Baked Alaska is making a comeback for Christmas this year as Waitrose have teamed up with chef Heston Blumenthal once again to create a Caramelised Banana and Raspberry Baked Alaska. Last year the chef brought us pine-sugar mince pies that smelled like Christmas trees, the year before was all about the Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding.
Heston's Baked Alaska is a different take on the Baked Alaska that reached the height of its popularity in the 70s and 80s. It is made with raspberry parfait core encased in dark chocolate, surrounded by caramelised banana parfait instead of ice cream.
Heston explained that:
“Baked Alaska is a childhood favourite of mine. I love the juxtaposition of the soft meringue against the smooth creamy interior, but I hated the idea that it all melted so quickly. So I was inspired to create my take on the old school classic by creating a raspberry mousse centre which gave the creaminess without melting and adding one of my favourite flavours – bananas!”
Baked Alaska was popular during Victorian times when 'ice cream cakes' were all the rage but the name wasn't coined until 1876 when the chef at Delmonico's Restaurant, New York, Charles Ranhofer, named the dish in tribute to Alaska after it had become an American territory a few years before.
Like its contents Baked Alaska has a combination of origins – the idea of cooking an ice dessert within warm pastry seems to have come from the Chinese who introduced it to Europe in the 1800s when a delegation visited Paris. The French caught on to the idea and substituted the pastry for meringue, calling it Omelette à la Norvégienne (Norwegian Omelette).
Normally Baked Alaska is made with ice cream on a bed of sponge, topped with meringue which is then placed in a very hot oven just long enough to brown the meringue. However you can make all sorts of Baked Alaska by varying the ingredients and flavours – some are made with ginger or digestive biscuit bases instead of sponge and others have sorbets or frozen yoghurts instead of ice cream. Jamie Oliver makes a Baked Alaska Mince Pie and Aldi have a recipe for Christmas Baked Alaska using Christmas Cake as a base.
Tips for Making Baked Alaska
Save time by buying the sponge and ice cream rather than make them from scratch – you can be as inventive as you like, using from chocolate sponge to walnut cake!
Freeze the sponge before topping it with ice cream to help keep the ice cream cold when you are heating the dessert.
The meringue can be flavoured with spirits such as Amaretto, Brandy and Rum – you can use essences too like Almond, Orange and Vanilla. Be artistic when you are coating the ice cream with the meringue using swirls or piping as this makes a great effect.
Use different toppings as a decoration such as sauce, fruit coulis, chocolate shavings or edible glitter.
Enjoy with Sparkling Wine – a Sparkling Rosé would be lovely!