Lemon chiffon cake, Audrey Hepburn and the French Culinary Institute
It maybe seems strange, considering that I come from a country with a long gastronomic culture and that my brother is a pastry chef, but I’m sure that my first serious contact with culinary art is due to the lovely Audrey Hepburn. I’m talking of course about “Sabrina”, a movie that I watch almost once a year! I suppose you know the story: poor young Sabrina, daughter of a chauffeur, after a terrible love disappointment goes to Paris to become a chef. So we see her try to learn how to break an egg and how to make a perfect souffle…though her heart is so broken that she forgets to turn on the oven. That was also the first time I started thinking at the kitchen as a sort of therapy thing…and I remember myself, watching the French chef, asking: “Oh, com’on…how much can be important to break properly an egg??!!” But as years passed and my attempt to cook something improved and my passion for cooking increased I understood: break properly an egg is part of the “therapy”: when you’re feeling down or when you want to cook something special, it gives you a big satisfaction know that you can do that exactly in the right way.
So here we are, with a “how to make a perfect lemon chiffon cake” following the French Culinary Institute recipe. I know, a chiffon cake is a “truly American” recipe (credited to Henry Baker) but because of they ’re French…they know how to perfectly do that!
5 large egg yolks at room temperature
juice and zest of 1 lemon
210 g of sugar (60 for the base and 150 for the French meringue)
80 ml of vegetable oil (2 3/4 ounces)
150 g of cake flour (5 1/3 ounces)
6 g of baking powder
5 large eggs white at room temperature
In a medium mixing bowl, combine egg yolks, oil and zest and juice of one lemon, whisking to blend well.
Sift the flour, 60 g of sugar and the baking powder together and, using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture into the egg yolks compound, taking care that it remains lump-free.
Prepare the French meringue: place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat on low to aerate then add 150 g of sugar, raise the speed to high, and beat for almost 5 minutes. The compound should create firm (but not too dry or stiff) peaks.
Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the meringue into the egg yolks mixture. Carefully pour the batter in a pan lightly coated with softened butter (pay attention! You should coated with butter only the bottom of the pan, if you butter the sides the cake will collapse inward when baked) and put in preheated oven at 180°C (350°F).
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or till the surface is golden brown and the center springs back when lightly touched. Let cool completely before unmolding.