Week 51 - Baked Alaska
When I was little I learned about baked Alaska. I was told that it was ice cream that you put in the oven and that information blew my mind. I never understood how it didn't just melt. It always intrigued me, but never had the opportunity to try it. So, while looking through some of my cookbooks, I was excited to see a recipe for it. I decided on the baked Alaska recipe from 1939's "Woman's World Edition Of The American Woman's Cook Book", edited by Ruth Berolzheimer.
This cookbook is tabbed with different sections and is full of recipes and black and white photos. I love cookbooks that have clippings and notes from previous owners, which is the main reason I purchased this one. Not only does it contain handwritten recipes, but it also has newspaper clippings from the 40s and the original purchase receipt from 1940.
The ingredients for baked Alaska are quite simple; ice-cream, egg whites, confectioners sugar and sponge cake. To start, I first made the cake portion, using the recipe for "true sponge cake" from this book. Unlike most cakes, this one took a bit more prep work and the process was more than just mixing ingredients together. To start the flour is sifted, salt added and then the mixture is sifted again. Then egg yolks and sugar are beaten together in another bowl. In a third bowl the egg whites are beaten until they form stiff peaks. Then egg whites and flour are alternately folded into the yolks and then flavoring added. The original recipe called for lemon juice, but as I was making my baked Alaska with peppermint stick ice cream, I decided that vanilla extract would be a better flavor. I baked the cake in a loaf pan and put it aside to cool.
Now for the exciting part; assembling and baking the baked Alaska. Before I made the cake I had placed ice cream in two small metal bowls and put them back in the freezer to harden. The recipe called for vanilla ice cream but I decided to use peppermint instead. To assemble the dessert I first cut two slices of cake and laid them on the bottom. I placed the molded ice cream on top. I then whipped egg whites together with confectioner's sugar until stiff peaks formed and then covered the ice cream entirely with the egg whites, which was tricker than I expected because the ice cream was starting to melt a bit.
Baked Alaska is baked for a very short amount of time in a very hot oven. The egg whites are supposed to create an insulating barrier between the heat of the oven and the ice cream, keeping it from melting. Still, I was a bit worried that mine would completely melt before the outside had browned. Miraculously, it worked and the outer shell was nicely browned and the ice cream still frozen.
The baked Alaska was delicious; the sponge cake was very sweet and the meringue added a nice light texture. My only mistake was making them a bit too large. Since it was only two of us, I decided to make individual ones instead of one large baked Alaska. The only problem was that the recipe didn't indicate how much ice cream to use for individual servings, so my ice cream molds were much too large, making the finished dessert huge. Next time, I would make the overall portions much smaller. I'm very excited to finally have fulfilled my childhood dream of trying baked Alaska. I'd love to try this with different ice cream flavors and maybe a cookie or brownie bottom instead of the sponge cake.
Cookbook: "Woman's World Edition Of The American Woman's Cook Book", edited by Ruth Berolzheimer, published in 1939
Recipe: True Sponge Cake & Baked Alaska
Alterations: I subsituted vanilla extract for the lemon juice, in the cake and used peppermint stick ice cream instead of vanilla
Results: Very good
Make Again: Now that I've learned the secrets of baked Alaska, I look foward to making this again.