Saturday, June 13, 2015

Caramel Cheesecake Baked in a Woodburning Cookstove



When I was growing up, I was not a huge cheese lover, and I can remember my cousins being quite aghast when I declared that I did not like cheesecake.  Truthfully, I think that I had never had cheesecake at the time that I made that declaration, and I probably believed that it would have been made with cheddar or American cheese.  Thankfully, their mother, my aunt Ellen (a fantastic cook), educated me, and now cheesecake ranks among my favorite desserts.

The recipe that I'm going to share with you in this post is one that I developed after reading and trying caramel cheesecake recipes from the Internet.  I first made this for my family's Easter dinner, and it was a big hit.  I've made a few adjustments from that first try, and I'm very happy with the results.  This is one of the more complicated recipes that I have shared here on the blog, but the results are SOOO worth the effort.

Before you can make this cheesecake, you must have previously baked the Browned Butter-Pecan Cookies that I blogged about last November.  You'll need enough of these to make 1 1/2 cups of cookie crumbs when crushed.  The other ingredients you will need are as follows:

5 Tbsp. butter, divided
1 cup + 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, divided
4 eight-ounce packages of cream cheese
5 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. burnt sugar flavoring
1/2 tsp. butterscotch flavoring
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
pecans for decoration

As with any wood cookstove baking recipe, the first thing that you must do is build or maintain your fire in such a way as to get the desired temperature for whatever you are cooking.  You will need a moderate oven (350 degrees) for both of the baking steps in this recipe, so plan accordingly.

Also, you are going to need a teakettle of boiling water when the cheesecake is ready to be baked, so place your teakettle over the firebox until it comes to a boil.  You can move it to a cooler spot on the cooktop later if it is boiling too hard while you are finishing the cheesecake preparations.

If you haven't had the foresight to let your cream cheese come to room temperature by letting it set out for several hours (this happens to me all the time), the thing to do is unwrap the cream cheese, put it in a glass mixing bowl and set it either in the warming oven or on the back of the reservoir.  I chose the reservoir, and it softened the cream cheese perfectly.
The cream cheese softening on the back of the reservoir.

While your oven is heating, you need to prepare your crust.  Start by greasing the just the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.  To the 1 1/2 cups of crushed Browned-Butter Pecan Cookies that I mentioned above, add 3 Tbls. of very soft butter and 2 Tbls. of brown sugar.

The cookie crumbs, soft butter, and brown sugar ready to be blended.
Combine the cookie crumbs, butter, and brown sugar with a fork.

The cookie crumb mixture ready to be patted into the bottom of
the springform pan.
Once you've mixed the crust, pat the crumbly mixture into the bottom of the springform pan.  Place the pan on a wide, heavy duty piece of foil and pull the edges of the foil up around the pan.  Bake the crust in your moderate oven for about 13 minutes until it begins to turn a rich dark brown.



Remove it from the oven to cool a little while you mix the cheesecake layer.

A few words about mixing a good cheesecake:

  • Use only a spoon, never a whisk, because you don't want to beat air into cheesecake batter.
  • Start by beating the sugar and the cream cheese very thoroughly.  I always think that it is best if you can no longer feel the grittiness of the sugar when you are done.
  • Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each, but being careful not to "whip" them in.

So, to mix the cheesecake layer, beat 1 cup of brown sugar into the four eight-ounce blocks of softened cream cheese.  Add two tablespoons of melted butter.


The cup of brown sugar ready to be beaten into the cream cheese.

Add the five eggs, one at a time, incorporating thoroughly but not beating hard.

The three flavorings to help create the caramel taste.
Add the two tsp. of vanilla, 1 tsp. of burnt sugar flavoring, and 1/2 tsp. of butterscotch flavoring.  Pour the batter onto the baked and slightly cooled crust.

The cheesecake ready to be baked.

The cheesecake is going to be baked in a bain marie.  This is the official culinary name for a hot water bath.  What I do is use the liner from an electric roaster.  Place the foil-wrapped springform pan inside the roaster liner; then add enough boiling water from the teakettle to come about halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan.

Adding boiling water to the roasting pan to create the bain marie.
The cheesecake in the bain marie in the oven of the Margin Gem.
Bake the cheesecake for approximately 70 minutes in a moderate oven.  Of course, this is all relative in a wood cookstove, so you are looking for the cheesecake to look puffy but still jiggle a little bit in the center.  It may begin to brown a little on the top, too.  Usually, I recommend baking with smaller pieces of wood so that you have more control over the fire, but since the baking time for this cheesecake is so long, and since you need only one oven temperature, larger pieces of wood work just fine.

