Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shamrock Alaska in Honor of St. Patrick's Day

OK, I am very aware that mint ice cream is not Irish, but my kids LOVE mint ice cream. On one walk home last week I let the boys help me brainstorm the dessert for this Sunday dinner, and this is what they came up with - a baked alaska with a Irish slant. I even threw them a bone and put in a bit of green food coloring. Of course, they wanted a grasshopper alaska with real grasshoppers inside. Aaron had read about chocolate covered grasshoppers in a bug book and swears he would like them. I don't put it past him.

The bottom layer is based on the infamous Black Magic cake. It truly is my favorite chocolate cake recipe, although I tweak it a bit. This time I was testing out a low fat version, by subbing pumpkin puree in for 1/2 the fat and egg whites instead of eggs. I used oil this time instead of butter to make sure it stayed moist once frozen.

The second layer wasn't so low fat of course. A homemade ice cream made by steeping fresh mint leaves in milk/cream, then creating a luscious custard with egg yolks, and just a drop of mint extract. The result is infinitely better than just using mint extract - a natural, sweet and slightly herby flavor. The recipe is based off of David Lebovitz' wonderful recipe from the perfect scoop.

The final layer is an Italian Meringue. I love Italian Meringue - it makes a silky smooth layer that is stable enough to frost with. No weeping meringue - I took extra precautions by including a cornstarch gel. This technique is touted by Shirley Corriher in her books Cookwise and Bakewise. To be honest I am unsure if it really makes it all that much more stable, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

Finally, plated with a chocolate sauce, made with sugar, cocoa and chocolate.

The result is a grasshopper or shamrock alaska, a childhood favorite. I usually lean toward more uncommon flavor combinations, but some holidays just call for tradition. Even if it isn't the authentic tradition of the holiday.


Black Magic cake: recipe here.

Omit the mesquite flour. To make it low fat use banana puree or pumpkin puree instead of butter and sub in 4 egg whites, or a half cup of egg substitute.

Place a little less than a quarter cup of batter in a 1/2 cup ramekin and bake in ramekins for 15-20 minutes at 350 or until a skewer comes out with only a few crumbs. It works best if you line the bottom of the ramekin with parchment paper and butter the rest of it.

Fresh Mint Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz, Perfect Scoop

  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 large bunch roughly chopped spearmint
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 3 Tablespoons powdered dextrose (optional)
  • 1/8 teaspoon guar gum (optional)
1. Heat milk and 1/2 cup of cream, sugar and salt, stir to dissolve sugar, and heat to just before a boil. Add chopped mint, stir well and take off heat. Steep for 1 hour.
2. Taste, if it needs more mint flavor you can blitz with an immersion blender. You can also add more sugar if it needs it and you are not using dextrose.
3. Mix egg yolks in medium mixing bowl and set aside.
4 Strain out mint and heat the mixture until you see a puff of steam come off. Slowly add mixture to eggs, beating the whole time and return to stove, and cook until the mixture thickens and you can make a line with your finger through the custard on the back of a spoon (about 170 degrees). Don't overcook - or it will taste egg-y.
5. Take off heat and straing.
6. Add dextrose and stir to dissolve.
7. Add guar gum by sprinkling over the surface and blend with an immersion blender. Add final cup of cream.
8. Cover well and chill thoroughly - preferably overnight.
9. Churn in an ice cream machine.

Italian Meringue


  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • pinch salt
  • 1/8 t cream of tartar (optional)
  • 5 egg whites - free from ANY fat, yolks, shells, and at room temperature.
1. Make sure your mixing bowl and whisk attachment are very clean, with no fat residue. Egg whites must also be free from yolks and any fat residue. Fat is the enemy of meringue.
2. Dissolve cornstarch in 1/3 cup of water, heat one minute in the microwave, stir and then heat in 30 second intervals until thick and clear. Set aside to cool.
3. Put 1 cup of sugar and 1/4 water in a small saucepan and heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil.
4. When the sugar syrup starts to boil, put the egg whites and cream of tartar in the mixer and mix, first on low, then gradually increase to high. Beat to soft peaks, then stop machine.
5. Bring sugar syrup to 237 degrees, then immediately pour into a pyrex glass measuring cup.
6. With the mixer running on low, stream in the sugar syrup, taking care to stream between the bowl and beater as much as possible.
7. Add cornstarch mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. You don't need to add it all - I usually add only 2 tablespoons.
8. Beat until the mixture is shiny, cool and holds stiff peaks.

To assemble
1. Two days ahead. Make ice cream base and cool overnight.
2. One to two days ahead - bake cakes and completely cool. Cover tightly and store at room temp, or in the freezer.
3. One day ahead. Churn ice cream and pour directly into ramekins. Cover tightly and freeze.
4. 2-4 hours before serving. Make meringue. Take ice cream and cake out of ramekins by cutting around the edge with a knife, place on baking sheet, and coat with meringue. You can make cool designs with your offset spatula if you would like. I find it best to do two at a time, then place in the freezer on a baking sheet.

Makes 10.

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