Saturday, 13 September 2014

Great British Bake Along: Vanilla Bean Baked Alaska

Firstly, I have to apologise for the lateness of this post.  Finishing the bake was delayed by the fact that it was for my birthday and my birthday was on a Monday.  Then the rest of that week ended up being quite stressful with almost no time for me to relax and do something that wasn't school work.  Hence the post wasn't getting written.  The same thing ended up happening this week, though with a little less stress.  It's here now though so I guess it's better late than never.  I would also like to say that unfortunately, there won't be a bake along for episode 5.  At least not yet.  I did attempt a custard tart at the previous weekend but it didn't work out and there hasn't been time to try again this week.  I'll try and come back to it after GBBO is finished.  Anyway, enough apologising, let's get on with this thing!

Well, episode 4 was certainly a dramatic one!  And yet once again I don't feel like I have much to say.  Admittedly, it may be because my memory is a little fuzzy on the details since it has taken so long to put this post together.

The signature bake was self saucing puddings.  A rather fascinating idea though not something that appeals to me.  I'm not really a sauce person.  There were so rather pretty puds though.  We all liked Diana's teacups.  Very cute.

I know I wouldn't have liked the tiramasu challenge.  I hate working with such thin cake.  Not to mention the chocolate tempering.  I really should try tempering chocolate at some point but since I got a temperer as one of my birthday presents the desire to try it has become even smaller.  Good on Martha for winning the challenge though.  It was about time she came top in something!

But we all know that the part of the show that everyone remembers is the showstopper round and 'Bin Gate'!  Poor Iain.  I feel I may have had a similar reaction if it was me.  Though I'm not sure I would have removed the ring and let the ice cream go everywhere.  I'm not sure I would have had the guts to bin it either because the thought of having nothing to present would be worse than presenting a destroyed Alaska (although that would still be devastating).  And I don't feel Diana did anything deliberately but if you took it out of the freezer why just leave it on the side?  Tell him!  Or find it a different freezer.  It really wasn't surprising that Iain went home.  The Hubby was outraged.  There was a lot of ranting at the result.  I was just thinking that Norman was lucky.  If Iain hadn't binned his bake, I think Norman would have gone that week.  He's still keeping it too simple.  But then, I probably can't talk.  I'm all about vanilla this week, as you are about to see.

I deviated from the usual plan this time.  I did not do the signature challenge.  I did the showstopper!  Though mine is not as amazing as some of the stuff that cropped up on GBBO and my flavours are so simple.  But why the change?  Well, it was my birthday!  I am now actually 26 and don't just think I am 26 like I have been doing for the past year (25 just doesn't exist for me apparently).  I am now too old for a railcard!  I have to pay full fare for train rides now.  This makes me sad!  But that is besides the point.  The point is, being my birthday, I needed a birthday cake.  Week 4's GBBO featured desserts and the showstopper was Baked Alaska!  Well how fortunate was that because I had been considering making myself some kind of ice cream cake concoction for months now!  Admittedly, I was thinking an Arctic roll but Baked Alaska had also featured in the thought process.  So when it cropped up on GBBO I knew it was meant to be as I could kill two birds with one stone!  I could bake along and I could make myself a birthday cake at the same time.  Fabulous!

Now, once again, I did not do this in the designated time.  I thought I probably could have done but then my ice cream didn't churn on day one.  I was having the same problem last year.  Despite leaving my ice cream maker's bowl in the freezer for the designated amount of time, my custard was still custard after an hour.  It was also late by this point so I couldn't even do it the old fashioned way.  So I put the custard back in its bowl and returned it to the fridge, then cleaned out the ice cream maker and put it back in the freezer.  I turned the temperature on the freezer down and left it overnight.  The next day I tried again and, would you believe it, it worked this time!  I don't know if it was the change in temperature in the freezer or the custard being chilled longer but I wasn't complaining!  I had beautifully churned ice cream and it tasted delicious!  One part was down!  The cake part was done easily and was one of the lightest cakes I have made.  I was rather pleased.  The final part was the one I was dreading: meringue.

And not just any meringue either.  Oh no.  I was going to attempt Italian Meringue.  In the few attempts I have had at making meringue in the past I have not been successful.  My mixture wither won't hold its shape or adheres itself to whatever it is being baked on.  It is my other nemesis, after ganache.  But Baked Alaska calls for meringue so I had to make meringue.  I decided on Italian because it is cooked whilst you make it, it's pipeable and it is impossible to overwhisk.  The part that made me nervous was the sugar syrup.  I often burn any sugar I attempt to turn to syrup.  Especially when I am having to get it to a specific temperature.  And if I'm not burning the sugar I'm burning myself, which is even less fun.  However, it turned out not to be so bad after all.  In fact, it turned out pretty awesome.  I just wished I'd had a better idea about how I wanted to decorate the thing.  It's a little slapdash if I'm honest but ah well.  Maybe next time.