I find that the large roaster liner and the tall foil seem to effect the thermometer in the oven door of the Margin Gem.  It appears that they tend to make the thermometer register a little cooler than the oven actually is.
The baked cheesecake.  You can see that I
probably should have turned this one mid-baking
because the firebox side is clearly a little darker
than the reservoir side.  It didn't have any ill
effect, though.
Place the hot cheesecake in the refrigerator until thoroughly cooled or over night.  This will make your refrigerator work hard and draw more electricity than usual, so maybe this is a dessert that you'd rather bake in the wintertime when you can put the cheesecake on an enclosed back porch or something like that.

Once the cheesecake is cool, it is time to make the caramel topping.  In a saucepan, combine the one and half cups of white sugar with the quarter cup of water and the 1/2 tsp. lemon juice.  Over a hot fire, cook this mixture until it becomes a light brown.  Don't get excited about stirring this too much.



The cooked sugar, water, and lemon juice just before the cream is added.
When the sugar, water, and lemon juice have cooked sufficiently to look like the picture above, add the cup of heavy cream.  Be aware that when you do this, the mixture will bubble furiously, and you may see the sugar solidify for a little while.  Don't be afraid!  It will become liquid again as it heats up once more.  Boil the caramel sauce for several more minutes until it is obviously getting thicker.  I test it using the cold water method that I talked about for making caramels.  Don't cook it until you get to the soft ball stage, though.  You want to remove it from the heat a little before that.

Once you have determined that the caramel sauce has cooked enough, remove it from the fire and put it in the fridge (or on the cold porch) for about a quarter of an hour until it gets to the point where it has thickened but can still be poured.

Removed the sides from the springform pan so that the cheesecake is on only the bottom.  Put the cheesecake on whatever plate or stand you plan to serve it from and then spread the caramel sauce over the top of the cheesecake.  Decorate the edges with pecan halves.

The finished caramel cheesecake.
I hope you enjoy this as much as we have.  The one in the pictures above was taken to a church potluck on May 31st where we honored our pastor on his retirement.  I hope it was good: it was gone by the time I got to the desserts, but that was okay because I had an excellent lemon cake instead.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

First Time Cooking in the Summer Kitchen in 2015

I know I'm an odd duck.  I'm used to it, and I'm fine with it, so please don't point it out. 

We had started the electric water heater in the early days of May, and I started whining to Nancy about how much I missed the wood cookstove after only one day of cooking on gas, so we've had Margery the Margin Gem cookstove going intermittently.   On May 30th and 31st, for example, I had a lot of cooking to do and so had fired her up.  One of the things that I cooked on those days was a caramel cheesecake--stay tuned for the upcoming post!  However, I had been cooking mostly on the gas stove since then.

Sorry, but I feel the need to vent a little about our propane range.  You see, I was raised in a home with an electric stove; in fact, the only person on both sides of my family to have a gas stove is my aunt Cheri, who has simply had gas stoves at various times during her many travels and moves.  Nancy, on the other hand, was raised with a gas stove, and her grandmother also had one.  Thus, since I got the wood cookstove that I wanted, the modern gas range next to it is the compromise that proves my love for my wife.

Of course, my opinions weighed heavily in our choice of the gas range, and I think we chose well.  I'm just surprised and frustrated by a couple of the characteristics of today's gas range.  I've cooked on only four gas ranges: the tiny, ancient, unbranded one in our church basement, the 1950s Crown in my parents' basement that we use to freeze sweet corn, the new one in our kitchen now, and the old Hardwick that my grandparents installed in our basement years ago in case of an extended power outage (used twice in my recollections of growing up here).  When we gutted our kitchen in 2011, I cooked on the Hardwick for about a year.  I don't mind cooking on old gas ranges, but our new stove (and every gas stove that is available on the market now) has the cooking vessels sitting so far above the gas burners that the amount of heat that escapes up the sides of the pots is just unreal.  Also, I'm continually surprised at how much heat comes out of the oven vent!

All of this is to say that in the 95 degree heat that we had on Tuesday, I was not excited about cooking supper in the house, even though the air conditioning was on.  The thought of all the heat that comes into the room from the gas range was enough to make me want to have just a bowl of cold cereal for supper, but our nephews were here, so we had to be more responsible and balanced in our meal choice.  Hence, the boys and I trooped down to the summer kitchen and started the Riverside Bakewell.

