Sticky Toffee Baked Alaska

My first memory of Baked Alaska is from primary school. I'd stand in line with my compartmentalised food tray; eagerly working my way to the end of the counter so the scary dinner lady with hairy legs could spoon a portion of mallow topped ice cream into the top corner. I don't remember it ever having a sponge base, just ice cream, jam and a toasted marshmallow-esque topping - but I knew of nothing else so I was happy. I'd rush through my fish fingers and ice cream scoop of mashed potatoes as quick as I could and then savour every single mouthful of my pudding. Baked Alaska day was a much welcomed school day for me, probably the only welcomed one to be fair.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I had the real deal! I was out having dinner with friends at French restaurant in Leeds. One of the couples we were with had sampled it previously, in fact I believe it was the whole reason for the choice of restaurant, but when it came to ordering dessert it wasn't the menu, noticing this I felt a little bad for the guys who had wanted to order it again. It turned out that I was totally out of the loop, it was one of those things that if you know about it, you can have it, and if not - tough. It was a spectacle; it was doused in alcohol and flambéed at the table. It was that good that as we all dug in we barely noticed all the jealous eyes peering over at our table, but we didn't care, we were in B.A heaven.

I created this recipe for a dinner party not that long ago. We we're having our friends Chris and Anna over to stay with little Joseph; literally one of the cutest kids ever. Chris and Anna are the couple I spoke of previously so when we arranged to have them over, I thought what better dessert to make than Baked Alaska. I wanted to mix it up a little; one, to try something a new and two; because if it didn't live up to the last one I could just say "it's because it's a little different". Fortunately, I didn't have to pull out this excuse and although it was different, this made it even more delicious in my eyes.

Don't be put off by all the components that go into this dessert, each one is very simple to make. If you are worried or pushed for time, then you can always use some pre-made elements. To make the ice cream you will need an ice cream maker. Personally,  I wouldn't attempt this recipe if you don't have one. Each time I've made ice cream by hand I have always been left with ice crystals, despite following the method exactly. You could substitute for a good quality ice cream -  an Irish cream variety would be heavenly - or you could adapt a 'no churn' recipe. 

 

Makes 6 individual desserts/ 

Ingredients:

Date Ice Cream

  • 150g Medjool Dates, Pitted
  • 100ml Spiced Rum
  • 4 Egg Yolks 
  • 100g Caster Sugar
  • 300ml Whole Milk
  • 300ml Double Cream
  • 1 Vanilla Pod or 1 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract

Sticky Toffee Cake

  • 100ml Freshly Made Coffee or Spiced Rum
  • 110g Dates
  • 60g Unsalted Butter
  • 75g Muscovado Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 110g Plain Flour
  • 1 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1/2 Tsp baking powder

Caramel Sauce

  • 55g Unsalted Butter
  • 110g Muscovado Sugar
  • 150ml Double Cream

Brown Sugar Meringue

  • 50g Egg Whites
  • 100g Muscovado Sugar

Specialist equipment required:

Ice Cream Maker & Kitchen Torch

Method:

  1. For the ice cream, chop the dates roughly and add to the rum. Let them macerate for up to 4 hours. Add the milk to a heavy bottomed pan with the vanilla extract or seeds added, if you're using fresh vanilla then add the seeded pod too. Bring to the boil and then take off the heat. Meanwhile in a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until pale and fluffy - I do this by hand and let it pass as my cardio for the day.  Very slowly add the hot milk to the eggs, whisking as you do this. If you add the milk to quickly the eggs will cook and you'll have vanilla scrambled eggs. Yuck!
  2. Once added, return back into the pan and cook on a medium heat until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, this can take up to 10 minutes. Allow to cool
  3. Add the double cream to a large bowl or jug and pour in the cooled custard. You may need to sieve this first. Mix thoroughly. Next, turn on the ice cream maker and slowly pour the mixture in through the feed. Let it churn for approximately 20 minutes. Just before you're done, add the macerated dates and let them fully incorporate in the ice cream. Place in a freezable container until needed. 
  4. For the sticky toffee cake, chop the dates into small pieces and add them to the coffee to soak. After 5 minutes add the bicarbonate of soda and mix, this will break down the dates and leave them soft and sticky.
  5. Cream the butter and sugar together until light. Add the egg beat until combined. Sift in the flour and baking powder and lightly mix in. Add the date mixture. 
  6. Pour into a small lined baking tin or an 8" square cake tin (that's what I used) and bake for 20 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly.
  7. While the cake is baking you can make the sauce, and it couldn't be easier - just add the ingredients to a pan and melt, cook on a medium/high heat for a 3-5 minutes until thick and all the sugar has dissolved. Make sure to watch it as it can bubble over. 
  8. Take the cake out of the oven and using a cake tester or cocktail stick, poke holes all over the cake. Add 1/2 of the warm toffee sauce and let it soak in.
  9. For the brown sugar meringue, place the egg whites and sugar in a bowl over simmering water and heat until the sugar dissolves. If you're using fresh egg whites as opposed to pasteurised egg whites, you'll need to heat the eggs and sugar to around 65 C to kill any possible bacteria. Once done, transfer to a stand mixture and whisk on high until thick and glossy. 
  10. To assemble, cut round discs out of the sticky toffee cake and set aside. The best thing is the have off-cuts to nibble on whilst you work. You also need to make sure the cake is cool, if the cake is still warm (as a typical S.T pudding is) it will melt the ice cream and you'll just end up with a mess dripping down on to your kitchen floor. Place a scoop of the date ice cream  on top of each sponge, I used a specialist confectionery dome mould for this and placed my ice cream in them before putting in the freezer but I assure you an ice cream scoop works just as well. Cover each mound of ice cream with the rest of the toffee sauce.
  11. Take the meringue and either pipe it on to cover the cake and ice cream or use a small knife/palette knife to cover the whole thing. 
  12. Plate up and take to your guests. Let them use the blowtorch to scorch their own desserts, trust me, they'll love it - just be careful, safety first.