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StarChefs
 


OCTOBER 1999
RECIPES

Kevin's S'Mores Indoors

Rocky Road Fudge

Baked Alaska

Polka Dots



Sweet Spot

 


Baked Alaska

Tips: If you don't know, Baked Alaska is a cake layer topped by a layer of ice cream; this is then thickly covered with meringue, lightly browned in a very hot oven for a few minutes, then served immediately. This dessert is just plain fun. Great for a party or celebration, it requires both advance preparation and some last-minute work. As you might expect, you cannot keep Baked Alaska for any length of time after baking. If your immune system isn't up to scratch, please think twice about making this, as the meringue isn't fully baked. For the ice cream, I can personally recommend Starbucks Java Chip; you can also use a good sorbet (Sharon's Coconut is wonderful here). Use whatever you like, but note that the pretty effect of an ice cream with a swirl in it will not show up in the finished dessert. The sauce is optional here, but you can make it up to five days ahead; store it, tightly covered, at room temperature. Make the cake and the ice cream layer a day ahead. If you like (and if you can work quickly), once the Baked Alaska is removed from the oven, you can stick candles through the meringue into the ice cream, then light them--this looks very festive!

Sauce:

  • 9 ounces good-quality bittersweet chocolate (semisweet chocolate can be substituted)
  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • Pinch salt
Cake:
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into thin pats
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 egg, graded "large", beaten to mix
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
Ice Cream:
  • 3 pints good-quality ice cream or sorbet (use a flavor that goes with chocolate cake)
Optional Layer: (if your ice cream/sorbet selection goes with raspberry)
  • 1/4 cup good-quality seedless raspberry jam, stirred to mix
Meringue:
  • 4 egg whites, from eggs graded "large", at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

For Sauce: Place chopped chocolate in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over simmering water on low heat (water should not touch bottom of bowl). Stir often until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from heat and hot water. Sift cocoa powder into melted chocolate; briskly whisk in until most lumps are dissolved. Set aside near stove.

In small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine water, sugar, light corn syrup, and salt. Place over medium-high heat and stir constantly to dissolve sugar. When sugar is completely dissolved, stir occasionally until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat.

Add about one-quarter of the hot syrup to the melted chocolate. Whisk in thoroughly (the chocolate will seize, clump, and look awful initially--just keep working at it). When the hot syrup has been completely incorporated, scrape bowl bottom and sides. Whisk in another quarter of the hot syrup. Gradually add remaining syrup, whisking in. This sauce will be very thin when completed, but it will thicken considerably upon standing. Cool completely, then cover tightly and store at room temperature. Note: if you cannot get the sauce smooth, you may have added too much syrup initially. Turn the completed sauce into a food processor fitted with a steel blade, and process just until smooth.

About 2-1/4 cups

For Cake: Adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch layer pan (the pan MUST be at least 1-3/4 inches deep), line the bottom with a round of parchment or wax paper cut to fit, grease the paper, and dust the inside of the pan lightly with flour, knocking out any excess. Set pan aside.

In small, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan, combine buttermilk and butter pats. Place over medium heat; stir often just until butter melts. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, sift together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Set aside.

When buttermilk mixture has cooled 15 minutes, add beaten egg and vanilla. With fork, beat to mix well. Add all at once to sifted dry ingredients. With whisk, stir until dry ingredients are moistened, then beat briskly until smooth (a few small lumps are OK). Batter will be thin. Pour into prepared pan. Tilt pan to run batter up sides slightly. From a height of about 3 inches, drop pan three times onto a flat surface or tabletop.

Bake in preheated oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center emerges with a few moist crumbs still clinging to it. Do not overbake. Remove to cooling rack.

Cool 10 to 15 minutes. Loosen cake from edges of pan, then invert onto cooling rack. Gently pull wax paper round from bottom. Re-invert and cool completely, right side up. When completely cooled, level top if necessary (I've never had to do any levelling with this cake, but different ovens give different results). Wrap airtight; store overnight at room temperature.

For Ice Cream: Line an 8 inch by 2 inch deep round layer pan with two crisscrossed sheets of plastic wrap, leaving substantial overhang on all sides and smoothing the plastic wrap in the pan as much as possible. Have space ready in your freezer to accomodate your pan.

