Baked Alaska

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Baked alaska is kind of a mysterious thing. I have one very strong memory of this dessert.  We used to go on cruises a lot when I was younger, and I remember, there was always that one night, where the lights in the dining room would dim, music would start playing, and the servers would parade around the room with the baked alaskas in hand, and they were on FIRE.  Talk about exciting!

Not only is the dessert exciting (and apparently flammable) but it is also mega scrumptious.  For those of you who have never had it, baked alaska is generally in a “bomb” shape, with layers of ice cream and cake, covered in a fluffy meringue and then the whole thing is torched, like the top of a lemon meringue pie.

I wanted to do something different with Christmas Eve dessert this year, so I decided to tackle a baked alaska.  I went off of Alton Brown’s recipe, but I used my own combination of cake and ice cream flavors.  The photo above was before I torched it and set it ablaze.  Yes, I actually bought a sterno, stuck it in the middle of the dessert, lit it on fire, and danced around the room while my brother played the song “Hot Hot Hot” on his phone.  Everyone loved it, and it was DELICIOUS!

Baked Alaska (adapted from Alton Brown)

For the Ice Cream Cake:
Vegetable oil, for brushing
1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened
1 quart chocolate ice cream, softened
1 cup crushed oreos
1 loaf pound cake

For the Meringue:
1 cup egg whites (about 6 large), at room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 cup sugar

DIRECTIONS: Make the ice cream cake: Brush a 3-quart metal bowl with vegetable oil; line with plastic wrap. Fill the bowl with the softened vanilla ice cream. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the ice cream; press down to close the gaps between scoops and even out the surface. Remove the plastic wrap, sprinkle the ice cream with the cookie and re-cover with the plastic wrap, pressing gently. Freeze until set, about 30 minutes.

Remove the wrap and spread the chocolate ice cream in an even layer on top of the crumbs. Cut the pound cake into 1/2-inch-thick slices; completely cover the ice cream with the slices, trimming as needed (you’ll use about two-thirds of the cake). Cover with fresh plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Make the meringue: Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until foamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the sugar on high speed until the whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks.

Remove the top layer of plastic wrap, then invert the cake onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. (If necessary, let the cake stand overturned until it slips out.) Remove the rest of the plastic wrap and cover the ice cream completely with the meringue, making the dome-shaped top slightly thicker than the sides. Form swirly peaks in the meringue using the back of a spoon. Freeze for at least 3 more hours.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bake the cake until the meringue peaks are golden, about 4 minutes, or brown the meringue with a blowtorch. Let the cake soften at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing. Freeze any leftovers.

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