Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Baked Alaska

When browsing through my Baking Illustrated cookbook, I found an article and recipe for Baked Alaska.  This was brand new to me, something I had never encountered.  It sounded SO different, I just had to try it.  Baked Alaska is an interesting and impressive dessert, and fun to eat – the combination of cold ice cream and warm meringue is unique and enjoyable.

According to Wikipedia:

Baked Alaska (also known as glace au four, omelette à la norvégienne, Norwegian omelette and omelette surprise) is a dessert made of ice cream placed in a pie dish lined with slices of sponge cake or Christmas Pudding and topped with meringue. The entire dessert is then placed in an extremely hot oven for just long enough to firm the meringue.The meringue is an effective insulator, and the short cooking time prevents the heat from getting through to the ice cream.

Beautiful Baked Alaska


Searching the web, I found several different recipes for Baked Alaska.  Some, like the one I used, involved a génoise cake, while others were simply made from a white cake mix.  Either way, the first step involves making the cake.  Regardless of the recipe you choose, you should bake the cake in a sheet pan for easier construction.  Select a large bowl to use as a mold and line it with plastic wrap.  Once the cake is cooled, cut it into long strips (1.5-2 inches wide) and use about 3/4 of the strips to line the bowl.

Cake strips lining the bowl

If you want, you can make a soaking syrup using the liquor of your choice, water, and sugar.  I used Kahlua.  Simply brush the syrup onto the cake.  Don’t forget to brush the syrup onto the cake strips that haven’t been added  yet.

Next, grab your ice cream.  You can choose any kind you like – I went with a combination of Chocolate Fudge Brownie and Cookie Dough.  Cut the carton from the ice cream and put it in a bowl.  Use a wooden spoon to break the ice cream into smaller chunks to allow it to soften evenly.  It is important to not let the ice cream melt – just soften it – otherwise the ice cream will have ice crystals in it once it refreezes.

Softening the Ice Cream

Add the ice cream to the cake (in the bowl), and smooth it evenly.  Top with the remaining cake strips and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Freeze for at least 2 hours (or up to a week!).

Finally, make a meringue – choose a recipe that isn’t too delicate.  The cookbook recommends an Italian meringue.  Once it is prepared, take the cake out of the freezer and invert it out of the bowl onto a pie plate.  Remove all plastic wrap and apply the meringue, making sure to add several peaks to the surface.

Ready to go in the oven!

Bake in a hot oven (425ºF) for 5-8 minutes, or until the meringue is golden brown.  Slice and serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Look at the layers!



Delicious Eclairs!

It’s no secret that I enjoy baked goods, particularly high quality ones!  I’ve always loved the combination of custard, pastry, and chocolate in Boston Creme Pie, Boston Creme donuts, and (best of all) eclairs!!  It never really occurred to me to try and make them myself until this past weekend.  Jeb and I had been working on the house consistently for a couple weeks and finally put the finishing touches on the main living areas.  Sunday morning, Jeb decided to sleep in, and I decided to bake!  As I started looking through my “Baking Illustrated” cookbook, intending to find a good recipe for Cinnamon Rolls, I came across a recipe for Eclairs!  First, I had to make the custard, followed by the puff pastry, and the glaze.

Pastry Cream

from Baking Illustrated

  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.  Heat half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.

2.  Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined.  Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in the cornstarch unitl combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

3.  When the half-and-half mixture reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk the simmering half-and-half into the yolk mixture.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula; return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds.  Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.  Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.  Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours.

Cream Puff Pastry

from Baking Illustrated

  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg whites
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1.5 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour

1.  Preheat oven to 425ºF.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Beat the eggs and egg white in a measuring cup or small bowl.  You should have 1/2 cup (discard the excess).  Set aside.

3.  Bring the butter, milk, water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring once or twice.  When the mixture reaches a full boil (the butter should be fully melted), immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the flour with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon until combined and the mixture clears the sides of the pan.  Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand, and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the saucepan, about 3 minutes.

4.  Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open for 10 seconds to cool slightly.  With the machine running, gradually add the eggs in a steady stream.  When all the eggs have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for 30 seconds until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms.

5.  Using a pastry bag, pipe eight 5 by 1-inch strips, spaced about 1 inch apart.  Use the back of a teaspoon dipped in a bowl of cold water to even out the shape and smooth the surface of the piped strips.

6.  Bake 15 minutes (do not open the oven door), then reduce the oven temperature  to 375ºF and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm, 8 to 10 minutes longer.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and use a skewer to poke small holes in the top of each eclair to release steam.  Return the eclairs to the oven and prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon.  Dry the eclairs in the turned-off oven until the centers are just moist (not wet) and the eclairs are crisp, about 45 minutes.  Transfer the eclairs to a wire rack to cool.

The Glaze

  • 3 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 2 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Place the half-and-half and chocolate in a saucepan over medium heat until chocolate is melted and mixture is combined.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and whisk until completely smooth.

To Assemble…

  1. With a paring knife, cut around the sides of each eclair to remove the top third.
  2. Dip the top of each eclair into the glaze, shaking off any excess, and transfer the tops to a wire rack to dry.
  3. Spoon 4-5 tablespoons of pastry cream into the bottom of each eclair.
  4. Once the glaze has set, set the tops on the eclairs and press gently to secure.
  5. Serve within several hours.

This recipe had several steps, but was not complicated.  This is definitely a recipe that I will be repeating, as I enjoyed these much more than any store/bakery-bought eclairs.  Jeb loved them too!