The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alaska or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.
I’ve always wanted to make a Baked Alaska since having it for dessert at Bistro Ortolan. For those who don’t know a Bombe Alaska is a Meringue based dessert that has ice-cream layered with sponge cake, which is then topped with Meringue before being torched quickly to let the Meringue harden. For my version I used a Coconut and Durian ice cream, paired with Pandan flavoured meringue and layered with Brown Butter Pound Cake.
I would have to admit that we’re quite lucky to live here in Australia. With us being relatively close to Asia, we have access to almost all the exotic fruits available. Not only that, but with our sub-tropical climate, we are able to grow some of these in our own backyard. I remember when my family first relocated to Australia, everything just seem so strange, so foreign. Gone were the Ramburatans, Longans, Dragonfruits, Mangosteen, but more importantly Durian. If ever we craved durian, mum would go down to the local chinese grocery store and buy a container of durian, with each container holding 4 frozen segments. Because it was so scarce back then, we savoured every bite of the Durian.
Fast forward 20 years later, walk in to any of your asian grocery store and you’re guaranteed to find any Asian delicacies you fancy, if they don’t have it in store, I’m sure the shop owners would have no problem ordering them in for you. A couple of weeks ago, whilst exploring my hood of the town, I couldn’t believe how many fruits and vegetables we now have. I even witnessed Fresh Durian! Not the frozen ones imported from Thailand. However, the fresh ones did come at a cost, $10/kg. Intrigued, I had to get one.
As soon as I walked in to the door of my house, I quickly ran to the kitchen and grabbed the cleaver. The cleaver slid into the fruit with such ease, opening up the durian revealing plump pieces of yellow flesh. It tasted not as sweet as its frozen counterparts, however slightly more bitter and more pungent. Just the way I like it.
This is the recipe for the original Bombe Alaska as chosen by Elissa, if you’re interested in the recipe for the coconut and durian ice cream, just pop me a comment and I’ll email it to you.
Vanilla Ice Cream
- 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
- A pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup (165g) sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise OR 2 teaspoons (10ml) pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups (500ml) heavy (approx 35% butterfat) cream
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) pure vanilla extract
- Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams. Scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a paring knife and add to the milk, along with the bean pod. Cover, remove from heat, and let infuse for an hour. (If you do not have a vanilla bean, simply heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a medium saucepan until the liquid steams, then let cool to room temperature.)
- Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2 litre) bowl inside a large bowl partially filled with water and ice. Put a strainer on top of the smaller bowl and pour in the cream.
- In another bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks together. Reheat the milk in the medium saucepan until warmed, and then gradually pour ¼ cup warmed milk into the yolks, constantly whisking to keep the eggs from scrambling. Once the yolks are warmed, scrape the yolk and milk mixture back into the saucepan of warmed milk and cook over low heat. Stir constantly and scrape the bottom with a spatula until the mixture thickens into a custard which thinly coats the back of the spatula.
- Strain the custard into the heavy cream and stir the mixture until cooled. Add the vanilla extract (1 teaspoon (5ml) if you are using a vanilla bean; 3 teaspoons (15ml if you are not using a vanilla bean) and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, preferably overnight.
- Remove the vanilla bean and freeze in an ice cream maker. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can make it without a machine. See instructions from David Lebovitz.
Brown Butter Pound Cake
- 19 tablespoons (9.5 oz) (275g) unsalted (sweet) butter
- 2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring) (See “Note” section for cake flour substitution)
- 1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
- 1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
- 1/3 (75g) cup granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan.
- Place the butter in a 10” (25cm) skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.
- Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract.
- Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.
- Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
- Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Meringue (For the Baked Alaska)
- 8 large egg whites
- ½ teaspoon (3g) cream of tartar
- ½ teaspoon (3g) salt
- 1 cup (220g) sugar
- 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.
Assembly Instructions – Baked Alaska
- Line four 4” (10cm) diameter tea cups with plastic wrap, so that plastic wrap covers all the sides and hangs over the edge. Fill to the top with ice cream. Cover the top with the overhanging plastic wrap and freeze for several hours, or until solid.
- Level the top of the brown butter pound cake with a serrated knife or with a cake leveler. Cut out four 4” (10cm) diameter circles from the cake. Discard the scraps or use for another purpose.
- Make the meringue (see above.)
- Unwrap the ice cream “cups” and invert on top of a cake round. Trim any extra cake if necessary.
- Pipe the meringue over the ice cream and cake, or smooth it over with a spatula, so that none of the ice cream or cake is exposed. Freeze for one hour or up to a day.
- Burn the tips of the meringue with a cooking blow torch. Or, bake the meringue-topped Baked Alaska on a rimmed baking sheet in a 500°F/260°C oven for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediately.
I tried to pipe spikes on to the ice cream to replicate the look of the actual Durian, unfortunately the meringue did not hold up as I would like, so everything started to melt. Typing out the recipe that Elissa has provided, I now know what I did wrong – I had forgotten to put the piped Bombe Alaska back in to the freezer, instead just blow torching it immediately after piping. Epic Fail!
Despite it looking messy, it tasted delicious! The Layer of Durian ice cream was quite distinct from the coconut ice cream. To differentiate the texture, I added some desiccated coconut into the coconut ice cream. The two ice creams combined with the Pandan meringue was a delicious combination. The smoothness of the light durian ice cream contrasted well with the rich coconut ice cream.
The great thing about being a part of the DBC is that it encourages you to explore your creativity, to try and do things that you’ve never done before. Thank you to Elisssa for choosing this fantastic dessert. It was much easier to make then I had initially thought. You should give this dessert a go, play around with flavour combinations, you’d be surprised with what you actually come up with.