Recipe: Baked Alaska and an exciting 2018
How is it November already? The weeks seem to rush in at this time of year. As night falls ever earlier and the crisp air takes hold, my oven is still as active as ever, the hot heart of our home. Today I've got a corker of a recipe for you: my take on a retro Baked Alaska. Scroll down for the recipe if you're in a hurry...
It's been a fun-filled and busy few weeks for me. I caught up with all the bakers to watch the final of this year's bake off (and hand over the baton!) whilst enjoying Candice's incredible new afternoon tea at Dalloway Terrace in London. Be sure to check it out if you're in town! The final coincided with the release of our series of Bake Off on Netflix in the US so hello to all the new US fans! I've decided from now on to include US measurements in all blog recipes due to popular demand so no excuse to not get baking across the Atlantic!
I met the winner of the IET's "Engineer the Chocolate Bar Of The Future" competition which I helped judge (tough job, I know). We saw her bar become a reality at the Cadbury innovation labs, I'll be posting a video of that day very soon as it was delicious and featured the chocolate fountain of my dreams.
Lastly, and most excitingly, I returned to the National Space Centre this weekend to give a debut of my new bakineering talk showing how baked alaska helps explain the engineering that safely returns astronauts from space... It went down so well, in fact, that I've taken the plunge and will be touring a bakineering show around the UK next year at various science festivals and events! I'm in the depths of loads of planning at the moment but locations so far include Belfast, Dublin, London and Edinburgh - check out my events page for the latest dates and ticket info coming very soon.
Now, to the baked alaska. That irresistible combination of cold and hot, marshmallowy meringue with creamy ice cream - YUM. I've put my twist on it with a buttery hazelnut sponge, swiss meringue and good quality shop-bought ice cream (*gasp*); I don't fancy splashing out on an ice cream maker but feel free to make your own and feel extra smug.
This is a showstopper that is well worth the time.
Ingredients - makes one large baked alaska
For the ice cream layers
100g (3.5 oz) raspberry sorbet
200g (7 oz) good quality vanilla ice cream
200g (7 oz) good quality chocolate ice cream
For the hazelnut sponge base
85g unsalted butter (3/4 stick)
70g caster/superfine sugar (1/3 cup)
Finely grated zest 1/2 lemon
2 large egg yolks
85g plain flour (1/4 + 1/3 cup)
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
15g roasted ground hazelnuts (in most baking aisles) (1 tbsp)
55ml whole milk (=55g= 2 fl oz)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For the swiss meringue
A little lemon juice
2 large egg whites
120g granulated sugar
1 small 14cm / 5.5" diameter pyrex bowl (roughly 700ml capacity) or whatever similar bowl you have, 6" loose-bottomed cake tin, Chef's blowtorch (or you can brave the grill!)
For the ice cream layers: Lightly grease the inside of the pyrex bowl and put 2 long strips of parchment paper in a cross at the bottom and trail them out the side. This will help you lift the ice cream out later! Line the whole of the bowl with a layer of cling film and get rid of any air pockets
Remove the raspberry sorbet from the freezer and press into a level layer in the bottom of the bowl. Return to the freezer for at least 30 minutes to firm up. Meanwhile, slightly soften the vanilla ice cream by leaving it out at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. Add the vanilla ice cream as the middle layer and spread it out to level it. Again chill for 30 minutes then repeat with the chocolate layer.
Cover tightly in cling film and freeze for at least 2 hours, ideally overnight.
For the sponge base: Preheat the oven to 185 C / fan 165 C / 330 F fan /Gas Mark 3. Grease and line the base and sides of the 6" tin with parchment paper.
Beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest together for a few minutes until very light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and roasted ground hazelnuts. Stir to combine. Add the vanilla to the milk and mix together.
Add the dry ingredients and vanilla milk in 3 additions to the butter mix, folding between each addition. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake in the middle shelf of the oven for around 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
For the Swiss Meringue: Once the sponge and ice cream are ready, start the meringue by cleaning the base of a large glass or metal mixing bowl with a little lemon juice to remove any traces of fat - this will improve the chances of a winning meringue!
Add the egg whites and granulated sugar and place over a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Slowly whisk by hand until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar has dissolved - you should be able to rub a little of the mix between your fingertips and not feel any grittiness. Alternatively, use a thermometer and remove from the heat once the mixture is at 71 C.
Start to whisk in a stand mixer, or hand mixer, on a medium speed until white and frothy then gradually increase the mixing speed to high until the bowl is cool and stiff peaks have formed. Regularly scrape down the edges of the bowl to ensure even mixing - this will take around 5 minutes.
To assemble: Place the sponge disc onto a heatproof platter or serving plate. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and tip out the dome of the ice cream onto the centre of the sponge. Remove any cling film and parchment paper.
Working quickly, generously spread the swiss meringue all over the ice cream and sides of the sponge base to seal it in. Use a palette knife or the back of a spoon to swirl the meringue.
Blow torch the outside until golden then serve immediately - a sharp knife kept in hot water will help with the slicing! This will keep in the freezer as the meringue doesn't solidify in the freezer: the sponge will though!