The Hungry Chef – this week: Baked Alaska
This is an old dessert from the late 1800’s. Its exact beginning is still controversial, there are claims that it was invented by an American doctor, who tried to show the principle that a beaten egg white is a poor conductor of heat.
However there were also claims that during a Chinese delegation being in Paris the chefs of the celestial empire exchanged courtesies and recipes with the chefs of the Grand Hotel. No matter what the real history of this dessert is, it is still a dark place for many chefs to venture including myself at times. In fact, yesterday I flopped 6 of them trying to make 18! So here is my recipe for the hot/cold dessert delicacy.
Prep Time : 25 Minutes
Cooking Time : 25 Minutes
For the Genoese sponge ….
180g Caster Sugar
170g Cake Flour
For the meringue……
540g caster sugar
2 TBSP liquid glucose (optional)
10 egg whites
6 TBSP cold water
A couple of scoops of good vanilla ice-cream, and a couple of tablespoons of crushed raspberries, buy the frozen ones if you cannot get fresh and roughly crush them up.
To make the sponge, pre-heat your oven to 190˚c, now get a pot with a little simmering water and whisk together the caster sugar and eggs over the pan of simmering water for around 10 minutes, until it is thick and if you lift the whisk the egg falls into ribbons as it land back in the bowl. Now take off the heat and carry on whisking for around 5-10 minutes until cooled slightly, fold in the flour, melt the butter and pour it around the edges of the bowl and then very gently fold that in.
Now take a baking dish and line it with baking paper, and spread the batter across the bottom until it is evenly 1cm thick, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t reach the edges of the baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes until golden on the top and soft to the touch, let it cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then flip it out onto a cooling rack and let chill all the way through.
Now for the Meringue, place the sugar, glucose and water into a small saucepan and get up to a boil and let it simmer until it reaches 120˚c on a sugar thermometer. At this point you need to whisk the egg whites with a dash of lemon juice until soft peak, now when the sugar gets to 120˚c you need to start pouring it into the egg whites in a slow and steady stream, pour it onto the side of the mixing bowl, and not directly onto the mixer as it will flick off and sugar burns are never any fun to deal with.
Carry on whisking at a high speed until all the sugar syrup is incorporated, then carry on whisking for another 5 minutes until the mixture is glossy and thick. This is the beauty of making this dessert with Italian meringue is that it is already cooked thanks to the hot sugar so all you need to do instead of baking at the end is to wave a chefs torch over it to brown and crisp the outside of the meringue.
Now cut the Genoese into 6cm rounds, an upside down tea cup is the perfect diameter.
Place a cake round onto a serving plate and paste some raspberry onto that then a nice ball of vanilla ice-cream on top of that and then another piece of cake onto that. Then pipe the meringue all around these layers from the bottom to the top making sure that there are no holes.
Now take you chefs torch, if you don’t have one, then get the grill of the oven as hot as possible and bake them until the meringue gets a nice golden brown crust, take them out and serve straight away!!!!!
And for a nice party trick to impress your friends with, you can heat up a tot of rum and just before serving instead of baking pour the rum over it and light it, serving it quickly so that it is still in flames. Really impressive if you get it right.
Come see me at the Links if you need any help!
Good luck, happy cooking and Bon Appetite.