Bakers Time: 4 1/2 hours My Time: untimed
British – American Slang: Chucked it in the bin = Threw it away
Today’s bake is a SHOW. STOPPER. And by that I mean, on the actual show, the Great British Bake-Off, there was so much drama over ice cream and meringue that I thought the show might actually be cancelled. You see, Ian put his ice cream in a freezer and another contestant took it out when getting hers and forgot to put it back in again and… well, he chucked it in the bin.
It was the most polite reality show fracas I have ever seen, and yet… so much DRAMA.
So I figured, Ian got sent home for literally presenting a garbage bin as his final bake, so… I should be good at any level above that.
A baked Alaska, if you don’t know, is a confection of ice cream and meringue on a base of cake. And yes, it is baked. Sort of. The legend goes that it was invented to celebrate the Alaska purchase, but this is probably as true as any other urban legend.
Many of the bakers created beautiful designs of meringue, I had planned a glorious creation – a meringue beehive filled with honey ice cream on a lightly orange-y pound cake base. What I ended up with was… close.
Oh, and as far as timing – I did not time this accurately to the show. The BBC provides fancy cuisinart ice cream makers, and I have a very retro machine (though still electric, thank goodness). I started the ice cream earlier in the day, and it worked out that a friend was coming over that evening. I wanted to be able to make it when someone would want to eat it!
I looked at a lot of recipes for the ice cream, and eventually went with this one, from David Lebovitz. I’m not quite comfortable making my own ice cream recipe just yet, but how hard can it be? 😉 The honey was local, we had picked it up at the Farmer’s market just for this occasion.
When the ice cream was done, I spooned it into a bowl so it would harden into a dome shape. Then I realized I hadn’t lined the bowl with anything, so I wouldn’t be able to get it out later. I had to transfer it to another bowl, wash and dry the original, and then re mold it (after lining it with plastic wrap this time). Ooops.
I chose a pound cake for this because the show made such an issue of having a “sturdy” base for your Alaska. I can’t think of a more sturdy cake than a pound cake.
Any pound cake recipe will do, and I actually can’t remember what recipe I used. Probably the trusty Betty Crocker cookbook, to be honest. I took a basic pound cake recipe and added a few teaspoons of one of my new favorite things – an orange emulsion.
Emulsions, supposedly, are superior to extracts. They’re water based rather than alcohol, so the flavor isn’t as likely to “bake out” they say. Despite being made of water, they have a rather thick consistency so you don’t feel like you’re adding a ton of liquid. I don’t know how Paul and Mary will feel about adding an artificial flavor, but I feel like this isn’t much different than adding vanilla extract… right? Right. Plus, this was a gift and I’ve been dying to use it.
Now, a few words about the weather. The day this bake was done for the show turned out to be one of the hottest on record. For England, at any rate. And the day of my bake was hot hot hot as well. And I don’t have a large freezer in the kitchen, so I was running my ice cream up and down the stairs through the garage to the basement deep freeze every time I needed to do anything with it. In theory, you should be able to pop it back in the freezer at the end of every step, but that ended up doing me almost more harm than good! Things got pretty melty pretty quick around here.
I whipped up a meringue (French, since it’s what I know. I’ll get adventurous next time). I thought it ought to be pretty stiff, in order to hold the definition needed for the ridges of a beehive. It ended up being a little… I’m not even sure how to explain it. It felt like there were too many air bubbles in, and was more foam-like than I would have liked. I may have whipped a tich too long. I was moving so fast at this point, I didn’t really have time for a lot of pictures, but my darling husband volunteered to take a few.
There, that looks like a beehive, somewhat? Now, given better a better set of circumstances, I had planned a whole scene, with little yellow bees, more detail, etc. However: it was now 10 pm, our friend was waiting for his promised ice cream, and it was hot A.F. So I patched up any wholes I could see and prepared to get this in the oven.
Yes, the oven. Remember how I said you do bake this thing? Well, supposedly, the meringue acts as a sort of insulator for the ice cream. So I patched in any wholes or breaks I saw in the meringue to give this thing the best chance I could and tossed it in under a broiler.
This is me, anxiously watching for meltage.
On the show, the bakers all had lovely brulee torches and were able to avoid the oven entirely. I WANT ONE SO BAD. I would make all the crème brulee, all the mini baked alaskas… I might just light things on fire for the heck of it. I mean, no! I would never do that! Only merengues and sugar, promise!
Theres a bit of melt… and the beehive has… drooped.
But is it still ice cream in there?
Success! That is still solid ice cream in there! And a nicely browned meringue. And it tasted pretty good, too! But with only two of us to eat it, it was a LOT. We did end up throwing a good deal of it away.
I think that if I made it again, I’d do “mini” ones. Easier to freeze, easier to portion control… I could make just a few and make them super cute. I’d probably do a different type of meringue, but like I said before, one challenge at a time.
Next up, Pie week!