A baked alaska feels really extravagant and full of effort. Truth is, though, it doesn’t have to be. A baked alaska is really adaptable to what you like, and can be assembled in advance, ready to whip out at the table, blowtorch and impress. Here, I’ve made a hazelnut sponge to complement shop-bought salted caramel ice-cream, but you can, of course, change that to suit your palate. Homemade ice-cream is even more impressive, but seriously, when it’s December and we’re all rushing around, I don’t think anyone will judge you for not making your own.
Prep 45 min, plus freezing time
Cook 30 min
For the hazelnut sponge
100g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
100g golden caster sugar
A pinch of salt
60g plain flour
¼ tsp baking powder
60g roasted ground hazelnuts
For the swiss meringue
120g egg white
200g caster sugar
A handful of roasted hazelnuts
2 x tubs of your favourite ice-cream
Line the base of a 20cm sandwich tin with baking paper and grease the sides with butter. Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a whisk, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix the eggs one at a time, making sure it’s well combined before adding the next. Combine the salt, flour, baking powder and ground hazelnuts in a small bowl, then add to the butter mixture and mix gently to combine. Scoop into the lined tin, level the top with the back of a spoon and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool fully.
Line a 12½cm-diameter bowl with greaseproof paper (or a few layers of clingfilm), leaving enough overhang to help you lift out the frozen ice-cream later. Push your chosen ice-cream into the lined bowl, then freeze solid.
Bring a large, deep pan filled halfway with water to a gentle simmer. Whisk the egg whites and sugar in a large bowl that will sit over, but not touch, the boiling water, then set the bowl over the simmering water and stir with a whisk until the sugar dissolves. (You can check by feeling the mixture between your fingers: it shouldn’t be at all grainy.)
Lift the bowl off the water pan and whisk on a medium speed until cool – the meringue mix should now be voluminous.
Trim the cooled sponge so it’s 17½cm in diameter with a flat top. Take the ice-cream out of the freezer and flip on to the sponge and pull off the wrapping. Spoon the meringue all over the ice-cream and sponge – it should be thick and full of peaks. Blowtorch immediately and serve garnished with the roasted hazelnuts, or freeze and blowtorch just before serving.
UK readers: click to buy these ingredients from Ocado
Fiona Beckett’s drinks match Ice-cream isn’t the easiest thing to pair with wine, though the meringue will mitigate its palate-numbing iciness. I’d be inclined to go for something sweet and strong, maybe served in shots. Picking up on the hazelnuts, that could be Frangelico (£15.95 Tanners, £19.50 Ocado, 20%), or one of the tawny ports mentioned in my column this week.