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”.
The pdf with all the recipes is here.
Brown Butter Pound Cake
I had never browned butter before and was a little nervous about burning it, but it went fine. I just put it all in the pan – didn’t even worry about cutting it up – and heated and stirred and heated and stirred until the milk solids turned brown. Then got it out of that hot pan quick, because they get browner and browner really fast.
The annoying part is cooling the butter just enough to where it’s solid but soft for creaming with the sugar. From there, it’s just a regular creaming method pound cake. A breeze in my stand mixer .
Cake and ice cream layers
Zabaglione Ice Cream
I thought a French vanilla would go well with the brown butter cake, and I looked through The Perfect Scoop for something like that but a little more exciting. Enter zabaglione ice cream. Zabaglione is a poured custard made with egg yolks, marsala wine, and sugar. I adore it. We used it in the DB tiramisu challenge. But Lebovitz’s recipe says to use 1/2 cup of dry marsala for a 1 quart recipe (he just substitutes it in for 1/2 cup of the dairy), and that seemed like a lot. Alcohol makes ice cream softer, and I wanted mine to stay frozen during the baking and flambeing, plus I wasn’t sure if my guests would love the flavor as much as I do; some people don’t go for it as much. So I used 1/4 of a cup. This is even less when you consider that I increased the recipe to make 1.5 quarts. I still tasted it, though; I think it might have been a little overpowering if I had used as much as he said, but a little more would have been fine.
Besides that, I followed his recipe, egg yolks and all. I found that when I use light cream, as I am wont to do instead of all heavy cream or Lebovitz’s mix of whole milk and heavy cream, the yolks don’t make it too fatty. I had some freezing issues due to not having frozen my ice cream maker’s core early enough, so I couldn’t judge this ice cream very accurately, but I think it turned out pretty well.
Unbaked meringue on the first one
Baked meringue on the second one
I could make meringue in my sleep, which was good to know because I decided to wait until my guests had arrived to make it. That was a Good Idea; I piped, baked, flambeed, and served one baked Alaska before doing the same to the next one, and in the meantime, the quality of the meringue had noticeably declined. It was less satiny, starting to separate I guess. But not too much – purely an aesthetic issue at that point. Having the stand mixer do the beating for me made doing this mid-party less of a hassle.
I tried to do some pretty piping but I wanted to make sure to cover every little cranny since the meringue is an insulator for the ice cream, and that necessitated going over some spots multiple times. But all in all, not too bad.
Don’t know how to make meringue? Commit this to memory:
Beat room temperature egg whites with a few sprinkles of cream of tartar and cornstarch. When they start to turn opaque, add sugar (1/4 cup or 60 g per white is customary for meringue shells; in this case, about half that much*) and keep beating. Stop when they stick out pretty straight from the beater when you stop it and pull it out of the foam.
There, now you can make meringue in your sleep, too.
*1/4 cup or 60g per white is twice as much sugar per egg white by either volume or weight. This recipe used slightly less than an equal weight of egg whites and sugar. It was a nice amount.
Heat up the broiler and put the Alaska under it for five minutes. My ice cream was definitely starting to melt at this point, which didn’t matter since my Alaskas were so horizontal, but one of those tower-type ones might have had trouble.
I was kind of afraid to flambe them, because I had never done it before, but it’s so easy. Just pour a little alcohol – at least 40% abv, I think; I used cognac – into a pan, heat it until it just starts to bubble, pour it on the dessert, and light it with a long match. I had better luck lighting the pan of alcohol, actually, and then poured the flaming alcohol onto the dessert. It sounds dangerous, but it went fine. It looks really cool if you turn out the lights.
This part is unnecessary and actually not traditional for baked Alaska; mine were technically bombe Alaska because I did this. But it makes a great show! And the leftover booze that soaked in tasted good.