Yesterday I achieved something that for 4 minutes of my life had me skipping about the kitchen with jittery nerves. Before I get to that though I want to apologise for the terrible photographs accompanying this post. I'm not claiming to have any decent photography skills to talk of normally but what little understanding was present between my camera and I seemed to have disappeared while I was making this. I can only hope it will return, ideally with a more inclination to give me better photos but that is nothing more than a wish. I don't want my camera (it's pink!) to refuse to work with me altogether.
That photo there might look like nothing more than a pile of meringue plonked on a baking tray to you (yeah, it does to me as well) but that is in fact my very first attempt at on of the things in the baking world that defies all the laws of logic - a baked alaska! Ok, ok, I know the merigue is supposed to be arranged over the cake and ice-cream in artistic swirls but while I was trying to cover everything I started to panic because it kept sliding off the ice-cream. Up until that point I had been relatively calm about the idea of putting ice-cream in a hot oven (!!!) but suddenly I lost it and decided to just just get the whole thing covered and bung it in there and go for the aesthetics the next time. Oh there will definitely be a next time. I've already had several ideas but the one I really want to try involves chocolate and caramel and my secret component which will have to remain a secret until I make it because it will be so obvious, though I guess it would be quite interesting to get people' opinions beforehand about whether they think it will work or not. I'm not going to risk it though and will only do a big reveal when/if it is a success. That way if it doesn't work I can pretend I am talking about something else entirely then when I make something that is worthy to go on here, use that to justify this monologue. See my thinking?!
The idea for this came about when I was telling my mum about one of the several challenges I had discovered. I have already mentioned in this post here for Bramble Berry Jam that I am obsessively eager to enter some of the baking blog challenges ane the one I was twittering on about at the time was the We Should Cocoa challenge created by Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog and Chele at Chocolate Teapot who I think have both come up with fantastic names for their blogs.
This months host is Choclette and the chosen ingredient that must be paired with chocolate is ice-cream. I particularly wanted to enter We Should Cocoa because anything chocolately has me running towards it quicker than you can say 'yum' but I wasn't sure what I could do apart from the Rich Chocolate Ice Cream I told you about earlier this month. Baked alaska had quickly flitte through my mind but I just as quickly dismissed it as being too difficult but when I asked Mum, it was the first thing she came up with, and gave a rather firm response too. When Mum remained enthusiastic about it I thought maybe I could do it after all, so after a bit of quick research regarding the components of a baked alaska and discovering they often include a layer of jam somewhere I decided to go with a black forest theme. I even found some bargain Taste the Difference red cherry jam for 41p (sorry, I had to tell you the price, it was a bargain and nowhere near the best before date) when I had to get a few bits from Sainsbury's though seeing as it was red cherries and I added some sliced strawberries, strictly speaking this should be called Red Forest Baked Alaska. No matter, choose which one you will.
I've been dreading this moment now because the picture I took of the sliced up alaska is so messy I am slightly ashamed of it. Only realising the picture in the book to accompany GBBO series 1, which is where I got the merigue recipe from was not much better than mine, made me feel a little better about it. All the other example I looked at were relatively neat, some inexplicable so. But here it is, please forgive me...
I know it doesn't look as amazing as it should but it tasted delicious as my dad said and I really liked how the different textures went together. The soft sponge cake, the sticky jam and somewhat tangy strawberries, the melting ice cream and finally the mallowy meringue with a hit of crispness on the exterior. It really was very good and made me realise baked alaskas may be my bakers things that I keep trying different versions of. I would be worth it to keep sampling something like this. The enjoyment was only topped by that meringue being he first one I had made successfully. Whisked egg whites and I don't have a good history.
I'm conscious that this post is getting longer and longer and I haven't even given you the recipe yet so before I leave you to it, let me just mention another challenge I am entering this post for, the No Waste Food Challenge created by Kate at Turquoise Lemons and this month guested hosted by Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary.
This challenge aims to encourage people to create or revamp recipes using foodie that may otherwise have been wasted with this months them being the frezzer stash. I'm pushing it a bit with entering this post for it because homemade ice cream is never going to be forgotten in out house but the little bit that I used for this recipe was leftover from the last time we had a portion each. Mum was all for sharing the last little bit between us but I persuaded her to save it so this recipe was obviously meant to be. It only makes a little alaska but even this provides enough to make share between three as a treat. Or you could multiply the quantities and make more. It's up to you, I only hope you enjoy eating it as much as we did.
1 large egg
2 oz tub margarine
2 oz caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 oz self raising flour
0.5 oz cocoa
1/8 tsp baking powder
1-2 tsp brandy, cherry brandy or cherry liquer
Set the oven to 180 C/160 C fan. Grease a 7" round cake tin and line the base with greaseproof paper then dust with flour so it looks like this:
Sift the flour and cocoa into a bowl and add everything else except the alcohol and the chocolate chips. Mix it together with an electric mixer for a minute until everything is combined, scraping own the sides of the bowl a couple of times to make sure everything is even. Pour it into your lined tin, level then sprinkle over a few chocolate chips, pressing them down lightly:
Bake in the preheated oven for around 20 mins until the cake is risen and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for a few mins then turn out onto the rack, remove the lining paper and brush the cake with your chosen alcohol. Leave to cool completely.
1 medium egg white
50g caster sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Whisk the egg white with the vanilla until frothy:
Add the sugar and whisk until combined then place over a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water and continue whisking until the stiff peak stage. This is when you lift the whisk out (turn it off first!) and a peak will form that doesn't fall back into the rest of the meringue. The best way to check if it's ready is to tip the bowl upside down. If it is ok then the mixture will stay put. If not, you will have a puddle of mess. Once ready, remove the bowl from the pan and continue whisking until the meringue is at room temperature.
Cover and keep cool until ready to use.
First line a ramekin with clingfilm. I'd suggest a double or triple layer because mine kept snapping as I was trying to pull the ice cream out. Then get your ice cream and squash it into the ramekin, cover and put back in the freezer to firm up again. When ready to assemble, set the oven to 230 C/210 C fan. Cut round another ramekin into the cake you made earlier (or use up a leftover piece) leaving a gap round the edge so you get extra cake if you wish:
Place the cake disc on a lined baking tray, spread with a thick layer of jam and add a layer or sliced strawberries:
Take the ice cream out of the freezer and remove from the ramekin running warm water over the base and sides if need be. Peel away the clingfilm and place on top of the strawberries:
Cover the whole thing with the meringue, making sure everything is sealed right down to the base. If you aren't panicking, create swirls in the meringue so it looks pretty. Place in the preheated oven for 3-4 mins util the meringue has started to colour then remove from the oven and serve immediately.
If I can get hold of one before next time, I'll be using a chef's blowtorch instead of nervously eating the remainder of the cake while the alaska is in the oven!
Enjoy, you deserve it!