A Cruise-Ship Favourite A Generation Ago, This Dish Can Now Be Easily Made At Home
By Sara Moulton
This recipe celebrates one of most delicious seasonal fruits: local strawberries. These are perfect even if you eat them raw, but here I’ve gussied them up with some borrowings from an old-fashioned dessert called Baked Alaska, the basics of which are spongecake and ice cream frosted with a thick layer of meringue and briefly set under the broiler.
A generation ago, Baked Alaska was as much showbiz as it was dessert, doused in alcohol and set aflame just before your cruise-ship waiter paraded it through on a platter and landed it on your table with a flourish.
Swap the ice cream with crushed cookie of your choice. I chose gingersnaps, added strawberries to the mix and finished it with meringue, aka beaten egg whites and sugar.
A few notes about making a successful stiff meringue: Use fresh eggs; Second, let the whites come to room temperature before beating. Third, be sure to beat the whites in a small clean bowl, preferably stainless steel because any kind of fat will deflate them. Finally, add the sugar slowly in a steady stream. Keep beating until the peaks are stiff.
This is a simple (and thoroughly scrumptious) dessert to make, not least because we have dispensed with the pyrotechnics.
STRAWBERRIES BAKED ALASKA
1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
1 large egg white
Pinch of cream of tartar
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons Grand Marnier or balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup crushed gingersnaps
Mint sprigs for garnish
Using a melon baller, scoop out 12 balls from the container of ice cream, put them on a plate, cover them with plastic wrap and freeze them Cut 4 of the strawberries into 1/4-inch pieces and in a bowl toss them with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and the Grand Marnier. Halve the remaining strawberries lengthwise and, using a melon baller, scoop out a hollow on the cut side of each strawberry half (this is where you will put the ice cream ball). Cut a tiny sliver off the other side of each strawberry half so the half will lay flat.
In a small bowl beat the egg white on medium speed with electric beaters. When it is foamy add the cream of tartar. Continue beating the egg white until it holds soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a stream, beating the whole time.
Preheat the broiler. Position an oven rack about 6 inches from the flame. Arrange the strawberries on a rimmed sheet pan with 2 or 3 inches between them. Fill the hollow of each strawberry half with a ball of ice cream. Spoon the meringue over the ice cream and top of the cut strawberry and spread it out, making little peaks with the meringue if desired.
Place the sheet pan on the rack set 6 inches from the broiler and broil the strawberries for 45 seconds or until the meringue is lightly browned. Transfer 3 strawberries to each of 4 plates. Spoon a mound of the marinated strawberries next to them, sprinkle the cookie crumbs over the plate and garnish with mint.
Pic: Sara Moulton via AP.