"But, Jim, wasn't it already 95 degrees in the summer kitchen before you even started the stove?" most sane observers would ask.

Well, yes.  It was already hot in there, and we made it hotter.  I already told you that I know I'm crazy.

We cooked some marinated chicken and macaroni and cheese (which with carrot sticks and fresh strawberries constituted our supper), and then I baked banana bars down there afterward.


Supper cooking on the Riverside Bakewell cookstove.

So yes, it was hot down there, and yes, the summer kitchen is a full 75 paces away from the house kitchen, but cooking on a woodburning cookstove just feels right.  If I could explain it any better, I would.  Surely some of you loyal readers who have your own cookstoves know what I'm talking about and could agree with me in the comments section below so that I don't have to feel quite so weird, right?

I don't know the history of the Riverside Bakewell cookstove as I bought it on an estate auction, but when I'm cooking a meal on it, I can't help but wonder how many meals it turned out before it was put out to pasture for a time.  How many Thanksgiving dinners did it cook?  Did it help keep a family from freezing to death in the notorious winter of 1936?  How many corncobs has it consumed in its lifetime?  As you can see, I have an overactive imagination.  Anyway, add one more meal to the count!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Rhubarb Cobbler

During rhubarb season in Iowa, I can't help but think of Nancy's grandma Ruth, who was sort of a "Rhubarb Queen" in her day.  Even though I didn't meet Ruth until she was 88 years old, she cooked and kept her own house on the family farm until she was 95, and every spring she would make various rhubarb dishes.  Her rhubarb/pineapple jam is still Nancy's favorite thing to spread on toast, and the following recipe for Rhubarb Cobbler was always Nancy's cousin Nathan's favorite.  This is a particularly good wood cookstove recipe, so I wanted to share it with all of you.

Here is what you will need:

3 to 4 cups raw rhubarb cut into chunks no larger than a half inch
1 3/4 c. sugar, divided
3 Tbsp. butter
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 c. milk
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup boiling water


Step 1: Build your fire such that you will have a moderate oven.  Put a teakettle of water directly over the fire so that it will be boiling when you are finished with the other preparations.


Step 2: Cut up rhubarb and place in the bottom of a greased 9" square baking dish.  Because this has a tendency to sometimes run over the sides of the dish during baking, I would tend to favor using only three cups of rhubarb.



 
 
Step 3: Cream 3/4 c. sugar and 3 Tbsp. butter.  

 

Step 4: Mix together the cup of flour, the tsp. of baking powder, and a 1/4 tsp. of the salt.


Step 5: Alternately add the dry ingredients from step 4 with the 1/2 cup milk.  Spread this over the rhubarb.


Step 6: Combine the remaining 1 cup of sugar, 1 Tbsp. cornstarch, and the remaining 1/4 tsp. of salt.  Sprinkle this mixture over the cake.


 
Step 7: Pour 1 cup of boiling water from the teakettle over the top of the whole mixture.

 

Step 8: Place baking dish on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and bake in a moderate oven for one hour.



 
Step 9: Serve with milk, cream, or ice cream.

 
If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you have already figured out that the reason I classify this as an excellent wood cookstove recipe is because it calls for the cup of boiling water just before baking, which takes advantage of the heat generated by the fire as it heats the oven.  As I look over different old-time recipes, I notice that they frequently have boiling water added to them, and I am convinced that part of the reason for this was the teakettle which was ever present on the woodburning range.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Baked Halibut


Sometimes one person's misfortune ends up being another person's gain.  Nancy and I were on the "gain" side of that equation when one of my brother and sister-in-law's freezers quit a couple days ago.  Sara caught the food before it spoiled, but they brought a cooler of various kinds of meat and fish that needed to be used in a hurry to our family's Mother's Day dinner, and we were on the receiving end of two prime halibut steaks.

Now, I am not a huge fish eater.  This land-locked Iowa boy prefers meat and poultry over sea-dwelling creatures most any time.  However, my sister shared a recipe for baked halibut several years ago that is out of this world.  Of course, it is a recipe that has managed to make fish--a usually healthy entree on its own--into an artery-clogging joy that may indeed manage to send you out of this world into the next, but you might as well die happy, right?  Besides, I've only made it twice, and those two times have been five years apart.

