Let’s say you want to make a special dessert for mom on Mother’s Day but don’t have the time or the expertise. Here’s a cheating version of Baked Alaska.
We’re talking about ice cream surrounded by cake, frosted with meringue and baked until golden. Back in the day, they’d light it on fire before setting it down at your table, a flourish we’ve forgone to simplify preparation.
First, I’ve shrunk it down so everybody gets to dig into a personal Alaska. Next, instead of having to bake a cake, we’re rolling with store-bought brownies. You’ll be looking for the chewy kind, not the cake-y kind, so they don’t fall apart. (Soft chewy brownies are easy to smoosh down, a key step.) Working with brownies about half-an-inch thick, you’ll cut them into inch-and-a half squares. As for the ice cream, it’s store-bought.
Making the meringue is the only part of this recipe that requires effort, and you don’t have to mess with it until the last minute. You’ll have made the ice-cream sandwiches several hours ahead of time (perhaps even the day before) and kept them tightly wrapped in the freezer. When ready, preheat the oven, whip up the meringue (it takes 5 minutes), frost the sandwiches and then bake the cakes. Four or 5 minutes later, you’ll pull these things of beauty out of the oven and take a bow.
Besides the minimal prep, the glory of this recipe is that no matter how you apply the meringue – smooth or in peaks – you’ll have a showstopper.
MINI MOCHA BAKED ALASKAS
Start to finish: 2 hours, 40 minutes (40 active)
Eight 1½-inch squares chewy brownies (about ½-inch thick)
1 cup coffee ice cream
3 large egg whites
Pinch of table salt
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
Press down gently on brownie squares until about ⅓-inch thick. Working very quickly, place ⅛-cup ice cream on top of each of four of the squares, spreading to cover brownie. Top ice cream with second brownie, pressing down gently. Wrap sandwiches tightly with plastic wrap and freeze for 2 hours.
About 30 minutes before serving, place egg whites in medium metal bowl set in larger bowl of hot water to bring them to room temperature quickly. Preheat oven to 450 F. Remove bowl of egg whites from larger bowl and beat egg whites on low until frothy. Add salt and continue beating on medium just until they form soft peaks. Add sugar gradually in steady stream, beating until mixture forms soft, glossy peaks. Beat in vanilla. (Egg whites will not be cooked to 160 F, the safety zone for killing salmonella, so substitute pasteurized egg whites if you’re concerned.)
Place ice-cream sandwiches on parchment-lined rimmed sheet pan. Coat the sides and top of each one thoroughly with meringue so there are no gaps. The meringue will insulate the ice cream and keep it from melting so quickly in the oven. Either smooth the meringue or make peaks, depending on the finished look you want. (Note: You will have slightly more meringue than you need.)
Bake frosted cakes on the middle shelf of the oven for 4 to 5 minutes or until golden. Transfer to four plates and serve right away.