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Friday 25 May 2012

Gluten Free: Banoffee Baked Alaska

Way back, when Heston Blumenthal was still in short trousers, baked alaska was the closest thing we had to kitchen alchemy. Putting ice cream into a hot oven and it not melting was akin to witchcraft. Really, it's all down to the insulating properties of the cake base and meringue, and assuming that the ice cream doesn't come into direct contact with the heat of the oven then it stays cold. But, that's a bit boring and I prefer to think of it as actual magic. With chefs embracing the whole liquid nitrogen and gellan gum way of cooking, baked alaska seems almost quaint now, but who can resist a bit of nostalgia from time to time?

With Humperdinck, Jedward and the rest warming up for Eurovision tomorrow, now seems the ideal moment to dig out a recipe that's a bit kitsch. This marriage of banoffee pie and baked alaska is just the ticket. 

This baked alaska has the added benefit of being more of a construction job than a baking task and the only real effort you have to put in is on the meringue. You get an impressive-looking dessert without breaking a sweat - leaving you more time to wave a Union Jack at the TV and sing along to 'Love Will Set You Free'.

Banoffee Baked Alaska

You'll need
  • about half of a gluten free loaf cake (you can find Madeira cakes in most supermarket FreeFrom selections, or try Honeyrose Bakery Organic Banana Cake)
  • 250g toffee or caramel ice cream (check the ingredients to make sure it's gluten free)
  • 1 banana, peeled and sliced
  • 3 tbsp toffee sauce
  • 3 egg whites (you'll get better results if the egg whites are at room temperature)
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 125g caster sugar
To make
  1. Using a small bowl or ramekin as a guide, cut your cake to just bigger than the rim of the bowl/ramekin. Reserve the cake for later.
  2. Leave the ice-cream to soften for about 10 minutes and press it into the same bowl or ramekin than you used to cut the cake. (Line the bowl with cling film and it'll be easy to turn it out later.) Cover the surface of the ice cream with the sliced banana. Put the whole thing in the freezer for about 15 minutes to firm up.
  3. Heat the oven to 230°C. In a large, grease-free bowl, whisk together the egg whites and cream of tartar until you have soft peaks. Add the sugar, a little at a time until it is all incorporated and the egg whites are in stiff peaks. If you want to turn the bowl upside-down to check, that's your call - I will not be held responsible for egg in your hair, over your kitchen floor or on your cat.
  4. Working quickly, place the cake on a heatproof plate and spread toffee sauce over the top of it. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and turn it out on top of the cake (see, the cling film was a good idea!) Spread the whisked egg whites thickly over the cake and ice-cream, making sure there are no gaps.
  5. Bake for 3 minutes, until the meringue has turned brown. Serve immediately.
P.S. If you don't need to follow a gluten free diet, you can use regular cake in the base. If you are dairy free, use an ice-cream substitute like Swedish Glace, Freedom or Bessant and Drury and omit the toffee sauce.

Want to get in the kitsch Eurovision mood? Watch our bloody boring and despressing entry from Engelbert:

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