The last time I made this was in the Qualified range, and we took that out of the kitchen in 2011.  Kevin and Sara had graciously shared some of the halibut that Kevin had caught on a fishing excursion with Sara's dad then, too.  After getting a taste of halibut prepared this way, I was hooked, so we looked for halibut in the grocery store and decided that it was definitely not in our grocery budget.  Therefore, you can kind of understand why I was excited to receive these beautiful halibut steaks.




You can find the recipe that my sister gave us here Taste of Home's website.

The halibut with the sour cream mixture on it.

After putting the sour cream mixture atop the fish and covering it, I slid it into the oven of the Margin Gem.  The oven was quite hot (probably around 450) because I had gotten a little over-zealous with small pieces of wood, trying to get the oven hot in a hurry.  The extra heat in the oven was no problem since our halibut steaks were much thicker than the one-inch ones listed in the recipe and because I think this recipe is pretty forgiving of a higher oven temperature.

The covered halibut in the oven of the Margin Gem.
I'm sorry about the blurriness of this picture; I didn't
have the camera set correctly.

Adding the paprika after the halibut is uncovered
for the last fifteen minutes of baking.

Once again I don't have a photograph of the finished product, but when it is finished, it doesn't look any different than what you see in the last photo, which was taken as it was uncovered before the last fifteen minutes of baking.  I'm sorry for my lack of a photo, but we were in a hurry because we had to get to a meeting.

I hope you enjoy this one.  You know I wouldn't have shared it if I didn't think it was delicious!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Another Link to a Cookstove Friend

I feel bad about not blogging very much lately.  It isn't that we haven't been using the cookstove.  In fact, Marjorie is still very much in daily use, and we haven't turned our electric water heater on yet.  I guess I just have too many irons in the fire.

Anyway, I have been learning how to be a better Google researcher from my team-teacher at school, and to discover just what some of the search tools did, I used phrases, etc. from my blog so that I would see their effectiveness.  One of the queries that I conducted showed me other websites that have links to my blog.  This was very interesting.  I knew about most of the links because I see them come up in the "stats" buttons on the back end of the blog, but a couple really caught my attention.

The first link had nothing to do with cookstoves.  Instead, it was to a very small thread in which two people were discussing the personalities of bloggers using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.  Just from reading what I have written on this blog, they labeled my personality with four neat little letters.  The scary part is that after doing some more Googling to find out what the four letters stood for, I discovered that without ever having met me in person, they described my personality to a "T"!  Talk about unnerving. . . .

The second link that I wanted to talk about is much more interesting and relevant.  Woodstove Woody, proprietor of Obadiah's Woodstoves, operates a site called cookstoves.net.  This website is a very large repository of information about the many facets of cooking with a wood cookstove.  One can look at the various photos of beautiful cookstove installations, read the discussion threads and articles, and take a gander at the recipes there.  The site really is jam-packed with data.

Woody and I have conversed minimally via e-mail, but he seems a man of great integrity, and I appreciate his knowledge of the technical aspects of many different models of wood cookstoves.  While I have visited cookstoves.net several times, I did not know that he had linked to my blog until the Google search showed that to me.  He wrote very nice things about my blog where the link appears under the "Friends" tab, so I wanted to return the favor.

Thus, while I'm trying to finish an extremely busy school year, get a garden planted, and keep up with the mowing, you can satisfy your longing for cookstove information by visiting cookstoves.net.  Just be sure to keep checking back in with me because I've still got a lot of information to share!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Baking an Angel Food Cake from Scratch in a Woodburning Cookstove

As the days get longer and warmer and the chickens begin to be more reliable about laying, baking an angel food cake from scratch is a great way to use an over abundance of eggs.  Now, many people think that angel food cakes are one of the most difficult things to bake, but I have had a great deal of success baking angel food cakes in woodburning cookstoves.  In fact, I honestly prefer to bake angel food in a woodburning range over a modern oven.  It seems to me that they remain more moist than when they are baked in our gas oven.

For as long as I can remember, the most frequently requested birthday cake on my mom's side of the family has been an angel food cake.  My grandma Marian is an expert on angel food cake baking, and until recently, she would bake many of these cakes throughout each year for friends, neighbors, and family members.  For my brother and sister and me, it never felt like our birthday until we had an angel food cake with caramel frosting.  Others in the family occasionally requested different frostings, but the cake was always the tender, cloud-like angel food that we all loved.

