Today's recipe is one of my favorites. I love recipes that combine the warm with the cold (brownies and ice cream, for instance, is one of my go-to desserts for guests because it's just so darn tasty). Baked Alaska is really fun to eat because of all the textures you can sink your teeth into. First, you usually have a cake layer, and ice cream layer, and a cookie layer; all smothered in a thick layer of toasted meringue. For this version of baked Alaska, I pumped up the "easy" by cutting out the cake layer and doubling up the cookie layer.
If you take a glance over the ingredient list, things are super simple. The only thing that takes a little patience is waiting for the freezer to work it's magic on this little summertime ice cream cake! I almost prefer it that way, though. Turning on the oven for an hour or two in the summertime is sometimes the last thing I want to do! Cooling-off is the goal, not kicking up the temperature a few degrees in the kitchen. Am I right? Let's get this thing started.
Instead of roasting up the kitchen by making some cake, like I said, I doubled the cookie layer. It was much easier. And the cookies do something really amazing in the freezer with the ice cream. The ice cream soaks into the soft cookies and transforms them into a soft cake-like texture. It's so dreamy with the soft layers of ice cream. Speaking of ice cream, I decided two flavors were better than one. I chose vanilla bean and dark chocolate, but you can throw in any two flavors you'd like. After all the layering, toss that little package of dessert goodness into the freezer to set up. Now comes the fluffy part - make up that meringue!
It's kind of an art, but when you get it down, you never forget it. Egg whites need time to fluff up into soft peaks. So if you're in a rush, don't be, the meringue will thank you later for your patience. Low and slow is the way to go with this stuff. After the egg whites fluff up into a thick foam, toss in some cream of tartar to help sustain the texture, and then slowly add in the sugar while whisking at full speed. The fluffiest, softest, thing will happen before your eyes. Slather that goodness all over the frozen cookie cake you've created, freeze again, and then broil/toast/torch the peaks until they're golden.
The cold ice cream layers, the soft vanilla cookies, and the cloud-like meringue on top will take only one bite to convince you that this needs to become a frequent visitor to your dessert table as this summer winds down.
Easy Baked Alaska
makes 6-8 servings
ice cream cookie layer:
1/2 lb vanilla bean ice cream (slightly softened)
1/2 lb dark chocolate ice cream (slightly softened)
24 lady finger cookies
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
pinch of cream of tartar
1 C granulated sugar
1. To make the ice cream cookie cake: Brush a 5x9 inch bread loaf pan with vegetable oil and line with plastic wrap (leaving an overhang of plastic wrap). Scoop about 5 large scoops of vanilla ice cream into pan and press until the layer is even. Press 7-8 ladyfinger cookies into the ice cream in a flat layer. Carefully spread a chocolate ice cream layer the same way the vanilla was done. Repeat with another ladyfinger layer, and another vanilla layer, and then another ladyfinger layer. Press down carefully. Cover with plastic wrap overhang. Freeze for at least 2 hours or overnight.
2. Make the meringue: Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium-high speed until foamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar, then increase speed to high and beat until stiff shiny peaks form, about 4 more minutes.
3. Uncover the ice cream cookie cake and invert onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Let the pan stand overturned (with plastic wrap still on) until cake slips out of the pan. Remove plastic wrap. Cover the cake completely with the meringue, using the back of a spoon to make swirly peaks. Freeze another 2 hours until completely firm.
4. Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Bake until meringue peaks are golden, 3-5 minutes, or brown the meringue with a kitchen torch. Let cake soften about 10 minutes at room temperature before slicing.
Recipe adapted from: The Food Network.