Friday, August 19, 2011

Angel Food Cake with Fresh Palisade Peach Ice Cream

One of the best things about summer in Colorado is fresh Palisade peaches.  They're heaven, and they began their annual appearance at our local farmers' markets and grocery stores a few weeks ago.

The town of Palisade is on Colorado's western slope, just east of Grand Junction.  The town hosts an annual Peach Festival in August; it's this weekend, in fact.  And Palisade is home to a most excellent restaurant, Inari's, owned and operated by my friends Meg and Hiro.

Last weekend Brad and I were invited to dinner at our friends' house.  Being thoughtful dinner guests, we asked our host what we could bring.  But I also added if she wanted us to bring angel food cake and fresh peach ice cream, then she was reading our minds. Because Brad and I were dying for some Palisade peach ice cream.

We had a busy day on Saturday, but everything for dessert was coming together just fine.  Until it was time to pop the ice cream mixture--which had been chilling in the refrigerator for several hours--into the maker.  I keep the cylinder in the freezer in our downstairs bar, so it's out of the way but ready to go whenever we get the urge for some ice cream.

Well apparently at some point when we'd gotten into that freezer for something, we'd left the door ever-so-slightly ajar.  The freezer was pretty much room temperature inside, and most everything in it had thawed.  Including the cylinder for our ice cream maker.  Oh, and there was a nice green puddle on the floor from several bags of roasted Hatch green chiles (another great seasonal Colorado treat).

Undeterred, I phoned our host and asked if she had room in her freezer to try and get enough of a chill on the cylinder to make the ice cream at her place.  It was dessert, after all, and I knew the four of us could leisurely make our way through dinner and some great wine and postpone dessert until the freezer had some time to work its magic on the cylinder.

Well, we had plenty of wine.  And lots of great food.  But the cylinder never froze that night.  What I learned, though, is this ice cream mix makes a great creamy peach sauce; spooned over angel food cake and drizzled with caramel sauce, it was delightful. 

And I also learned you always need to keep your sense of humor about cooking.

Oh, and sorry this post is a bit light on photos.  Another fail.  I thought I'd taken more, but I guess I hadn't.

Angel Food Cake
From Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook.  Martha has a lot of recipes on the web for angel food cake, but none I've seen are exactly like this one.

 I like this recipe because it calls for a measured amount of egg whites, instead of just a certain number of eggs.  Egg whites are the key to angel food cake, so it seems to me that precision likely results in a better cake.  And I enjoy sifting the dry ingredients several times.  It's relaxing.  Just kidding, it's kind of a pain.  But, again, anything to make an angel food cake light and airy is worth the extra effort.

1 cup unbleached cake flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 cups superfine (baker's) sugar
1 3/4 cups egg whites (approx 13 eggs), at room temperature
1 Tablespoon warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in the center.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour and 3/4 cup of the sugar four times and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the egg whites and the warm water on low speed until foamy.  Add salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla, and whisk on high speed until soft peaks form (approx 3 minutes).  Continue beating and gradually add the rest of the sugar (3/4 cup), adding it by Tablespoons.  Beat until peaks are stiff and glossy, but not dry (approx another 2 mins).  The egg white mixture should have beaten up to the top of your mixing bowl at this point.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl:

Add the dry ingredients in six parts by sifting them over the egg whites, then quickly but gently folding them into the egg whites.  Gently transfer to an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.  Drag a knife through the batter to disperse any air pockets, then bake until done (golden brown and springs back upon touch, 35 to 40 minutes).

If your tube pan has legs, invert the pan and let the pan cool completely.  If no legs on your pan, you can invert the pan over a wine bottle (surely you have one of those lying around if you're a friend of ours).  Neither of these worked for me, so I set the pan upside down over four ramekins (supporting the rim) to allow the cake to cool.

After the cake has cooled in the pan for about an hour, run a small rubber spatula or knife (taking care not to scratch your pan) around the edges to loosen.  Remove the cake and cool completely on a wire rack.

Fresh Palisade Peach Ice Cream
This recipe is based on one published in The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, which is pretty much the best ice cream recipe book out there. 

It calls for sour cream, but I substituted an equal amount of creme fraiche.  Mainly because we had some in the refrigerator. I also left out the small amount of lemon juice listed in the original recipe because the creme fraiche added enough tartness and tang.  And we didn't have a lemon (the real reason).

1 1/3 lb fresh Palisade peaches (about 4 large), peeled and cut into chunks
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup creme fraiche (or sour cream)
1 cup heavy (or whipping) cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice (optional; I didn't use)

Cook the peaches in the water on the stovetop over medium heat until the peaches are soft, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in the sugar, and cool to room temperature.

Place the peaches (and liquid) and remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to combine and until somewhat smooth.  Leave lots of peach chunks.

Cool in the refrigerator for a few hours, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.  You may want to check to be sure your ice cream cylinder is actually frozen before you get to this point.