Thank You All So Much
A great cake, a great source and a great old restaurant.
My heart is very full. The outpouring of affection for La Briffe has made me so happy. Thank you all so much. We’ve formed a community here, and there’s no way we can let it go.
I’ll be posting every day until the end of the month, and then I’ll do my best to send out La Briffe on a weekly basis. So please continue to stay in touch — with me and with each other.
According to what you’ve said, most of you are buying these gifts for yourself. I love that. In that spirit I’m going to continue to tell you about a few of my favorite things.
Today’s offering, Gustiamo, is a fantastic source for all manner of Italian products. They are one of the few places that sell real Italian pinenuts. (For a discussion of why you don’t want to use the pathetic Chinese pinenuts that are routinely sold in supermarkets and can cause something called “pine mouth”, read this.) Gustiamo also stocks my favorite capers (I am never without them), fantastic flours, and an apricot jam I truly love.
But one reason to mention Gustiamo right now is because the southern Italian harvest has just taken place. If you have never experienced newly pressed olive oil, you are in for a treat. Olive oil is a living product and the flavor just after it is pressed is fresh and lively. It changes with time; still excellent, but far less exciting.
Angel Food Cake
This is what I like about Angel Food Cake: It is beautiful. It is light. It is totally fat-free. It is a gorgeously empty canvas for all manner of desserts. And above all, it is the perfect example of the importance of the chemistry of cooking.
When my friend Marion Cunningham was working on the Baker’s Dozen Cookbook, she sent a recipe for Angel Food Cake to thirty-five bakers, asking them each to bake the cake, exactly as written, and bring it to a meeting. She called me afterward in great excitement; “You would not believe how different they were,” she marveled. “They all had holes in the middle, but other than that, each cake was unique.”
Appalled by this, she and the other bakers decided to perfect the recipe. This cake, created by Flo Braker, is angel food perfection. Follow these instructions and you will have a high, white cloud-like confection that truly does seem food fit for angels.
A few Tips
Cold eggs are easier to separate, so do it when the eggs are right out of the refrigerator.
Should even the tiniest amount of fat get into the eggs they will refuse to whip. So separate each egg white into a separate bowl before adding it to the others, in case one of the yolks breaks.
To insure that there is no grease on the bowl or beater, wipe them with white vinegar and rinse in very hot water. Dry well.
Leave your egg whites in the bowl, out of the refrigerator, for about an hour. If you have an instant-read thermometer, the optimum temperature is 60 degrees. The white are more viscous at this temperature, and the air bubbles are more stable. (Room temperature is about 70 degrees; they will whip more quickly, but at this temperature they are easy to overbeat.)
Make sure your oven is 350 degrees. If the oven is too low, the sugar will absorb the liquid from the egg whites and turn syrupy. If it’s too hot, the outside will set before the interior.
Allow the cake to cool completely before removing it from the pan.
Angel Food Cake (Adapted From Baker’s Dozen Cookbook)
12 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 cup sifted cake flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla.
Allow the egg whites to sit in the bowl of a stand mixer for about an hour, to come to just above room temperature (70 degrees).
Sift the confectioner’s sugar, cake flour and salt together.
Whip the egg whites at low speed until they are foamy. Add the cream of tartar and increase the speed to medium.
Keep whipping, gradually adding the cup of granulated sugar, until the whites thicken and form soft, droopy peaks.
Sprinkle a quarter cup of the flour mixture over the whites and fold it in, by hand, with a rubber spatula. Repeat with the next quarter, and the next, until all the flour has all been gently folded in.
Pour into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan.
Bake at 350 degrees, 40 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and springs back when you touch it. A toothpick should come out clean. Invert the pan onto the neck of a bottle.
Leave for 3 hours so that the cake is completely cool. Run a knife around the sides of pan until you feel it release. Then push up the bottom of the pan. Loosen the cake bottom by tapping on a counter until it’s free and invert onto a plate, and then back onto a cake platter.
Slice with a serrated knife.
Click HERE for a printable recipe
I have to admit that every time I think about Joachim Splichal, I feel sad. He was one of the most exciting chefs I’ve ever met, and at a certain point he became an entrepreneur and pretty much stopped cooking.
It’s been a loss for all of us.
I first heard about Joachim in 1981 when he became the chef at The Regency Club in Los Angeles. Everyone said his food was fantastic, but ordinary people couldn’t taste it: the club was private. I eventually persuaded the publisher of New West to ask a friend to invite us to lunch at the club. (The publisher’s friend was H.R. Bob Haldeman, and the fact that I agreed to go nearly ended my marriage.) But that day Joachim had invited his friend Jean-Louis Palladin to cook with him, and the food was unlike anything I’d tasted before in the United States.
A few years later Joachim opened his own restaurant, Max au Triangle in Beverly Hills. I loved that restaurant. (Here’s my review.) Perhaps it was too ambitious, but the restaurant didn’t last. Then in 1989, he opened Patina. Once again, the food was spectacular. And the wonderful Traci Des Jardins, who went on to spectacular success in San Francisco, was the sous chef. Here’s my review of the restaurant.
Michael Cimarusti’s wonderful restaurant, Providence, now occupies the old Patina space.