Explosive exercise continues at Alaska’s Mount Redoubt. I paid homage to the Alaskan volcano by concocting a dessert named for the forty ninth state in my Brooklyn kitchen.
In case you’re a type of decrease 48ers but to come across this feat of gastronomic prestidigitation, the baked Alaska is a cake, plus ice cream, plus meringue throughout. Baked within the oven. The meringue will get browned, however the ice cream doesn’t soften. In actual fact, it doesn’t even get heat. Chalk it as much as physics. Sidney Perkowitz, creator of Common Foam: From Cappuccino to the Cosmos (Anchor) and a physics professor at Atlanta’s Emory College, and mentioned the chilly dairy product stays unscathed in a 400-degree oven as a result of the fluffed-up egg whites act as an insulating agent.
“Little bubbles of air don’t conduct warmth effectively,” mentioned Perkowitz, who has delved into cappuccinos, latté and soufflés, however has but to summit the baked Alaska. “I feel it’s a type of issues that even a supreme chef has to do a number of instances to get it proper,” he mentioned, referencing a Waldorf-Astoria chef’s 50 makes an attempt on the good soufflé.
It took me three tries to bake the Alaska.
First, I made the cake (gingerbread) and froze the ice cream (a pint of vanilla combined with a pint of espresso) in a pie tin. No drawback. Subsequent, I obtained my gear to ensure that the ascent of the egg whites. On the primary go-round, a smidgen of dreaded yolk oozed into the whites. The combination fluffed up a bit, however a yellowy liquid remained separate on the backside of the bowl. I sought an knowledgeable’s opinion.
Shirley Corriher, creator of Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Profitable Baking with Over 200 Magnificent Recipes (Scribner, 2008), devotes a chapter in her newest tome to meringues. “Puff, The Magic Leavener,” supplies an in depth information to urging egg whites right into a fluffy foam, which, in keeping with Corriher, is a loosely coagulated bunch of egg-white proteins.
“You’ll be able to wreck a foam with a tiny little bit of fats,” says Corriher, whose ebook was just lately named a finalist within the 2009 James Beard Basis Awards, “The fats in an egg yolk [and in extra-virgin olive oil] appears to be extra detrimental than others,” says the Atlanta-based food-science guru. “It prevents the linking of the proteins as a result of it coats the bonds.” Slippery bonds can’t attain out and seize like-minded proteins, even when they’d prefer to.
Corriher suggests a number of tips for quarantining whites (breaking yolks on a flat floor, fairly than the sting of the bowl, for instance), however I resorted to the assured uncontaminated storebought container of egg whites — not notably horny, however assured yolk-free. I allow them to sit at room temperature, then beat them with sugar and cream of tartar. For 20 minutes.
Once more, a yellowy liquid clung to the nether areas of my glass mixing bowl (copper is most well-liked; plastic is verboten). It looks as if it was a case of too many eggs, not sufficient air.
Corriher recommends a beater with many tines or an electrical mixer with beaters that rotate across the bowl, to include extra air and make a foam sooner. A baker buddy urged utilizing fewer egg whites to maximise chemical reactions and pace up the meringue-ification.
Perkowitz says these reactions don’t yield the identical outcomes every time. “I don’t assume anybody ought to be shocked in case you make a terrific meringue sooner or later and never the following day.” Nonetheless, I used to be demoralized. “It’s a must to beat one thing up,” mentioned Perkowitz, “however not your self.”
I enlisted a buddy for try quantity three. She began with the equal of three egg whites, whisked them to delicate peaks (bits of fluffy whites which have a sheen and retain their type when pulled up with a beater, however then flop over a bit) then added a pinch of cream of tartar and blended the sugar in a single teaspoon at a time. Peaks, peaks and extra peaks.
I admired the view and ready for the ultimate climb. I put the cake on a baking sheet, flipped the ice cream on high of it, coated the beast within the fluffy white stuff, and let it sit within the freezer for 2 hours. Then I popped the entire shebang in a 450-degree oven for 10 minutes.
Corriher says the meringue foam isn’t the one a part of the Alaska that retains ice cream from the warmth. “Theoretically, the cake base insulates the ice cream from the recent pan.” Foam grasp Perkowitz says the bubble-rich, puffed-up proteins of the meringue forestall warmth from attending to different components of the dessert’s frozen core. Leaving it within the oven for an prolonged interval would soften the chilly stuff, after all. How rapidly it’d flip right into a puddle would rely on the solidity of the ice cream earlier than its oven encounter — Corriher suggests sticking it within the backside of the freezer for optimum chilly — and the properties of the cake and the meringue.
My Alaska emerged with its chilly heart intact and barely browned, barely defeated peaks of meringue, simply in time for the spring thaw.
Right here’s the recipe I used. Bake at your personal threat. And share images of your outcomes!