Baked Alaska is a very popular American dessert dish which consists of ice cream that is placed in a dish, lined with slices of sponge cake and topped with meringue. The dish is also known as Glace au four, Norwegian Omelet, Omelet surprise or omletter a la norvegienne.
History of the Baked Alaska
The name Baked Alaska was first given at Delmonico’s Restaurant in 1876 to honor the acquisition of Alaska from Russia by the US. The recipe signifies the cold temperature that is prevalent in Alaska and Russia. America also celebrates February 1st as Baked Alaska Day. But over the years, different versions of the dish have been found all over the US. For example, the very first version of the dish where ice cream was enclosed in a baked meringue finds mention way back in 1802. The dish was served at a presidential dinner during Thomas Jefferson’s time. This dish consisted of ice cream on the inside and a hard flaky pastry crust on the outside. The same recipe was also invented by American physicist Benjamin Thompson who was trying to test the temperature resistance of cold ice-cream versus hot egg whites. He named the dish the Omelet surprise. Another legend states that French cook named Balzac was taught the recipe by a Chinese cook who was visiting the French consulate with the Chinese delegation. The actual name was first coined by Delmonico’s head chef Charles Ranhofer. The dish is still very well-liked and popularizing the dish can be attributed to Jean Giroix, who was the chef at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. He regularly baked and served the dish to his regulars resulting in the booming popularity of the dish all over the world. Till date, various mentions of the dish have been found all over the world in different cookbooks. The actual ingredients are the same but ice creams and the cakes that are used in the dish may vary.
Ingredients and Popular Methods of Serving Baked Alaska
The ingredients used in a basic Baked Alaska recipe are very simple. First a layer of cake is placed on a special baking dish. A simple baking dish is fine but Jacqueline Halliday Diaz made a special version of the baking pan that can be used only for making this dish. This pan is called the Cūlinique and it is preferred for making the perfect Baked Alaska. Pieces of cake are layered on the pan, and then brushed with jam or flavored liqueurs. Any version of flavored liqueurs and cake can be used. Frozen ice cream is then placed on top of the cake layers. A few chefs create two or three layers of the cake and ice cream for festive occasions but the traditional Baked Alaska recipe has just one layer. Different kinds of ice creams can be used as per variations of the baked Alaska recipe. Once the ice cream has been placed on the cake layers, the dish is then put back in to the freezer to set the ice cream. A meringue is prepared with egg whites and sugar and it is then layered on top of the ice cream. The entire dish is then put into the oven for 10 minutes till the meringue browns. The end result is a hard flaky hot pastry on the outside and frozen ice cream layered over cake on the inside. Chefs can put in additional cake layers or different flavors of ice cream and even put in fresh frozen fruits around the cake and meringue to create seasonal variations. Variations of the dish include baked igloos, little baked Alaska’s, baked Alaska surprise, Brownie Alaska etc.
Serving and Eating Baked Alaska
The dish is usually served as a dessert dish and is eaten by itself. But chefs do serve fresh fruit and other sauces with it depending on the season and regional preferences.
Nutritional Value of Baked Alaska
The nutritional value of the dish will depend on the actual ingredients but a single serving of baked Alaska contains 862 calories.