The first time I ever had a Baked Alaska, I must have been 8 or 9 years old. My mother served it as the dessert to our mid-day meal. I didn't know very much about cooking or baking at that age. I occasionally stood in the kitchen watching my mother at work, but that was rare. I would rather be outdoors with friends, running and playing games, knitting in a lawn chair under a shade tree, or drawing. My mother was a great cook and loved doing it. Why did I need to know how to cook and bake when she was so capable of doing exemplary things in the kitchen? I honestly thought she was nuts (can I say that?) when she told me what she was going to do. Who in their right mind would put ice cream in a 500˚F oven? When the golden brown meringue emerged from the oven and wasn't floating in a pool of milky liquid, I thought my mother was a genius. I wonder, when she did something like this, if she had any clue she'd be creating such wonderful memories for me?
I used a brownie base for the peppermint ice cream in my individual Baked Alaskas. I initially wanted salted caramel ice cream, but soon realized I didn't have enough time to make my own. I then decided peanut butter ice cream was what I wanted on top of the brownie. I would sprinkle candied peanuts on top of the torched meringue. Another disappointment; peanut butter ice cream was not to be had that day. Peppermint won by default. Feel free to experiment with any flavor ice cream, sherbert or sorbet that inspires you.
• Brownies (recipe here) Bake in a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan, buttered and lined with parchment paper extending 1-inch over the long sides of the pan. Check frequently after 20 minutes, and remove from the oven before becoming dry.
• 1/2 gallon peppermint, peanut butter, salted caramel, or any flavor ice cream you prefer, softened (you will probably not use the entire half gallon).
FOR THE CHOCOLATE GANACHE:
• 1/3 cup heavy cream
• 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
• Italian Meringue (recipe here)
Steps 1 and 2 will need to be completed the day before you plan to eat the Baked Alaskas.
1. Bake the brownies. When cool, grab the parchment overhanging the sides of the pan, and lift the brownies to a work surface.
2. Line 6 small custard cups or 8 timbale molds with plastic wrap. Using a spoon, pack the containers full with ice cream. Cover the tops with the over-hanging plastic wrap and press gently to remove any air pockets in the ice cream. Place the containers in a shallow metal pan and place in the freezer.
3. Using a round cookie/biscuit cutter, cut brownie discs the size of the base of the custard cups or timbale molds. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream until bubbles just start to form on the edge of the surface. Take the saucepan from the heat and add the chocolate chips. Let the mixture set for about 3 minutes then stir until smooth. Remove the ice cream from the freezer. Spoon a dollop of the the chocolate ganache onto each of the brownie discs. Pull the formed ice cream from their molds and place on top of the brownie. The chocolate gananche will work as a "glue" to hold the ice cream in place. Return ice cream and brownie Alaskas to the freezer.
4. Make the Italian Meringue following the recipe above. Take the ice cream from the freezer. At this point, you can either spoon meringue onto the individual ice cream and brownie desserts and spread decoratively with a knife, or place the meringue into a pastry bag and pipe the meringue onto the ice cream. Just be sure to cover the ice cream and brownie completely. Do not leave any part exposed. Return the meringue covered desserts to the freezer until ready to serve (they can be left in the freezer for up to one day).
5. Remove desserts from the freezer and either use a butane torch to brown the meringue or place the Alaskas in a pre-heated 500˚F oven and bake until browned. WATCH CLOSELY if you use the oven!
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