Everything about Baked Alaskas are amusing. This is probably due to the triple facts that they are often lit on fire, have an entire day in honor of them (February 1st, no joke) and yet have absolutely nothing to do with Alaska.
Baked Alaskas are originally from China. A durian version re-introduces an Asian element in a dessert that has been fully claimed by America. That it kind of looks like a durian is just a pleasant coincidence.
Baked Alaskas look and sound far more complex than what they actually are – which is a lump of ice cream inside a thin pastry shell, usually meringue. The cool part is that the cake is cooked with the ice cream inside it very briefly under high heat until the outside is browned. Unless of course, you prefer to throw rum over it and light the whole thing on fire.
I can only guess what the original name of the Baked Alaska was when a Chinese delegation introduced it to France in the late 1700’s. The French certainly named it inaptly, calling it the omelette á la norvégienne, the “Norwegian Omelette”, although it had nothing to do with Norwegians or omelets and everything to do with some smart Chinese chef who figured out that the pastry insulated the ice cream from the heat and created a dessert that is both hot and cold at the same time. I suppose the French are the ones we may blame for starting the legacy of ridiculous names.
Next, an American physicist got involved. According to the folks over at cakespy.com Benjamin Thompson, an American physicist living in Europe, realized
that while pastry would conduct much of the heat and protect the cold
core, a layer of meringue would do so to an even greater degree. He introduced the idea of using meringue, and called his concoction “Omelet Surprise.” I still don’t see the connection to an omelet, but okay.
|photo by leaveroomfordessert.com|
The cake made it’s final leap to circle the whole world when it crossed the Atlantic Ocean just in time for the US acquisition of the Alaska Territory in 1876. In celebration Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York City served the cake, calling it the “Alaska-Florida Cake.” I guess the name was suppose to reflect the fact that the country, like the cake, now encompassed both the tropics and the tundra. Then at some point, everyone agreed this was a stupid name for a cake, and the Florida part was dropped in favor of honoring the newest state. Hence the Baked Alaska.
This cake can easily be made vegan by substituting this vegan durian ice
cream and using this darn awesome looking vegan meringue. Who knew flax
seeds had such power?
And so there you have it. Add rum and flames at your own discretion.
Durian Baked Alaska
- One recipe Durian Ice Cream (choose between three recipes)
- One recipe Durian Butter Cake, made in 8 or 9 inch round pan
- Meringue or Vegan Meringue
- 8 large egg whites
- ½ teaspoon (3g) cream of tartar
- ½ teaspoon (3g) salt
- 1 cup (220g) sugar
3. Line the sides of a mixing bowl with plastic wrap.
4. Scoop the ice cream into the bowl and smooth the surface. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 2 hours or overnight.
5. Remove cake from pan and place on a baking sheet.
6. Invert the bowl of ice cream over the cake. Keep the ice cream covered in plastic wrap, and return cake+ice cream to the freezer
7. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F
8. Make the Meringue: Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed in an
electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar gradually in a
slow stream until stiff peaks form.
9. Using a spoon, cover the ice cream in meringue in a spiky design, using your fingers to pull out the tips. If ice cream starts to melt return to freezer.
10. Bake for 2-5 minutes until meringue is browned. Serve immediately!
11. To make it a Bombe, warm 1/4 cup of rum or cognac in the microwave while your cake is in the oven.
12. Light it on fire and pour the flaming liquid over the cake for an incendiary finale.
|photo by chopinandmysaucepan.com|
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