November Food for Thought: (Baked) Alaska Florida
With Alaska on the ticket and Florida sure to be a battleground state, it’s the perfect dish for election night.
Alaska Florida – that’s actually a dessert you probably know better as Baked Alaska. In 1893, in the cookbook “Epicurean,” from the famous Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City, that’s what the dessert was called. The story is told that Delmonico’s later called it Baked Alaska in honor of the 1867 purchase of Alaska by the U.S. It’s had other titles as well, Fire and Ice (hence-Florida, Alaska), Norwegian omelets and in French glace au four.
This dessert has a long history that could fill a book with many people and places taking credit for its creation. But it’s the cruise ships of the ’60s and ’70s with its flambéed variation that created the most excitement. The lights would be turned down in these grand ballrooms and out would come the flaming dessert known as Baked Alaska, usually being served during the final evening dinner of the cruise.
Baked Alaska is a simple, elegant dessert made of a bottom layer of sponge cake, topped with ice cream, insulated with an artfully decorated outer layer of meringue and then “baked” in a very hot oven, although nowadays a blow torch is usually used to finish off this culinary masterpiece.
Years ago when I started my culinary journey, the Baked Alaska was often a large creation, each dessert serving 25 people or more for large banquets prepared by skilled professionals. Today’s versions are still prepared by professionals, but you often see individual-sized portions of Baked Alaska; just as tasty and elegant, just not the fanfare you would see on the cruises.
Maybe with all this talk about Alaska lately during the Presidential elections, Baked Alaska will again be requested as the grand finale to large banquets, weddings and catered events. Baked Alaska has been on the back burner of late (no pun intended), but ice cream is still as popular as ever. I wouldn’t try making Baked Alaska at home, although you could if you are so determined, but the home chef just doesn’t have the freezer space or oven space needed to put on a show. It’s much more fun to indulge in this grand dessert than it is to make it. But by all means, do request this fantastic dessert next time you go out.
Steve James, Certified Master Baker, Managing Partner
Popovers on the Square, Portsmouth
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