December is the time for everything festive, warmth, mulled wine and - er - ice-cream, right? Well, ok, maybe ice-cream isn't the first thing that springs to mind unless you live in the Southern hemisphere. However, with Christmas fast approaching, and considering that I'm not exactly a fan of Christmas pudding, I wanted to come up with a super-festive alternative. Something that would taste of Christmas, have the wow factor and just be different from a traditional Christmas pudding, but I wasn't completely sure what until...
...fate took over - ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but you know what I mean - and I received a Cuisinart ice-cream maker. I had long wondered what it would be like to have a machine to do all the churning for me and to give me a smooth ice-cream without all those annoying little crystals that form when I'm making it by hand. So far, however, I had always resisted buying one of these machines as I wasn't sure I could justify it. I mean, unless I eat ice-cream every week (which I don't), how much use exactly would I get out of it? Well, now that I've tried it, I can't believe I hadn't invested in one earlier! I think I will get a lot of use out of it, starting with this Christmas baked Alaska.
This baked Alaska has the Christmas flavours, boozy dried fruit and chocolate. The base is a heavy, brownie-style chocolate-orange cake which is topped with the spiced ice-cream containing rum-soaked, dried fruits like raisins, oranges and lemons. I've topped it all with an Italian meringue which doesn't need baking and which in turn makes it just a little less risky for your big day. Anyway, enough of the lengthy introduction, here's my recipe. I hope you like it.
You should start the preparations of this two days before you're planning to serve it. It takes a bit of work but will be worth it for the wow factor and of course taste.
- Serves 8-10,
- Time: around 1 hour of work, at least 8 hours to soak the fruit, at least 8 hours for chilling and freezing.
- Oven Temperature: 175 C
- Calories: don't even ask...
You will also need the following equipment:
- a food processor or mixer
- an ice-cream maker
- round, 20cm loose based cake tin
- 1.2 liter pudding bowl
- a food thermometer
- a kitchen blow torch
List of ingredients:
For the ice-cream:
- 200g dried mixed fruit (oranges, sultanas etc.)
- 5 tbsp rum
- 600ml double cream
- 3 large egg yolks
- 100g caster sugar
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
For the cake base:
- 180g butter (at room temperature)
- 170g good quality dark chocolate
- 300g flour
- 110g plain flour
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp orange extract
- ½ tsp salt
For the Italian meringue:
- 110g caster sugar
- 3 tbsp water
- 2 egg whites
- 1 pinch of salt
Starting with the ice-cream:
- The day before you start with the ice-cream itself, put the mixed fruit into shallow bowl, add the rum, cover with cling film and leave to soak over night.
- The next day, drain the rum and put the fruit aside.
- To make the ice-cream, start by putting the cream into a saucepan and add the spices.
- Bring to a boil whilst stirring, then take off the heat.
- Mix the sugar and egg yolks, beating until they’re thick, pale and doubled in size.
- Whilst continuing to beat the mix, gradually add the hot cream and mix until combined.
- Now return the mix to a clean pan and warm over a low heat whilst continuously stirring.
- Keep heating the mix until it’s thick and coating the back of a wooden spoon.
- Pour the spiced custard into a bowl and lay cling film on top of it to prevent a skin from forming.
- Chill for 2 hours.
- Line the 1.2 l pudding bowl with cling film.
- Next, pour the mixture into the ice-cream maker and churn for 20 minutes.
- Add the drained, dried fruit and churn for another 5 minutes.
- Pour the ice-cream into the prepared pudding bowl and put into the freezer for 5 hours.
Next for the cake base:
- Preheat your oven to 175 C
- Grease your baking tin and line the bottom with baking paper.
- Mix the flour and baking powder together.
- Now put the butter and chocolate chunks into a heatproof bowl.
- Place the bowl on top of a pan with hot water.
- Stir the chocolate and butter until melted and smoothly combined.
- Leave to cool down a little.
- Whisk the eggs, sugar and orange extract until smooth and combined.
- Now, whilst continuously whisking, slowly pour the cooled chocolate into the egg mix.
- Next add the flour and mix until well combined.
- Pour the mix into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour.
- After one hour take the cake out of the oven and leave to cool down inside the tin.
- Once cooled, take the cake out of the tin and place onto a plate.
- Turn out the ice-cream onto the cake and, using a sharp knife, cut around the ice-cream dome to trim the cake to the same size.
- Return both together into the freezer.
For the meringue:
- Place the sugar and water into a pan, stir together, and heat over a medium heat.
- Brush any sugar that’s sticking to the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush back into the pan. This will prevent sugars from forming crystals and turning the syrup grainy.
- Whisk the egg whites with the salt until they form soft peaks.
- Now turn up the heat and bring the syrup to 120C (check with your food thermometer).
- Start whisking the eggs again and, in a thin and steady stream, slowly pour the syrup down the side of the bowl into the eggs. The syrup is cooled down just a little by pouring it down the side of the bowl which will prevent the eggs from ‘cooking’ too quickly.
- Now keep mixing the meringue for another 10 minutes until glossy.
- Leave the meringue to cool completely.
For the finishing touches:
- Take the ice-cream out from the freezer and cover in the meringue all around.
- Don’t worry about being too exact or tidy here.
- Using the blow torch, brown the “sticky out” bits of the meringue.
- Return the whole Alaska to the freezer until 20 minutes before serving.
- Add some sparklers, light them and serve.