Soften ice cream one pint container at a time. Remove carton lid and liner (if any). Microwave at 50% (medium) power just until your ice cream is softened. Be careful--the ice cream must not melt much (a bit of melting around the carton edges is OK). Working quickly, place large spoonfuls of the softened ice cream into the prepared pan. Repeat with other cartons. Use the back of a clean large spoon to compact the softened ice cream into as even a layer as possible (you can start to do this while softening the remaining ice cream). Again, work quickly! When ice cream layer is as even as possible (pan will be very full), place pan in freezer. Don't worry if you can't get the ice cream layer perfectly level on top, you won't notice in the finished dessert. After two hours, cover the ice cream layer with the plastic wrap overhang, then with another piece of plastic wrap. Freeze at least overnight.

For Asembly/Meringue: About 1-1/4 hours before you want to serve the Baked Alaska, get your egg whites out of the refrigerator and let stand, covered, at room temperature in a medium, very clean, non-plastic bowl. Make sure your beaters are spotlessly clean and dry. Measure out both sugars for the meringue; stir together well in a small bowl, pressing out as many lumps as possible. Cover and set aside. Adjust oven rack to one-third up from bottom of oven. Have ready two large baking sheets, one lined with foil and one empty. Place the foil-lined sheet on top of the empty sheet (you'll bake this on a doubled cookie sheet). Place the cake layer, still in wrappings, in the freezer. If you're going to use the raspberry jam, have it measured out and stirred; store it, covered, in the refrigerator. If you'll be using candles, have them (and matches) at the ready. Have ready large plates for serving, as well as serving utensils (I use a large, sturdy, plastic spatula to cut and serve this) and forks. If you've made the optional sauce, check the consistency. If it's very thick, stir well, adding hot water a little at a time, until sauce is just a little thicker than unwhipped heavy cream. Pour sauce into a small pitcher; cover and set aside at room temperature. All of this is done so you can assemble and serve the dessert with a minimum of last-minute fuss.

Fifteen to twenty minutes before you want to bake this, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. About 10 minutes before you want to bake the dessert, remove the cake layer from the freezer. Remove the wrappings, and place the cold (it won't be frozen-OK) cake layer right side up on the foil-lined baking sheet. If using the raspberry jam, place by spoonfuls on top of the cake and spread into a thin layer, leaving about a 1 inch margin of plain cake at the edges.

Sift the cream of tartar into the egg whites. Beat whites at low speed to incorporate it, then increase speed to high and beat until white and very foamy. Begin adding combined sugars, about two tablespoons at a time, beating after each addition until incorporated. After last addition, beat until meringue stands in stiff peaks; this will be a thick meringue. If there are a few very small lumps of brown sugar in the finished meringue, don't worry about them. Do not remove beaters from mixer yet.

Remove ice cream layer from freezer. Remove top piece of plastic wrap, and peel back other plastic wrap from top surface only. Working quickly and a few inches above the cake layer, turn pan with ice cream upside down; allow ice cream, still in plastic wrap, to slide out of pan onto top of cake layer. Center if required. Set pan aside, and quickly remove remaining plastic wrap from ice cream.

Return to meringue; beat it at high speed for just a few seconds. Now, WORK FAST!!! By large spoonfuls, transfer about half the meringue to the top of the ice cream layer. With a flat knife or offset spatula, work the meringue down the sides of the ice cream and cake layers, going right down to the foil of the baking sheet. Transfer remaining meringue to top of ice cream layer, and make certain all of cake and ice cream layers are entirely and thickly covered with meringue. I spread the top of the meringue flat and have the sides straight, but the main thing here is to work quickly. Place the dessert immediately (still on the doubled baking sheet) into the very hot oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or just until the meringue is lightly browned. Remove from oven. If desired, place candles on top of cake, sticking through meringue layer into ice cream layer. Light candles. Using pot holders (this will be heavy and hot), carry dessert quickly to wherever you'll serve it. Slice and serve IMMEDIATELY!! Pass optional sauce for everyone to pour on as they wish.

10 to 12 servings


© Stephanie Zonis provides the above information to anyone, but retains copyright on all text. This means that you may not: distribute the text to others without the express written permission of Stephanie Zonis; "mirror" or include this information on your own server or documents without my permission; modify or re-use the text on this system. You MAY: print copies of the information for your own personal use; store the files on your own computer for your personal use only; reference hypertext documents on this server from your own documents.

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