But of course, the most important thing for me is the taste.  And it tasted AMAZING!  So so so good!  The ice cream is some of the best I have made and the meringue was lovely and sweet.  Soft but yummy.  Adding some jam to the cake was also a good idea as it added a little extra flavour.  I may not have scored great on appearances if I was presenting it on GBBO (which I wouldn't, I'd put more effort in) but I was super happy with it.  It also kept okay in the freezer as it took us a few days to eat the whole thing between us.  It still tastes good even when it isn't straight out of the oven.

Recipe - makes 1 x 6inch diameter Baked Alaska

Vanilla Ice Cream - adapted from The Perfect Scoop 
  • 125ml/4.5fl.oz whole milk
  • 75g/2.5oz caster sugar
  • 250ml/9fl.oz double cream
  • Pinch of salt
  • Half a vanilla pod
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Put the sugar, milk, half of the cream (60ml) and salt into a saucepan and heat gently.
  2. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and add to the milk mixture, along with the pod itself.
  3. Once warmed through, remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep for half an hour.
  4. Put the rest of the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh sieve on top.
  5. Prepare an ice bath big enough to sit the bowl of cream in.
  6. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks together.
  7. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking the entire time, and then put the mixture back into the saucepan.
  8. Cook gently over a medium heat, stirring the mixture the whole time and being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as you do so.  Keep stirring until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of the spoon. (Do not let mixture boil).
  9. Pour the custard through the sieve into the cream and stir together.  Add the vanilla pod back to the mixture and add the vanilla extract.
  10. Place the cream bowl in the ice bath and stir the mixture continuously until it has cooled.
  11. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the fridge.
  12. When ready to churn, remove from the fridge, take out the vanilla pod and then freeze in the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  13. Whilst the mixture churns, line a flat sided bowl with a diameter of 15cm/6inch with clingfilm (it can be slightly smaller but not bigger).
  14. When ice cream is churned, spoon into the prepared bowl, cover and place in the freezer to firm up.
Vanilla Sponge - adapted from Mary Berry's Baking Bible
  • 2 large eggs
  • 75g/2.5oz caster sugar
  • 50g/1.5oz self-raising flour
  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5 and line a 15cm/6inch diameter round tin with greaseproof paper.  If it is a shallow tin, make sure the edges of the paper stick out over the top to a good height.  This cake rises a lot.
  2. Put the eggs and sugar into a large bowl and beat at full speed with an electric whisk until the mixture is extremely pale and creamy and has thickened enough to leave trails when the whisk is removed.
  3. Sift the flour over the surface of the egg mixture and gently fold in with a metal spoon.
  4. Pour into the prepared tin and tip about carefully to ensure an even spread of mixture.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until sponge is springy to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  6. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before using.
Italian Meringue - adapted from James Martin via Good Food Channel
Make the meringue just before you need to use it. 
  • 50ml/1.5fl.oz water
  • 200g/7oz caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp glucose (optional)
  • 3 egg whites
  1. Put the sugar, water and glucose if using into a saucepan.
  2. Place over a medium heat and stir until it starts to boil.  Wash down any sugar crystals from the sides with a brush dipped in cold water.
  3. Attach a sugar thermometer to the pan and increase the heat to cook the sugar syrup rapidly.
  4. When the temperature reaches 116°C/240°F, beat the egg whites with an electric whisk in a large bowl until they form stiff peaks.
  5. When the temperature reaches 121°C/250°F, remove the syrup from the heat.
  6. Slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream, whisking the mixture the entire time.
  7. Continue to beat the mixture until it is cooled completely.  This will take about 15 minutes.
  • Cake circle
  • Ice cream
  • Italian meringue
  • Strawberry jam
  1. Preheat the oven to 230°C/445°F/Gas Mark 8.
  2. Cut the sponge circle in half.  Place one half onto a heatproof plate.
  3. Coat the inside of one half with jam and place the other half back on top.  Coat the top with jam.
  4. Remove the ice cream from the bowl and place on top of the sponge.
  5. Either spoon the meringue over the ice cream and cake or put into a piping bag and pipe over, making sure there are no gaps.
  6. Put into the oven for 3-4 minutes until the meringue has become well browned.  Serve immediately.

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