Directions for baking angel food cakes have changed over the years.  Originally, it was considered best to bake angel food cakes for a long period in a slow oven, the heat of which was gradually increased during the baking time.  For example, Grandma Ruth (my great-grandmother whom I have mentioned frequently on the blog) included these baking instructions on her angel food cake recipe:

"Bake at 275 for 20 minutes, 300 for 30 minutes, and 325 for 10 minutes."

In fact, in the December 1937 issue of Kitchen Klatter Magazine, the following article about baking angel food cakes in a woodburning cookstove was contributed by reader Helen F. Karr of Doniphan, Nebraska:

"I have my fire out and my stove cold.  I put my fuel in and have it ready to light before I start to mix my cake.  I mix my cake just as you do your cake and put it in the pan, then into the cold oven.  I light my fire.  I do not put much fuel in at a time because our stove doesn't take much to heat it.  For the first 15 minutes I just have my oven warm up.  Then increase the heat for the next 15 minutes.  By the next 15 minutes I have my oven about hot enough to bake a loaf cake, then keep it about the same for the next 15 minutes or just a little hoter [sic].  If not done I just let the oven cool down a little.  The heat that is in the oven will finish it.  I don't like to have my oven to get hot too fast."

Sometime in the mid-twentieth century, opinions about how to bake an angel food changed so that directions now call for oven temperatures ranging between 350 and 400 degrees coupled with shorter baking times.  I have used both baking methods and cannot tell much difference in the end product.  I tend to favor the cooler oven temperature method, however.

Before I give you the recipe that I use for angel food, I need to warn you that not even the smallest little bit of fat or grease may come into contact with your cake ingredients or any of the utensils that you use to mix or bake the cake.  The presence of any oils will make your cake fall, and that is the last thing you want after you go to all of the effort to make an angel food cake from scratch!

The recipe that I use for angel food cake is one that I have devised.  I took one of the recipes for angel food out of the Kitchen Klatter Cook Book and altered it until I got the results that I desired.  This makes a very tall, finely textured cake.  Here is what you will need:



Jim's Angel Food Cake

1 1/6 c. cake flour
1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 3/4 c. egg whites
1 1/6 c. sugar
1 3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond flavoring

The first thing that I always do is to measure the cake flour and the powdered sugar.  I measure both by sifting them into dry measuring cups and then leveling them off with a table knife.


Of course, most people don't have a 1/6 c. measuring cup, so I just use my 1/3 c. and fill it only halfway.


Once you have measured and combined the cake flour and powdered sugar, you must sift both of them together at least three times.  This is necessary because when you eventually stir them into the egg whites, you want to make sure that they are already evenly mixed.  Once you have sifted them together several times, put the flour and powdered sugar mixture aside.

Now begin separating your eggs.  The number of eggs that you will need is totally dependent on their size.  I just keep cracking and separating eggs until I have the required 1 3/4 c. of egg whites.  Usually, this is about 12-14 eggs.

Caution:  You must be absolutely sure that no egg yolk--not even the smallest little bit--accidentally lands in your egg whites!  The presence of any egg yolk will result in your cake falling.  This is why I separate my eggs over  a small bowl.  That way, I can inspect every white thoroughly before pouring it into the measuring cup.


Save the egg yolks for making homemade noodles or for Sunshine Cake (or both, depending on how many you have).  Place the whites in a large mixing bowl and add the salt and cream of tartar.  Begin beating the egg whites on high speed.


(A silly side note about the mixer in the pictures: This vintage avocado green Sunbeam belonged to Granny, my dad's mother.  I inherited it from her in 1995 when she and Gramps moved into a retirement home.  When I was little, almost every appliance that my mother had was avocado green.  We had an avocado green refrigerator, stove, iron, vacuum cleaner, electric skillet, blender, etc., and I think that it is the most hideous color.  However, I decided that I would use Granny's mixer until I had worn it out.  After twenty years of fairly hard use, it's still working fine, and this is after Granny used it for I don't know how long!)


When the whites become foamy, begin gradually adding the granulated sugar.


Continue beating at high speed, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.



Now for the fun part: figuring out when the egg whites and sugar have been sufficiently beaten.  Some recipes say to beat them until "stiff, but not dry, peaks form."

Grandma Ruth had a different method for determining if the egg whites were beaten enough, and it has worked for me every time.  She would take the bowl of egg whites off the mixer and carefully raise it upside down above her head.  If the egg whites don't fall out, they have been beaten enough.  If, as you begin to tilt the bowl at a dangerous angle, they begin to slide even a little bit, put the bowl back on the mixer and beat them some more.  Then, take the bowl off and try the test again.

