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Sara's Secrets: Baked Alaskan

In her introduction to Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals , Sara Moulton says about the dessert chapter, "If you try nothing else, you must make the Baked 'Alaskan.' It is a knockout." So I made the Baked Alaskan, and my reaction? "Huh."

Conceptually, it's an interesting idea. Make ice cream sandwiches, coat them with meringue, and brown them in the oven. It's a take-off of the famous Baked Alaska, a combination of cake, ice cream, and meringue that's washed with rum or brandy and then flambéed. But the execution just...wasn't all that great.

The proportions are way off, again. The amount of meringue that this recipe produces was about 2 times what I needed to coat the ice cream sandwiches. The excess went straight down the drain, a big waste. I made the recipe with a couple of different types of cookies, and found that only soft-baked ones worked; crisp cookies were too hard to eat. Moulton doesn't caution the reader to use soft-baked cookies in the recipe, which is an oversight.

The technique is described in breezy, vague terms: Moulton says simply to "frost each [sandwich] with some of the beaten egg whites." After I "frosted" with "some," I still had more meringue than I knew what to do with. A photo of the finished dish would have been extremely helpful, but alas, none is provided. I mounded the meringue around the ice cream sandwiches as best as I could, and then baked them off. Admittedly, the finished mountains of meringue look impressive when they come out of the oven, all golden and pretty. Unfortunately, Moulton's instruction to freeze the ice cream sandwiches for only 25 minutes, and then set them out at room temperature for 10 minutes before frosting and baking, meant that the sorbet got too soft, and it all leaked out of the sandwiches while they were in the oven. So the end result was a mess of melted sorbet, heaps of meringue, and a few bites of cookie. Not the most successful dessert I've ever made, I have to say.

Also bizarre: the rambling introduction to the recipe, in which Moulton name-checks Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys (no, really). The shout-out doesn't seem to serve any purpose, other than for Moulton to say, "Hey, check me out, I'm down with the rappers." Oookay. That's nifty, I guess, but it doesn't help to make this recipe work any better. More information about ingredients and technique are what I need, not hipster name-dropping.

I've given the recipe as it's written in the book. If you decide to try it, I recommend that you make less meringue; try 2 Tbsp of dried egg whites, 1/3 cup water, 1/4 cup of sugar, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla. I also recommend that you freeze the sandwiches for an hour, and do not let them sit out before coating with meringue and baking.

Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus 1 hour to freeze ice cream sandwiches
Cook Time: 4 to 6 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Eight packaged 3-inch diameter soft-baked chocolate chunk brownie cookies OR four 3-inch square brownies
1 cup raspberry sorbet
1/3 cup dried egg whites, such as Just Whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar

Place 4 cookies upside down on a work surface, or split the brownies and place the bottoms, cut side up, on a work surface. Spoon 1/4 cup of sorbet on each cookie and spread to the edge. Top with another cookie or the brownie top right-side up. Wrap and freeze until solid, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Combine 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp warm water, the egg whites, vanilla, and salt. Beat with an electric mixer until frothy. Gradually beat in the sugar until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes.

Remove the sandwiches from the freezer and place 3 inches apart on an oiled baking sheet. Frost each with some of the meringue. Bake 4 to 6 minutes, or until nicely browned. Serve immediately.



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