Yes, cake and ice cream again, in one post. I think that’s pretty unusual for a food blog, but again, it’s cake and ice cream; cake and ice cream in Baked Alaska; a 1970’s throwback dessert that still elicits awe when brought to the table aflame, so no objections here!
So, this is the latest I’ve ever been with a Daring Bakers challenge..almost a week late. I was going to skip it when I realized I wouldn’t make it on time, but since I’d started it at the beginning of the month, and had the cake and ice cream for the Baked Alaska in the freezer, I decided to forge ahead and get it done.
My freezer sees more action than Leonardo DiCaprio.
Nevertheless, life has a way of getting in the way at the worst times, so I wasn’t able to get this post up by the due date, and then some.
To make matters worse, the past two weeks have been riddled with a humidity SO thick and damp, that I was unable to whip up a decent meringue (tried all three..French, Italian, and Swiss, and NOTHING prevented weepy, droopy meringue that refused to hold shape) to give my Baked Alaskas beautiful swirly swirls and whirls. This why they all look so sad until I finally gave up and just scraped lines into them with a butter knife (below, UGH.).
I was going for an igloo effect with the meringue, but I ran out of meringue before I could do the top. FAIL. The irony is, this was the only batch of meringue to hold shape before the dastardly humidity hit. It figures.
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”.
You see that little widget in the right hand column of my blog that says Sugar High Fridays (Update: No longer there, but it was a fun challenge of yore)? Well, that’s THE Sugar High Fridays that’s partnered up with Daring Bakers for this challenge. I’m pointing this out because it was the first challenge I ever took part in when I started this blog, and it’s been ages since I participated. I’m glad to get back into the swing, and I hope this brings more people into the SHF posse so it can prosper once again.
Now for the challenge. I decided to nix the ice cream petit fours and just make a Baked Alaska or some individual Baked Alaskas. Baked Alaska conjures up ’70’s’ to me, a la polyester suits, disco, tye-dye, swingers etc. I was a wee thing in the 70’s, but I’ve read about the ‘mode’ of that period. Wasn’t Baked Alaska the IN dessert of the 70’s? Was there a restaurant or swinger’s party that didn’t offer Baked Alaska in their dessert repertoire? OK, maybe the latter is pushing it, but one would need to cool off after one of those, no?
Macadamia Nuts for brittle courtesy of OhNuts.com.
Whenever I hear “Baked Alaska”, I think of the book Wifey by Judy Blume. Sounds weird, right? Just hear me out. In the 1980’s, when I was no longer hooked on phonics, I would devour several books a week. When I finished my ‘age-appropriate’ books, including Judy Blume’s tween sagas, I used to sneak into my parent’s bedroom to see what books my mother had taken out from the library. Sometimes the book(s) were mature/adult reads, but that just made it all the more exciting to me. As you may have already guessed; one of those books was Wifey, a somewhat sordid tale of marriage and sex in suburbia circa 1970-something.
I’m not going to get into a whole synopsis of the book, but there’s a chapter where the married ‘heroine’, if you’d call her that, runs into an old boyfriend she fantasizes about on a pretty daily basis, at some couple’s nuptials. They end up in some back chill room off the kitchen, getting it on next to the Baked Alaska. To this day, that’s the first thing that comes to mind when I hear Baked Alaska. Yeah, I know. Weird.
Meringue doesn’t hold shape because of horrid humidity? Butter knife surrender.
For my Baked Alaska, I used David Lebovitz’s amazing vanilla bean ice cream recipe that Elissa provided for us. I mixed buttery brown sugar roasted peaches, pureed and chopped, into two thirds of the vanilla base, and in the other third of the vanilla base, finely chopped homemade salted, toasted macadamia brittle. I guess it’s a peaches and creamy theme, albeit a little more complex and nutty.
Luscious, buttery, sweet roasted peach ice cream surrounding a center of vanilla bean salted macadmia brittle ice cream. It doesn’t get much better than that! I always strive for texture and contrast, and the bits of brittle gives a nutty, caramel crunch to the creamy, while the buttery, brown sugar roasted peaches lend a soft, summer fruity tone to it.
The only caveat (Is there ever NOT a caveat for me?) was that I had to torte the delicious brown butter pound cake cut-outs from the recipe in the challenge, horizontally. This was due to the awesome mousse rings I used for each Baked Alaska. They weren’t as tall as I originally thought, so to make room for both ice creams, it was the only choice I had. Nonetheless, I served extra cake along with the Baked Alaska so no one lost out on cake. It’s a great pound cake recipe, albeit a bit dry, but I think it was the extra minute or two I added to the baking time when it didn’t look brown enough.
That said, how can you go wrong with brown butter aka beurre noisette, in the cake base of a Baked Alaska, or anything for that matter? Nutty, rich HEAVENLY, palate pleasing.. OK, I could go on, but I’d eventually run out of adjectives.
For the full Daring Bakers version of Baked Alaska and Ice Cream Petit Fours, Click HERE.
