A heavenly combination of cold ice cream, warm meringue, red summer fruits and fresh sponge cake. The trick to keeping the ice cream from melting in the hot oven is to use basic physics – insulation. Tiny air bubbles trapped in the whisked sponge base and in the meringue keep the centre cold while the exterior heats up. Nobody quite knows where the recipe came from, although one much like this, called ‘Florida, Alaska’, was made popular by the chef Charles Ranhofer late in the nineteenth century, when Americans fell in love with ice cream. Forward planning is the key. Once all the elements are ready, the individual Alaskas take only a few moments to assemble and 3 minutes to bake. This recipe uses a cooked meringue, made by whisking the egg whites and sugar over hot water until thick, satiny smooth and glossy, as it will keep for several hours before use.
|500ml||good vanilla ice cream|
|375g||fresh or frozen mixed summer fruits (raspberries, blackberries, red and black currants, strawberries, etc.)|
|1 tbsp||caster sugar|
|1||jam-filled Swiss roll|
|For the meringue:|
|4||medium free-range egg whites, at room temperature|
|½ tsp||vanilla extract|
You will need a large freezer-proof plate or baking tray, lined with greaseproof paper.
Remove the ice cream from the freezer, and when soft enough make 6 scoops and set them on a freezer-proof plate or baking tray lined with a sheet of greaseproof paper. Return to the freezer for at least 30 minutes, until very firm.
Prepare the fresh fruit by removing any stems, stalks and hulls. Halve any large strawberries. If you are using frozen fruit, defrost it. Mix the fruit with the tablespoon of sugar, cover and set aside at room temperature until needed.
Cut the Swiss roll into 6 thick slices and arrange them well apart on the lined plate or baking tray. Cover until needed.
Make the cooked meringue: put the egg whites and vanilla extract into a large heatproof bowl. Whisk with an electric whisk until frothy, then whisk in the sugar. As soon as they are combined, set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted – this will take about 10 minutes. Remove the bowl from the pan and whisk until the meringue cools down to room temperature – 8 to 10 minutes. Cover and keep cool until needed.
When ready to assemble and bake, heat the oven to 230°C/450°F/gas 8. Spoon a little of the berry mixture on to each circle of Swiss roll. Tip the rest of the berry mixture into a pan and warm gently, just until the juices start to run. Keep warm until ready to serve. Set a scoop of ice cream on top of each circle. Working quickly, cover each one with the meringue so that the sponge and ice cream are entirely covered and encased with the meringue ‘blanket’. Bake immediately for 3 to 4 minutes, until the meringue is browned. Serve straight away, with the warm berries.