Monday, April 29, 2013

Chiffon Cakes

Having bought a chiffon cake tin recently, I decided to make full use of it by trying out various flavours. Thus far, I have tried green tea, chocolate, marble and lately coffee. Chiffon cakes are nice tea treats as they are very light and fluffy and you can afford to be more indulgent with your intake.

The ingredients for chiffon cake are simple and items which you can readily find at home. They include eggs, sugar, milk, cake flour, oil, and cream of tartar/lemon juice/salt (optional). Chiffon cakes are relatively easy to make, albeit more time consuming because of the egg-separation method, which involves the handling of egg yolks and egg whites. For a novice baker, it is a good way to explore techniques beyond the usual "creaming" method of butter and sugar.

To get light fluffy chiffon cakes, the beating of the yolks and whites are important so that the cake can rise up beautifully to the top of your pan. Egg sizes and grades are also important. I usually use large eggs which weigh around 60g (with shell). They have to be at room temperature so that they can be whipped to the maximum volume.

Besides the emphasis on eggs, non-flavoured oil is also used rather than butter. I usually use Canola oil which is used in day-to-day cooking. For sugar, I use fine/castor sugar. Sometimes brown sugar can be used to impart a "caramel-ised" taste and can be considered the healthier version. I tend to use fresh low-fat milk as well, straight from the fridge.

Three main kinds of flour are used in baking, cake flour, plain flour and bread flour. The difference between the kind of flour used lies in the amount of gluten (protein) bonds which will form. The more you handle the dough/mixture, the more bonds there will be, giving baked products either a chewy or soft crumby texture. For instance, bread flour which has a higher tendency to develop more gluten bonds  in used in bread-making to give breads a chewy texture. Cake flour is used in cakes, cupcakes to give a soft tender crumb. Besides the three aforementioned flour types, corn flour/starch is sometimes used as a supplement. It helps cookies to be be more crunchy and crispy and helps cakes to give a more tender crumb. Personally, I mix some corn flour with cake flour in Swiss rolls to prevent cracks from appearing when I roll up the row.

For chiffon cakes, I use cake flour but I have also come across cases where top flour is used to give a finer cake texture. Cake flour has to sifted; I do it twice, once from the weighing scale into a large bowl and the second time, directly into the batter.

Cream of tartar is used to stabilise egg whites as they have to be whipped to stiff peaks. You can also use lemon juice if you prefer something more natural. When making chiffon cakes, there were times where I skipped adding cream of tartar/lemon juice. Instead, I will substitute with salt (even though I am unsure of its effectiveness; my chiffon cakes still turned out well)

Chiffon cakes may seem intimidating but they are fun to make and the results are satisfying. Look forward to a detailed breakdown of steps to make a chiffon cake in my subsequent post, Coffee chiffon cake!

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