We interrupt this blog to bring you a dessert – not dinner. My daughter, Georgia, decided a couple of weeks ago that the thing she wanted to make the most was Baked Alaska. I have no idea WHY she wanted to make it, but I figured, why not? She and I searched through our cookbook collection, evaluated about six different recipes for Baked Alaska, and finally settled on the one from Food 52’s Ice Cream and Friends.
I believe I have mentioned that on occasion, I get a bug up my butt to make something random, and will go through phases… probably my first phase was an obsessive one-year journey through the wonderful world of mashed potatoes. I think I ate mashed potatoes three or four times a week every week for a year before I developed my own personal recipe, which I will eventually share on the blog. Chris and I are developing a list of things that we make regularly that we’ll develop recipes for and put up for everyone, but that’ll come eventually.
Anyway, I got a bug up my butt a few years ago to make ice cream, so I purchased an ice cream maker (this one, from amazon, although I want to upgrade to one with a compressor. My dream ice cream maker is this one, which I will eventually pick up) and a few books on making ice cream, and went to town, which is why I have Ice Cream and Friends, although I hadn’t made anything from this book yet.
Georgia and I selected this recipe because it was all chocolate, all the time, including the meringue, which made both of us excited. It also looked do-able for her, with relatively minimal involvement from me, which made her happy, as she’s really trying to stretch her cooking wings.
She started by making the ice cream base the night before we made the rest of the stuff, and it was relatively easy, and didn’t require my ice cream maker (which is good, as the canister for the machine is currently sitting in a cabinet, not the freezer). The base was made with sweetened condensed milk, espresso powder, dark chocolate, and Nutella, which was fabulous. Also, Georgia got to experience the wonders of the double boiler, which made her as unreasonably happy as it makes me.
We froze it in a plastic mixing bowl to give the cake its dome shape, and the next day, went on to making the cake base for the dessert. She made it a few hours in advance to give it lots of time to cool, which was smart. Most of the cake she did on her own, although I did have to give her some instruction and advice on how to cut parchment paper to line a springform pan.
That evening, after dinner (we had Chris’s burgers, and they were fantastic, as always), Georgia and I started on the meringue. FORTUNATELY, I spent a fair amount of time managing her expectations on meringue, as I have failed at making it more times than I have succeeded. I told her that our mantra was going to be “To make meringue is to fail at making meringue,” and sure enough…we failed. Terribly. It was a gooey mess with the texture of marshmallow fluff. It tasted amazing. But yeah. Fail, fail, fail-y, fail.
I have a complicated relationship with meringue. I don’t really like it. I think it is too sugary and I’m not wild about the texture of it, so I generally tend not to make it. However, over the years, I have made quite a few desserts which have required meringue, and I have about a 50% success rate with it. It is not something that I will be practicing a lot though, as I don’t particularly care for it, and also… I am not likely to become a pastry chef (or really any kind of chef), so there doesn’t seem to be much point in working on my meringue skills. I will, however, support Georgia if she wants to make meringue. Or become a chef.
While she was busy making the meringue, I was working on assembling the two parts of the cake. Gotta say, dumping a giant dome of ice cream on top of cake was fun, and I enjoyed trimming the dough.
And after about 20 minutes of meringue beating, with the 8pm deadline of the Dr. Who finale looming, we gave up on the meringue. While we were waiting for it to form stiff peaks, I did an internet search and discovered that cream of tartar was apparently a trick many people used to stiffen their meringue. Let’s just say that didn’t work. At all.
It was a gooey mess, however, it was absolutely fantastic. The whole family enjoyed it, although we all agreed that we would probably cut the sugar down by quite a bit.
All in all, Georgia had a great time making the Baked Alaska. It tasted great, and while we still have some left in the freezer, I am sure it’ll be gone shortly. Also, somehow, one of our dogs, Wylie, managed to get some meringue in her ear fur, which has proven to get very difficult to remove. She also managed to get cinnamon sugar butter in her years over Christmas break when I was making cinnamon rolls, and that took weeks to get out, along with a number of baking soda ear baths. It’s impressive, and is probably a good argument for getting a baby gate to block the dogs from the kitchen. Heh.