Friday, August 27, 2010

Daring Bakers': Baked Alaska


The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.


Although Petit Fours are one of my all time favorite desserts, I decided to make the Baked Alaska for this challenge.  Have no fear, I will make Petit Fours one day!  The Baked Alaska dessert was created by Delmonico's restaurant in New York City in 1876 in honor of the new acquisition of Alaska from Russia.   The dessert consists of cake and ice cream encompassed by a layer of baked meringue.  Often times the meringue is lit on fire, but for this challenge I used a cooking blow torch to toast the shell.


It is rare nowadays to find Baked Alaska on the dessert menu in restaurants, but you can be sure you'll see this dish on a cruise ship.  The parade of the Baked Alaskas has become a ritual for most cruise lines.  On the final night of the cruise the servers will parade around the dining room with flaming Baked Alaskas and put on a show for the guests.  This spectacle is what I immediately think of every time I hear the term Baked Alaska.


While I didn't light my Baked Alaska on fire nor did I parade it around my condo, I did invite a few friends over to enjoy this refreshing dessert on a hot summer evening.  The Baked Alaska had the most delicious sweet buttery taste that at first I thought came from the Brown Butter Pound Cake.  After a few more bites I realized what I tasted was in fact the baked meringue and I just couldn't stop myself!  I made two different ice creams for this challenge- coconut and cherry.  While the coconut ice cream came out a bit icy, the cherry ice cream was phenomenal.  It was so rich and creamy and the cherries added great texture to each bite.  The flavor combination of the pound cake with the ice cream and the baked meringue was one of the best I've ever tasted.


If you do not have a cooking blow torch you can still make a Baked Alaska.  You will simply put the Baked Alaska in the oven on high heat for about 5 minutes or just until the edges start to brown.  I actually tried one Baked Alaska in the oven and was worried the ice cream would melt.  Little did I know that the meringue layer provides a shell for the ice cream and keeps it from melting. 


I made a few larger versions of the Bake Alaska and also threw in a couple mini sized versions.  The little ones were just too cute to pass up!



Baked Alaska
adapted from Gourmet Magazine, Erica's Edibles, and Kirbie's Cravings

Cherry Ice Cream
adapted from Erica's Edibles

Ingredients

3/4 cup caster sugar
2 1/2 cups of whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup caster sugar

Directions

Wash, stem and pit the cherries.  Mix the cherries and 3/4 cup of caster sugar and set aside for 2 hours. Stir occasionally as the juices come out of the cherries

In a mixing bowl combine the sugar, vanilla, and whipping cream, whisk lightly until everything is mixed together.  Add the cherries and stir until combined and the mixture is now light pink/purple.

Pour into a freezer friendly container (I used a pyrex baking dish) and freeze until firm around the edges.  This should take about 30-45 minutes.  Remove from the freezer and beat with a mixer until smooth and return to the freezer.  Repeat this every 30-40 minutes for about 3-4 hours until the mixture is set completely.  

Coconut Ice Cream  

Ingredients

1 1/3 cup heavy cream
2 cups coconut milk
1/2 cup cane sugar 

Directions

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring all of the ingredients to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer gently for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and chill the mixture thoroughly.  Once chilled pour into a freezer friendly container and repeat the steps listed above for the Cherry Ice Cream.

Brown Butter Pound Cake

Ingredients

19 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) 
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions
 
Preheat the oven to 325°F and put a rack in the center.  Butter and flour a 9”x9” square pan.

Place the butter in a 10” skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, about 15 minutes.

Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then add the vanilla extract.  Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.

Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Meringue

Ingredients

8 large egg whites
½ tsp cream of tartar
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar

Directions
 
Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Beat in the sugar gradually in a slow stream until stiff peaks form.

Assembly Instructions

Line four 4” diameter tea cups with plastic wrap, so that plastic wrap covers all of the sides and hangs over the edge. Fill to the top with ice cream. Cover the top with the overhanging plastic wrap and freeze for several hours, or until solid.  (I actually used three small salsa bowls and two shot glasses instead of the 4" tea cups.  I made sure to cut out the rounds of the pound cake before putting the ice cream in the bowls/glasses.)

Level the top of the brown butter pound cake with a serrated knife or with a cake leveler. Cut out four 4” diameter circles from the cake. Discard the scraps or use for another purpose.

Unwrap the ice cream “cups” and invert on top of a cake round.  If you have trouble getting the ice cream out of the cups simply wet a dish rag with warm water and wipe the bottom of the cup once inverted on top of the cake round.  Trim any extra cake if necessary.

Pipe the meringue over the ice cream and cake, or smooth it over with a spatula, so that none of the ice cream or cake is exposed. Freeze for one hour or up to a day.

Burn the tips of the meringue with a cooking blow torch or bake the meringue-topped Baked Alaskas on a rimmed baking sheet in a 500°F oven for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediately.


I almost didn't want to cut into the Baked Alaskas because they were just so pretty.  I loved photographing them.


Above and below are the Baked Alaskas using salsa bowls for the ice cream.


Below is a Baked Alaska using the shot glass for the ice cream.


Amazing recipe overall.  Elissa, thanks for a great challenge!

11 comments:

  1. Oh great finished product, just beautiful

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  2. Thank you so much! I really enjoyed making them. :)

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  3. Yum! Those flavors sound great and I love the look of your meringue with the spirals of dark and white. Nice job on the challenge!

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  4. what a great job you did with this challenge! Your baked Alaska looks amazing!! I bet every bite was heaven, I wish I could have had a taste or two!!

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  5. Both ice creams sound delicious! Great piping, too! Well done!

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  6. Wow I love the two flavors you chose! Perfect for summer. Beautifully done!

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  7. Thank you everyone for the comments!

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  8. Beautiful looking baked Alaska's, I love the different styles of piping you did for the meringues! Yum!

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  9. Congratulations on your Daring Baker's challenge. Looks like it was a fun project for this month. Your meringues turned out beautiful!

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