Sunday, August 29, 2010

Brown Butter and Coffee Baked Alaska

The August 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Elissa of 17 and Baking. For the first time, The Daring Bakers partnered with Sugar High Fridays for a co-event and Elissa was the gracious hostess of both. Using the theme of beurre noisette, or browned butter, Elissa chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make a pound cake to be used in either a Baked Alasa or in Ice Cream Petit Fours. The sources for Elissa’s challenge were Gourmet magazine and David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.

I remember making Baked Alaska when I was little. I can't remember much about it, except that the recipe I used always made too little meringue (this was before I realised that you just double a recipe if you don't have enough). Years went by, and this challenge was the first I thought about this recipe again. Cake, ice cream and meringue. Can't go wrong, can you? Plus I don't need much of an excuse to make ice cream these days, after my roaring success with the chocolate ice cream with chocolate covered pecans.

I also remember once making brown butter biscuits. For some reason I was not impressed. A lot of trouble with not much of a result. I'm not sure what I did wrong. Probably I didn't heat the butter long enough (I usually err on the side of safety when it comes to possibly burning something). This time I did better. In fact, it was so good, I wonder if shouldn't just use brown butter whenever I need butter in a recipe from now on. Brown butter chocolate chip cookies, anyone?

For the ice cream, I initially thought about making a maple syrup flavoured one, but realised I didn't have enough after making some dessert the other night, which I'll tell you all about later. It happens to me a lot these days. I look for inspiration to use up an ingredient, then find so many good things I want to try that I end up having to buy more of the stuff. Like maple syrup. Watch this space.

Anyway, looking for inspiration in this wonderful book, I came across coffee meringue, and remembered a recipe I bookmarked ages ago. Vietnamese Coffee ice cream, recipe from The Master courtesy of Cafe Fernando. Except I forgot to add coffee to the meringue in the end, so this version has only plain meringue. Not that it was a problem. This ice cream is so bloody fabulous, I cannot urge you enough to get up, get in your car, buy some condensed milk and good coffee if you don't have any, and make this ice cream as soon as you can. It is that good. And easy. No fuffing about trying to make a custard with a one year old hanging onto your legs.

Also, this recipe had no problem with too little meringue. In fact, there was so much left over, I made some extra. Coffee (to make up for the previous forgetfulness), rose petal and vanilla. They were delicious, as meringues tend to be. Don't you just love leftovers?

Thus, revisiting a childhood memory, I bring you Brown Butter and Coffee Baked Alaska. A lot better than I remember. (Honestly, don't bother with the meringue. Just make the ice cream.)

David's Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream

Recipe from David Lebovitz
1 tin (400g) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup ( 1.3 oz or 40 g) + 1 tbsp dark roast ground coffee, divided
1/3 cup whole milk

1.Brew a very strong coffee with 1+1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of ground coffee. With a paper filter, that will yield 1 cup of very strongly brewed coffee. You can substitute with a cup of strongly brewed espresso.

2.Whisk together the condensed milk, espresso, milk and ground coffee. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Brown Butter Pound Cake

275g unsalted butter
2 cups (200g) sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon (5g) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3g) salt
1/2 cup (110g) packed light brown sugar
1/3 (75g) cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F/160°C and put a rack in the center. Butter and flour a 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. (I used a round cake tin)

2. Place the butter in a 10” (25cm) skillet over medium heat. Brown the butter until the milk solids are a dark chocolate brown and the butter smells nutty. (Don’t take your eyes off the butter in case it burns.) Pour into a shallow bowl and chill in the freezer until just congealed, 15-30 minutes.

3. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Beat the brown butter, light brown sugar, and granulated sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well, and then the vanilla extract.

5. Stir in the flour mixture at low speed until just combined.

6. Scrape the batter into the greased and floured 9”x9” (23cmx23cm) square pan. Smooth the top with a rubber spatula and rap the pan on the counter. Bake until golden brown on top and when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

7. Cool in the pan 10 minutes. Run a knife along the edge and invert right-side-up onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

8 large egg whites
½ teaspoon (3g) cream of tartar
½ teaspoon (3g) salt
1 cup (220g) sugar

Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Beat in the sugar gradually in a slow stream until stiff peaks form.

Assembly Instructions
1. Line four 4” (10cm) diameter tea cups with plastic wrap, so that plastic wrap covers all the sides and hangs over the edge. Fill to the top with ice cream. Cover the top with the overhanging plastic wrap and freeze for several hours, or until solid.

2. Level the top of the brown butter pound cake with a serrated knife or with a cake leveler. Cut out four 4” (10cm) diameter circles from the cake. Discard the scraps or use for another purpose.

3. Make the meringue (see above.)

4. Unwrap the ice cream “cups” and invert on top of a cake round. Trim any extra cake if necessary.

5. Pipe the meringue over the ice cream and cake, or smooth it over with a spatula, so that none of the ice cream or cake is exposed. Freeze for one hour or up to a day.

6. Burn the tips of the meringue with a cooking blow torch. Or, bake the meringue-topped Baked Alaska on a rimmed baking sheet in a 500°F/260°C oven for 5 minutes until lightly golden. Serve immediately.


  1. Ooh! that coffee ice cream looks yum! Awesome challenge!

  2. The ice cream sounds amazing! Beautiful job on the challenge :)

  3. OMG that looks incredible! I've always loved baked Alaska & it's easier than the spectacular results suggest. The ice cream sounds positively DIVINE!

  4. Good stuff with that meringue, looks decadent. i chickened out and did the petit fours and store bought ice cream. Also I am totally feeling that coffee ice cream!