Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Baked Alaska (because who would eat Baked Canada?)

We are an Olympics family, in enthusiasm, if not in the sense of actually competing in any sport in a world class level, or for that matter, on a neighborhood block level. Each night since February 12th, we gather the girls, and instead of telling stories by a cozy fire, we watch sports history unfold to the flickering light of broadcast television. The Winter Olympics games in Vancouver are thrilling, I grant you, but my heart longs for the innocent Olympics of my youth, when the Games unfolded without a script. These are cynical times and as exciting as it is to watch Apolo Ohno and Shaun White, it’s just not the same as the other Canadian Olympics, 1988’s party in Calgary. When athletes like nearsighted part-time plasterer Eddie (“the Eagle”) Edwards could fly from a 90-meter ski jump and Jamaicans could cheer on their very own bobsled team.

What better symbol of the Olympic dream has there ever been than the Jamaican bobsled team? They may not have ever seen snow or temperatures cooler than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but they knew how to run. In honor of the Jamaican team (which did not qualify for Vancouver) I’ve created a dessert of contrasts: a Baked Alaska (closest I could get to Canada) with Roasted Banana Coconut Ice Cream and Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee Ganache. It is the essence of the Caribbean encased in a marshmallowy meringue igloo.

This dessert has many components and is an ideal way to fill your time while you watch ESPN’s coverage of Olympic curling. The length of the recipe may be daunting, but if Apolo Ohno can return to the short track after winning “Dancing with the Stars,” then you can certainly pick yourself up and put this together. There are four main components: pound cake, which can be storebought or homemade; roasted banana coconut ice cream (the roasted refers to the banana, not the ice cream); Blue Mountain coffee ganache; and Italian meringue.

Baked Alaska with
Roasted Banana Coconut Ice Cream

This recipe yields four igloos and one loaf. You can make a half recipe, using just one pound cake, which is plenty for eight servings (your guests will need to share igloos, though). And, yeah, I know, there are no igloos in Vancouver.

First, you will need to make:

Coconut Ice Cream with Roasted Banana Chunks

adapted from The Family Baker by Susan Purdy

3 medium bananas, peeled and sliced into 3-inch pieces

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 (13.5 oz.) can unsweetened coconut milk

1 cup heavy cream

4 tablespoons light corn syrup

½ cup granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon coconut extract

1. Preheat the oven to 450. Place the banana pieces in a baking dish and toss with the canola oil. Bake for about 15 minutes, until soft and brown. Let the banana cool, then mash with a fork.

2. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine coconut milk, heavy cream, corn syrup, sugar, pinches of salt and allspice. Stir for about five minutes, until bubbles appear around the perimeter of the pan. Remove from heat and add vanilla and coconut extracts.

3. Freeze coconut mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. After about five minutes of freezing, add the mashed banana to the ice cream and continue to freeze. It’s best to fill the cake while the ice cream is still soft, but if you want to make this ahead, freeze the ice cream first, then soften a few minutes at room temperature. A 15 to 30 second zap in the microwave accomplishes the same softening.

You may stop here and enjoy this tropical treat, or you can surrender your kitchen and a few hours' work to a sublime dessert. For the Baked Alaska, you will need three additional items: a couple loaves of pound cake (my recipe is top-notch), a batch of Italian meringue (more on that later) and a recipe of ganache.

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee Ganache

4 oz. heavy cream

4 oz. dark chocolate, such as Godiva Chocolatier Extra Dark Santo Domingo Chocolate (85% cacao)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 tablespoons brewed Blue Mountain coffee

1. In a saucepan over a low flame, heat cream to just under a boil. In a bowl, break up chocolate pieces. Pour warm cream over chocolate and ask a pint-size helper to stir until smooth. Add vanilla and slowly stir in coffee. Chill in refrigerator until ready to use.

kitchen helper

Begin Assembly:

1. Carve out a boat in one pound cake loaf. Cut off sides and scoop out middle. Save cake bits for another purpose, like feeding any stray helpers who wander into the kitchen. For the igloos, out of the remaining loaf, use a 3-inch and a 2-inch ring to cut out four large circles and four small circles and place on foil-lined baking sheet.

2. When ice cream is ready, scoop four large and four small scoops into shallow containers and place in freezer (these are for the igloos). Fill cavity of pound cake loaf with remaining ice cream. Spread a thin layer of chocolate ganache on top of ice cream. Smooth top and wrap in foil. Place filled loaf in freezer.

3. Make Italian meringue according to your favorite recipe, or use Shirley Corriher’s recipe from "Bakewise." Which is a bit of a pain, but beautiful and your children will be absolutely thrilled when they taste this giant marshmallow.

4. Minutes before serving, have all components at hand and crank up the oven to 475. Have a foil-lined baking sheet ready. For the igloos: Put down a big circle and a little circle of cake, then place a spoonful of ganache on each cake round. Place frozen scoops of ice cream on each circle, then cover with meringue piling high. Bake in 475 degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve immediately.

5. For the loaf: cover with meringue, mounding over the top and swirling in a pretty pattern. Bake at 475 for three to five minutes. Slice and serve immediately. Any leftovers should be frozen. They will not be as lovely the next day, but certainly tasty.

unfinished igloo

bake alaska

Serve the Baked Alaska to friends while watching the closing ceremonies. Think of all that snow and then turn off the tv and dream of the islands, palm trees blowing in the tropical breeze, a steel drum in the background..Pass the Dutchie, indeed.

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