It's completely cliche but it's always good to do as much as you can when you can so that when the unexpected strikes, you can let it ride and take a breather in a way. I started this post about Meyer Lemon Baked Alaska at the same time I was publishing the last one thinking I was just going to write down the recipe while it was fresh in my head and finish it later, probably on Monday or Tuesday. I should have listened to my brain screaming "Murphy's Law" loud and clear while I turned on the radio instead.
Of course the unexpected happened. A spider found my right eye very appetizing one night and decided to have a go at it. I am allergic to spider bites. I know, it's not a life threatening disease and the Earth did not shake when it happened, but eh! that's my latest adventure!
When I mean "allergic" I am not exaggerating. Ask my friend Jen about the last time I got bit. We were emailing back and forth and I got back from walking the dog only to discover 30 minutes later that my ankle was 3 times its original size. I was home alone and she kept checking on me although it was getting late. She is the best emergency nursing blogger out there! You can imagine that when my eye saga started on Sunday, she was not really shocked to find out it was another spider bite: "aaaah, a spider bite. those little jerks. they LIKE you :)"...Nice.
The eye doctor said that it was probably because my blood was pure sugar by now. If he was trying to score a box of macarons, he was seriously out of luck! So short of working/baking/typing/working, I was just enjoying digging my spoon in Meyer lemon sorbet in baked meringue goodness. At least my fingers weren't busy thinking about rubbing my eye and I occupied them with another much more fun activity like eating. Nah! (no worries, it's all getting better now)
I don't usually make Baked Alaskas for us but a former patron asked if I could come up with a dessert for a small gathering of international students she was hosting. When someone hires me for an event, whether big or small, I do a little bit of research before suggesting a few options. Beside the total number of guests, I like to know about dietary restrictions, likes and dislikes and especially countries of origins and different cultures if any.
Why? I find that it brings a smile on people's face a lot more times to eat something that makes them jump in a "Oh my! It's been ages since I have had this". They also love to share with their neighbor or the whole table some family stories or cultural differences. This, to me is a job well done. No one just ate desserts but there were memories associated with it as well as the sharing of information and personalities. Listening to the person next to you is such a personal enrichment at the same time. I am a geeky research freak, what can I say?!
So why, with a group of international students did I chose to make Baked Alaskas? Well, thanks to Wikipedia which pointed it out in better terms than I could: no one knows for sure its country of origin. China? Scandinavia? Norway? France? Perfect to serve to a multi national bunch of hungry students!
I went with lemon sorbet instead of ice cream because I knew the rest of the meal was rather on the heavy side (huge spread of small bites from all over the world). To keep homemade sorbet from getting icy and retain a velvety texture after a couple of days in the freezer, I add some simple syrup or honey to the base before churning it. Does its magic trick every time! The baking part of the meringue once each cake is covered with it can be done in the oven but it was pretty hot at my friend's house that I used a blow torch instead of turning the heat a notch higher.
One year ago: Cassata Sicilian
Meyer Lemon Sorbet Baked Alaska:
Notes: prepare the cake and sorbet in advance as you will need to use the Italian meringue fairly quickly or it will tend to look "gritty" if applied later. You can apply the Italian meringue and freeze your cakes until ready to use your blow torch or oven (no longer than a day or two otherwise the Italian meringue has a tendency to start "liquifying").
For the lemon poppy seed cake base:
1 1/2 cups (185gr) all purpose flour
1 cup (200gr) sugar
1 tablespoon (14gr) baking powder
1/4 (1.5gr) teaspoon salt
1/2 cup egg whites (about 3-4)
3/4 (175ml) cup milk
1/4 cup (62.5ml) lemon juice
grated zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon (9gr) poppy seeds
2 oz (60gr) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 oz (60gr) extra virgin olive oil (the fruitier the better)
For the Meyer lemon sorbet:
2 cups (500ml) freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (or regular)
1 cup (100gr) sugar
4 cups (1 liter)water
2 tablespoons mild honey
Prepare the cake base:
Preheat oven to 300F and position a rack on the center. In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients for the cake. Set aside. In a separate bowl combine the egg whites and the milk. Make a well in the center of the flour mix and slowly add in the egg white mixture while stirring with a whisk. Add in the poppy seeds, the melted butter and oil. Mix with a whisk until smooth. Line a quarter sheet pan or a 9x13 inch pan with parchment paper, lightly spray with cooking spray and pour in the batter. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes back clean. Let cool completely.
Prepare the Meyer lemon sorbet:
In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the honey and let cool to room temperature.
Pass the lemon juice through a sieve to remove the pulp and add it to the sugar syrup, stirring well to blend.
Pour into the container of an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to a container and freeze until firm before serving.
For the Italian Meringue frosting:
1 cup (200gr) sugar
2 tablespoons water
100gr egg whites (4 to 5)
Place the sugar and water in a heavy medium saucepan over high heat and let the sugar dissolve and boil to 238F. In the meantime, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks on medium speed. Once the sugar syrup is at the right temperature, slowly pour it over the beaten egg whites on medium-low speed. Increase the speed to high and let the meringue get glossy and completely cooled before using.
Cut out eight 3-inch rounds to fit your cake rings. Cut each cake round in half horizontally. Line 8 cake rings with parchment paper or rhodoid (pastry film, but cut sheet protectors work well too), and place one half cake base at the bottom. Place the cakes on baking tray. Fill each cake ring with about 1/2 cup of lemon sorbet and top with another round of cake. Freeze for at least 30 minutes before applying the meringue. When ready, unmold and frost with the meringue.
If you do the "baked" part in the oven: set your oven on broil at the highest setting and watch carefully.
If using a blow torch: well that's easier but make sure to have a clear area to work with to prevent burning other things on your countertop (and this is experience speaking!).