Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Seward's Folly

My daughter combined science and cooking when she tried a recipe from Smithsonian Maker Lab--Baked Alaska. This recipe lets you bake ice cream in the oven without it melting! The trick is the same trick that makes an igloo work as a shelter. Snow has a lot of air in it which makes a great insulator. The meringue on Baked Alaska insulates the ice cream, keeping it from melting in the oven. Or at least it's supposed to.

The first step is to make a cake, which was the easiest bit. My daughter worked from scratch and made a fine chocolate cake.

Reading the cake recipe

Adding baking soda

Happy stirring

Tasting the chocolate

The next task was whipping up the meringue, literally! Of course, you need some egg whites to start.

Separating eggs

Whipping the eggs into a froth!

We used the cake pan to make a lump of ice cream just the right shape for the cake. Putting the ice cream on the cake was a little trickier, since it needs to be right in the middle.

Ice cream on cake!

Good job!

The next step is to spread the meringue quickly over the ice cream and cake to seal it off from the heat of the pre-heated oven (the cake serves as insulation on the bottom).

Spread the meringue

Get it all over

Finishing touches

Into the oven

After what we thought was the right amount of time, it came out to unhappy results.

Oh no, melted ice cream!?!

In the after action discussion, Mommy and daughter decided the meringue wasn't quite right. When they added sugar during the whipping process, the sugar went in too quickly. That prevented the meringue being fluffy enough to insulate the ice cream and stiff enough to stay put.

Undaunted, they tried again...this time with cookies! Actually, they used digestive biscuits, which are more like round graham crackers than like chocolate chip cookies. This time, the sugar was added slowly to the egg whites as they were whipped.

A carefully prepared meringue

An ice-cream scoop was sufficient to shape the ice cream properly, leaving an easy (if messy) process of applying meringue. With a smaller surface comes less meringue, meaning less insulation. It also means less cooking time, making the bake time a critical component for success.

Meringuing the mini-Alaskas

Making sure they are sealed

Wanna hug? Do ya?!?

Success was achieved this time, with scrumptious individual servings of Baked Alaska for all comers.

Out of the oven goodness

Plated perfection

One happy dessert eater

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