Be careful, though!  If the egg whites are permitted to fall all the way out of the bowl, you'll have no choice but to start over completely.


Once the egg whites are done, begin folding the cake flour/powdered sugar mixture into them a little at a time.  My grandma Marian taught me that the best tool to use to do this is a flat beater as you see in the picture below.

This process has to be done VERY gently, being sure to pull the egg whites up from the bottom of the bowl.  The series of photos below shows the motion that your beater should cycle through.





The picture above shows the vanilla and almond flavoring being stirred in at the end.  Grandma Marian always taught me to add the flavorings last so that they didn't lose any of their intensity due to evaporation during the mixing process.

The cake that you see me baking here was for my niece, whose favorite colors are pink and purple.  We happened to have pink nonpareils, so I stirred some of those in to create a pink "fun-fetti" effect.  If you are going to stir in nonpareils, they must be put in at the end with only a minimal amount of stirring because their color quickly begins to bleed into the cake batter.


Gently pour the cake batter into an UNGREASED angel food cake pan.


Run a table knife through the batter to release any air bubbles.


Place the cake in a slow oven (or whatever temperature you have decided at which to bake angel food cakes).


The oven door of the Margin Gem.  Since the temperature gauge
on the Margin Gem is not very accurate, I don't usually pay much
attention to the numbers.  Instead, I pay attention to the relative
location of the indicator needle.  This is what the gauge looks like
when the oven is running at about 325.
While the cake is baking, I gradually add more small pieces of fuel to the fire in order to gradually increase the heat of the oven.  Don't add too many pieces at once because you don't need a raging inferno, and small pieces will afford you more control.

You can see in the picture below, how tall the cake will rise during baking.  Angel foods will shrink back down when they get to the end of their baking time.

An angel food cake baking in the Margin Gem cookstove.

Watch the cake and your oven temperature carefully during baking.  I don't like to let the oven get too hot because then the top of the cake gets too brown for my taste.

I would NOT recommend turning the cake until it is close to the end of the total baking time because you don't want to run the risk of it falling because you jostled it.

You can tell when the cake is done by the fact that it will obviously begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.


When the cake is done, remove it from the oven and turn it upside down.  The cake pan that I use no longer has the three little legs that most angel food cake pans have which elevate them off the surface that they are resting on when they are upside down.  This makes no difference to me, though, because  the cakes are often too tall for those little legs to be effective anyway.  Thus, I turn the cake upside down over a vintage Pepsi bottle that I have saved just for this purpose.   (If you are a Coke lover, you could use a Coke bottle instead, but I wouldn't guarantee the results.  My grandma turns her canning funnel upside down and then puts a wooden handled cookie cutter over the narrow hole and uses that in place of a bottle.)

The cake needs to be left upside down in the pan until you can no longer feel any heat at all when you place your hand on the bottom of the pan.


Once the cake is completely cool, run a very thin-bladed, non-serrated knife around the outer edge of the cake as well as around the center tube of the pan.  I find it best to not move the knife up and down at all, but rather slide it all the way around with the blade completely inserted the whole time.  This seems to prevent the cake from bunching up and creating holes along the outside.


Invert the pan and remove the cake to a cake stand.  

Grandma Marian always says that if you want a particularly elegant angel food, you should rub the brown outer edge pieces off with your fingers.  If you decide to do that, don't discard them.  They are extremely tasty.


At this point, I always frost any angel food that we are not selling.  My favorite frostings to put on angel foods are either caramel (a cooked frosting that I really should share with you) or plain powdered sugar icing with almond flavoring added to it.

To serve an angel food, cut it with a serrated bread knife using a back-and-forth sawing motion rather than a slicing motion.  If you slice, you will mash the cake into a misshapen and unappetizing blob.

Angel food cakes will keep at room temperature for a few days, but you must not seal them completely.  I find that Grandma Marian's method of laying the knife that you are using to cut the cake between the lid and the bottom of the cake stand--thereby creating a little ventilation--does a beautiful job of keeping the cake in its prime.  If the cake stand is completely sealed (other than in transport), the cake will quickly become a soggy mess.

If you have a favorite method of baking an angel food in a wood cookstove, please fill up the comments field with additional information for us all to benefit from.