Baked Alaska

I produced my first Baked Alaska when I was a very young and naïve cook working in our first restaurant in North Devon.

If you can, cast your mind back to 1975 – our restaurant has been created on a shoe string, with both patrons literally removing walls, and plastering walls and inserting floors along with painting and decorating to produce a 40 seater restaurant with letting rooms. The courage of the young knows no bounds – it is hardly something I would be prepared to tackle now. But out of youth and naivety come great ideas and accomplishments, and it has to be said we are full of energy; we are innovative, creative and famous for a while.

The restaurant is at the top end of a long and winding street in North Devon which leads to the sea. We furnish the restaurant with antique furniture which is frequently sold to customers who have perhaps had a little too much to drink. (no drink driving laws here!) The paintings on the walls change from week to week. The bar area has an open fireplace on both sides where we build a roaring fire in the winter months. Health and safety would have a field day in 2015!

Our menu is ‘French’ and I like to think we introduced the Devonian public to the possibilities of the Aubergine, the Courgette, the green and red pepper and Lobster Thermo Dore! Some of the dishes are named after me, some after our children, but mostly they are cooked with imagination and finesse. It is hard to source good coffee; After Eight mints are a luxury. We are in the days of Prawn Cocktail with a Marie rose dressing (salad cream and tomato sauce) fruit cocktail (grapefruit and tangerines from a tin) and corn on the cob is a new and exciting idea! Our cooking is different from these delights – we love pork tenderloin, chicken Kiev (very new) and fruits de mer. The chip and the Pea are nowhere to be found. We serve scalloped potatoes in cream, ratatouille, red cabbage with caraway. It is very hard work!

My duties are without limit. I care for young children, I hostess, I cook, and more importantly, I am in charge of ‘The Sweet Trolley’. This trolley is the bane of my life. It has a wonky caster, is always heavily laden, and at the end of service, has to be ‘tidied’ up – i.e. there is an awful lot of cream and pudding consumption because it simply ‘will not last until tomorrow’ – get the picture? Baked Alaska falls into this category – it simply will not last until tomorrow and is truly delicious. I used to make the ice-cream for this dish, but today I urge you to buy a good ice-cream (perhaps made with clotted and double cream) and save your energy for something more important. Apart from that, I will take you step by step to produce the Glorious Baked Alaska for your next dinner party. Prepare to be admired…

You will need

  • A 1.136 litre (2 pint) pudding basin, lined with cling film
  • 1 – 1.5 litres of Ice cream (to fill the selected size of your basin)
  • A sponge disc cooked by you in a 20cm (8”) sandwich tin preferably with a removable base

Ingredients for Sponge

  • 100g (4oz.) caster sugar
  • 100g (4oz.) self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g (4oz.) butter softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • A little milk if necessary

Cream the butter and caster sugar together in a food mixer. Gradually add the flour, the extract and the eggs and beat to a smooth consistency. Base line a 20cm/ 8” sandwich tin with a removable base and fill with the sponge mixture.

If you’re using a 2-oven AGA, bake on the grid shelf on the floor of the roasting oven with the cold sheet on the second set of runners.
If you have an AGA baking oven, bake on the grid shelf on the floor of the baking oven.
If you’re using a conventional oven, bake in the centre of the oven, after preheating to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

Bake for about 25 minutes (check it at 20 minutes).

Ingredients for Meringue

  • 4 egg whites
  • 9 oz caster sugar
  • A little malt vinegar

And you will need to be in a good mood to decorate with flair.

Separate the egg white from the egg yolk and place the egg whites into the bowl of your food mixer. Beat at a fairly high speed until the meringue becomes fluffy and white. Start to add the caster sugar and beat until the meringue is fairly stiff, add a tiny ½ tsp. of malt vinegar for a slightly creamed colouring if desired.

Assembly

Start by allowing the vanilla ice cream to sit in room temperature until soft serve consistency. Scoop into the cling film lined pudding basin until half full and then add a layer of cherry or strawberry jam, fill the basin with the rest of the ice cream and smooth over to the top of the basin. Cover the top with more cling film and place in the freezer for about 2 hours or overnight if you can. The cling film will enable you to easily take out the pudding shaped ice cream from the bowl and place it onto the sponge disc. Place the ice cream onto the disc, and cover the whole shape with thick meringue. Place into a hot oven for about 5 – 8 minutes to brown and then slice and serve immediately. THIS IS DELICIOUS AND YOU HAVE TO EAT IT ALL!

This will keep quite well in the freezer for a week or two if you are not eating it straight away.

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