Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Don't Know, (Baked) Alaska

In throwing these dinner parties, it has become extremely apparent that I can't expect friends to keep coming to my house simply with the promise of disgusting (looking at least) meat dishes. Thus, I have turned to adding vintage dessert recipe finds to reward them for putting foods like ham loaf down their gullet. Unfortunately, the Meats cookbook does not hold such recipes, so I've had to stray over to the very modern source of the Internet to hunt down appropriate after dinner delights.

One thing I've always wanted to make (but never even knew what the heck was) is Baked Alaska. Turns out, Baked Alaska is just a layer of pound cake covered in a layer of ice cream - all of which is covered with meringue, briefly baked and served up hot, cold and a little melty.

Who came up with such a brilliant idea? Apparently the lovely folks at Delmonico's right here in NYC - incidentally, the same restaurant that claims invention of Eggs Benedict!

According to legend (and perhaps fact), the chef created the dish in 1876 in honor of the newest state to join our lovely union (Alaska, durrrr). Plenty of other people have claimed to invent Baked Alaska, but I'm gonna stick to this story because, well, it's closest to home.

At any rate, it was simple to make, rewarding to eat and got many bonus points for visual appeal (big improvement from those scary-looking Jello molds...).

Adapted from the Retro Recipes Blog

4 Egg whites
2/3 Cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter (I left this out because I didn't have it - didn't seem to cause any trouble)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 8-inch square layer sponge cake (Sure, you could make your own, but I bought a frozen Sara Lee pound cake and it did the trick)
2 pints of ice cream (any flavor but Neapolitan makes it more fun)

Beat the egg whites with sugar and cream of tarter (if you have that) until stiff and "glossy." Add in the vanilla. Place sponge cake on top of a baking sheet covered in parchment. If you use the frozen pound cake like I did, you must slice the thing in half so that you have two flat rectangles of cake in equal height. Place those next to each other to make a nice platform for your ice cream to sit on. Cover this with ice cream. Ideally, you've purchased a box of ice cream and can cut it into nice slices of even thickness kind of like you did with the frozen cake. Cover this whole shebang with meringue (sides and all - make a nice seal). Brown in a hot oven (450-500 degrees) for three minutes of until all your delicate peaks of meringue are perfectly browned then serve it up to all your very impressed friends!