Baked Alaska Recipe
Vanilla Ice Cream Base by David Lebovitz
- 19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) (275g) unsalted butter
- 2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) *
- 1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
- ½ teaspoon (3g) salt
- ½ cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
- ⅓ (75g) cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 to 6 fresh peaches, cut in half and pitted (4-6 depending on size of peaches)
- ⅓ cup butter, (5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) melted
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 cup or a little more whole salted macadamia nuts, toasted
- 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
- A pinch of salt
- ¾ cup (165g) sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups (500ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract
- 6 egg whites
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan.
- Place the butter in a 10” (25cm) 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, 15-30 minutes.
- Whisk together 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 the vanilla extract.
- Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.
- Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) 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.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F. Combine the melted butter and brown sugar until uniform. Split each peach horizontally, removing the pit, then roll the cut side of each peach half in the butter-sugar mixture. Alternatively, you can rub the mixture on the cut sides with your fingers, making sure you have a decent coating on each one. Place the peaches, butter sugar coated cut side down on a lightly greased foil lined or non-greased parchment lined baking sheet (silpat is fine too). Drizzle any leftover butter-sugar mixture over the top of the skin side up peaches.
- Roast for 30 - 35 minutes until soft and caramelized.
- For the ice cream - puree half the roasted peaches in a food processor, skins and all. Skin and chop the remaining roasted peaches. Set aside to cool until ready to add to ice cream base.
- In a medium saucepan, boil the sugar and water together until amber to light brown, to make a caramel. Test the color of the caramel on a white plate to make sure it's amber-light brown.
- Stir in the butter with a wooden spoon (it will bubble up - so be careful!) then stir in the toasted macadamia nuts. Pour onto a silpat and let cool. Break up into chunks (for ice cream add-in, chop or crush with the bottom of a pan, bottle, or with a mallet in a ziploc bag). Store in an airtight container until ready to eat or use in ice cream.
- Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a paring knife and add to the milk, along with the bean pod. Cover, remove from heat, and let infuse for an hour. (If you do not have a vanilla bean, simply heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams, then let cool to room temperature.)
- Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart bowl inside a large bowl partially filled with water and ice. Put a strainer on top of the smaller bowl and pour in the cream.
- In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks together. Reheat the milk in the medium saucepan until warmed, and then gradually pour ¼ cup warmed milk into the yolks, constantly whisking to keep the eggs from scrambling. Once the yolks are warmed, scrape the yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan of warmed milk and cook over low heat. Stir constantly and scrape the bottom with a spatula until the mixture thickens into a custard which thinly coats the back of the spatula.
- Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir the mixture until cooled. Add the vanilla extract (1 teaspoon if you are using a vanilla bean; 3 teaspoons if you are not using a vanilla bean) and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.
- Remove the vanilla bean and freeze in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can make it without a machine.See the instructions at David Lebovitz's site.
- When the vanilla ice cream is done churning in your ice cream maker (it will still be slightly soft), remove one third of the vanilla ice cream base to one bowl, and two thirds of the vanilla ice cream base into another bowl. Stir the macadamia brittle into the bowl with one third of the vanilla ice cream base, then stir the roasted peach puree (until uniform) into the bowl with two thirds of the vanilla ice cream base. When uniform, gently fold in the chopped roasted peaches,. Wrap each bowl tightly with plastic wrap or place each in a freezer bag, and place both bowls in the freezer until ready to assemble.
- Over a double boiler (prefebly using bowl you will beating whites and sugar in) over medium heat, heat egg whites and sugar, whisking constantly until sugar is completely dissolved.
- Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or just use mixer bowl as mentioned above) ; mix on high speed until you get medium peaks (the whites slightly bend at tip when lifted with beater).
- Using four 3-inch mousse rings or cut PVC pipe, cut out 4 circles of the pound cake and place in the bottom of each ring.
- Scoop about ½ cup roasted peach ice cream over cake, then make a well in the middle for salted macadamia brittle ice cream, pushing the peach ice cream up the sides to the top. Freeze.
- Remove rings with frozen peach ice cream from the freezer. Place a small scoop of salted macadamia brittle ice cream into each well, then cover the tops evenly with remaining peach ice cream..pressing down (to prevent air bubbles) and smoothing the tops. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.
- About 15 minutes before serving thge Baked Alaskas; unmold each Alaska one at time, keeping the others frozen until ready to pipe on and torch meringue. Wrap a warm, wet towel for a minute or two around the mold in case you have trouble unmolding them.
- In a pastry bag with the tip of your choice; pipe each Baked Alaska decoratively with the swiss meringue, or just frost them with a rubber spatula, lifting upwards to get peaks, and making sure they're completely covered. Place Alaskas (on a baking sheet) in a preheated 500°F oven for 1 to 2 minutes until the peaks are golden brown, or brown with a kitchen or propane torch (much easier and more room to be creative). Serve immediately.
** These peaches can be used in many dessert batters before baking, or just serve peaches with cake and/or ice cream or eat them as is since they're very low in calories and taste like the super soft candy! They're sticky/gooey and amazing! I love them with Greek yogurt!