Wednesday, September 12, 2012

long time coming.


There is so much I could say.  I have a lot to say.  But I am weary.  I am heavy with Late Summer.

Late Summer is a delicious burden and it is barefoot and sweaty.  Late Summer doesn't have to be actual weight but it always feels like it.  Late Summer is the thing that makes my fingers swell and is the reason I am laying on my couch at 9:30 on a Wednesday night still in the clothes I went running in this morning.  I feel too lethargic to do anything substantive.  Like type.  Or eat anything other than nachos.  Late Summer a multifaceted problem and there is melted cheese involved.  I don't make the rules.

Yeah let's just get to the cake.

Poppyseed Baked Alaska
from Bon Appetit

This cake is a triumph.  I had heart palpitations when my mother cut it.  I think it is the thing that I've made of which I am most proud.  And honestly?  Its fairly easy to do.  If you have a day in advance, a big bowl and a bunch of people you need to impress, you can do this.

Baked Alaska inherently involves a lot of decision making.  The cover recipe from Bon Ap's April 2002 issue suggested the following poppyseed cake with a combo of strawberry ice cream and strawberry sorbet, but you can do any flavor of anything.  I switched in raspberry ice cream and peach sorbet for color contrast/seasonal fruits/blahblahblah and that was a good plan.

For cake:
nonstick vegetable oil spray
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup flour, sifted then measured
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
6 tablespoons butter, melted then cooled

For filling:
2 pints sorbet, softened
1 quart ice cream, softened

For meringue:
6 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray 9-inch springform pan with non-stick spray.  Springform is nonnegotiable and I mean it.

Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla to combine, and then heat in a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water without letting the water touch the bottom of the bowl (this is how you fake a double boiler, ask your mom, that's what I did)(my mom, not yours)(anyway).  Whisk constantly and remove after two minutes, when warm.  Beat mixture with an electric mixer until very thick and ribbons form when beaters are lifted, about 7 minutes.  Add flour in three additions, folding to incorporate after each addition.  Fold in poppy seeds and then quickly fold in butter.  It will be a weird and frothy mixture.  Pour into prepared pan and bake until a tester in the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes.  Cool completely before removing sides of pan.

Line a 4 quart, 10-inch diameter bowl with plastic wrap.  Spread sorbet at the bottom, freeze for a bit, and then layer ice cream over it.  Invert the cake onto the ice cream, and stick entire monster into freezer for four hours or overnight.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Gradually add in sugar, beating to incorporate, and then vanilla.  Should be sturdy and glossy.

The goal now is to get your cake upright, out of the bowl and onto a baking sheet.  This will take ingenuity and patience.  Maybe you have to remove the bottom of the springform from the cake first.  Maybe you have to tug on the plastic wrap while someone else tugs on the bowl.  Maybe you have to wedge a spatula between the frozen part and the bowl and go around in a circle.  Do yo thang, ladies and gents.  If you get stuck, call me or something and we'll figure it out.  Stick it back in the freezer to solidify once you've extracted the beast before coating it all over with meringue.  Then freeze again for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Allow cake to brown on top and at the edges, about five minutes.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.

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