chocolate. Keep on stirring until combined, the leave on the side to cool slightly.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolks with the vanilla extract until light and fluffy, then slowly add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, until fully incorporated and meringue-like in texture.
  4. Now pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl and slowly mix that in. You want to pour it from the sides so as to knock out as little air as possible. In a separate bowl, sift the flour with the cocoa powder and salt, then also stir that in. Roughly break up a third of the chocolate biscuits and add them to the mixture.
  5. Pour the batter into the lined cake tin, then level it out using a spatula. Break up the rest of the biscuits and use them to dot the surface of the raw brownie, then bake for 30 minutes, until cooked on the outside but still a bit squidgy on the inside.
  6. Remove from the oven, leave to cool on a wire rack, then remove from the pan and cut into squares. If you want to, you can dust the brownies with icing sugar.

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Crostata all’Olio d’Oliva

If you want to be pedant, this is nothing more than a simple jam tart. You can fill it with the preserve of your choice too (I used my grandma’s apricot jam, which is sweet, treacly and very moreish if compared to those diluted and bright orange replicas you find in shops). What’s peculiar about it is the use of olive oil instead of butter in the shortcrust pastry. This has two immediate consequences. First of all, you don’t need to rub butter in the pastry or chill it before rolling it out. Then, you get very nice and subtle fruity notes provided for by the olive oil, but still retain all that crumbliness and crisp so typical of butter-based shortcrust tarts. Here I used some very good and dense Sicilian olive oil I brought directly from Italy, but a good olive oil would be just as good.

The rationale behind it is that in the old times, in Tuscan homes, butter was relatively unknown and considered too costly and stodgy to be used in food. On the other hand, olive oil was the staple of the local diet and used abundantly in both sweet and savoury dishes. This recipe is from the La Vialla estate, a farm and wine paradise located in the middle of the Tuscan countryside. The recipe also featured in the September issue of the delicious. magazine. I have slightly adapted it while making it.

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Ingredients

  • 80ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 350g plain flour
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbsp Marsala wine
  • 350g of your favourite jam
  • icing sugar (optional)

Method

  1. Grease and flour a 23cm fluted tart tin, then set aside. Preheat the oven to 160C.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, golden caster sugar and baking powder. Measure out the olive oil in a jug, then add the eggs and the Marsala. Pour the liquid ingredients into the bowl, then add the lemon zest. Mix using a wooden spoon until just combined, then use your hands to bring the pastry together.
  3. Take a third of the pastry and reserve it for the top. Gather the rest of it in a ball and put it on a heavily floured work surface (the pastry will stick because of the oil). Roll it out to a circle the thickness of a pound coin, then line the greased and floured tin. Ensure the pastry fits snugly in the tin, then prick the base with a fork.
  4. Spread the jam in an even layer on the pastry shell.
  5. Now take the reserved pastry and roll that out to the thickness of a pound coin. Using a very sharp knife, cut long strips of pastry, then lace them on top of the jam. Make sure to trim to edges once all done.
  6. Bake the tart in the preheated oven for about 50 minutes. Keep an eye on it and cover it with foil it starts browning too soon.
  7. Once baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly in the tin, then remove from the tin and serve. Dust with icing sugar if you wish.

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