Alaska’s cookie has a scoop of vanilla ice cream, mixed berries, and a mound of toasty meringue on a cranberry-studded shortbread cookie base.
We’re starting to stretch the meaning of “cookie” here. Is there a cookie involved? Yes. But let’s be real: this is a dessert. First of all, it only makes six. Second, you’re never fitting these into a cookie jar.
It made me think of the kind of desserts we’d make for dinner service at The Quill (the former student-run restaurant at SNHU) and I even thought to myself how I’d prepare which part, what could be made ahead of time, and how I’d assemble it to order: bake the cookies; scoop the ice cream, fill the scoops with berries and freeze; make the meringue right before service that night, scoop it into piping bags, and bring everything down with a torch. When an order came up, I’d put the cookie on the plate, put the ice cream on the cookie, pipe on the meringue, torch it, probably dot some sauce on the plate and garnish with a few fresh berries, and send it out.
That is how you can prep this one for an impressive meal-ender (I’ve always loved that term for dessert; it sounds like a finishing move) for your own home dinner. Bake the cookies, prep the ice cream, and the night of, while your guests are digesting dinner, whip up the meringue, pipe, toast, present. Everyone will think you’re a gourmet genius.
I would definitely make it when you’re expecting enough people to eat all six (you can make eight smaller ones if you need eight) because my husband and I ended up eating them for half a week, the baking sheet balanced in my freezer.
So what does this dessert have to do with Alaska, besides the name? Pretty much just the berries. While the cranberries in the shortbread cookie aren’t native to Alaska, they do have a “high bush cranberry” though it isn’t related. Blueberries and raspberries can be found, as well as lingonberries and cloudberries, which I can’t find around here.
As for the dessert itself, it has the cloudy and disputed history of many famous dishes: it is said to have been created and named to celebrate the purchase of Alaska in 1867, but it’s very similar to an earlier dish called “omelette surprise.”
I guess it’s as good a thing to pick as any for Alaska.
When it came time to divide it into six equal pieces, I used the scone method:
Then I just rolled each into a ball, adjusted a few that were a different size than the others, put them on the tray and patted them flat.
This was another instance where it was a little hard to tell when they were “set.” I definitely went a bit over the suggestedtime to ensure the edges started to get faintly golden. Damn shortbread. A good reminder that ovens vary and cook and bake times are just a ballpark.
While those baked, I scooped the ice cream and stuck frozen berries in. I’m wondering if a berry ice cream wouldn’t go better. Eating ice cream with frozen berries inside is just like, well, eating frozen berries straight from the freezer. Did I mention this dessert hurt my teeth?
You know those seemingly clever ice cream scoops that have the handles you squeeze together so you supposedly don’t get thumb cramps pushing a release lever? Who thought that was ergonomic? There’s no way to firmly grab it to scoop something hard, and it hurts like hell when you do. That’s why I just use an old fashioned scoop with no ejection mechanism. In the future I’ll get the cookie scoops with the thumb lever too.
I waited until after dinner to make the meringue. It took longer than expected. They don’t call for pasteurized egg white but they should; the meringue doesn’t get cooked all the way through. The problem is that pasteurized egg white doesn’t whip as well. Warming it up, or at least bringing it to room temperature, would help with volume. Oh well, next time maybe I’ll remember all my cooking school wisdom.
The recipe said when it gets to stiff peaks, you can turn the bowl upside down and nothing will come out. Don’t try this unless you are supremely confident! A better idea is to see if it’ll fall off a spatula. I mean really, how many people have dumped a bowl of meringue on the counter (or the floor) doing this?
I wish I had a torch, because then I could’ve browned them evenly. Using the broiler as directed in the recipe causes the tops to get very brown before anything near the bottom gets crisped. I looked up Baked Alaska recipes and some said to bake briefly at 500°F, but comments warned of meringue slipping off of bases and ice cream pools in the bottom of ovens. I still wonder if it would’ve turned out, though.
Not bad but I don’t know if I’ll make them again. The ones I stored in the freezer held up well but the cookies got so hard I had to use a fork to break through. My husband wasn’t a fan of cranberries in the shortbread, but that’s his personal preference. I think this could be a very adaptable recipe, though. Think of it: a chocolate cookie with mint ice cream, even a flavored meringue. I’m also wondering if there’s a restaurant out there doing “deconstructed Baked Alaska” with a fully baked meringue cookie. What am I saying? Of course there is. There’s even a “Frozen Florida” with a frozen meringue shell filled with hot toddy. Sign me up!
Tips and Suggestions
- Use a berry ice cream or sorbet instead of stuffing the ice cream with frozen berries.
- Get a torch and use that to toast the meringue.
Prickly Pear thumbprint cookies for Arizona. I had to special order prickly pear jelly online to make these because we of course don’t have it in New England.
All images by Amber Sutton
Originally published at bakeonthru.wordpress.com