Baked Alaska, Oeufs a la Neige, and Pavlova – do any of these ring a bell? Well Alton Brown is on a mission for these names to be brought back from the dead, at least in this country. These are all meringue based desserts that have been long forgotten. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth our time.
Alton begins the show with another explanation of egg whites. He has done this in countless episodes but still felt he had not covered it enough. It’s basically about proteins coagulating creating a structure for bubbles. These bubbles are easily broken unless something helps to reinforce their structure. That is where sugar comes in.
Alton categories meringues into three different categories:
1. French = Uncooked
2. Swiss = Cooked
3. Italian = Syrup
French Meringue – Pavlova
This dessert is the national dessert of Australia. I know the name doesn’t sound very Australian. That is because it named after a Russian dancer, who danced in New Zealand. So Australia’s national dessert is named after a Russian and originated in New Zealand! This dessert is a meringue that has a grove in it to add fruit. Traditionally that fruit is passion fruit and that is what Alton uses in this show. It is placed in the oven but not really to cook it but to dry it out. The temperature is only set to 250 degrees. Since it won’t be fully cooked Alton recommends using pasteurized eggs or eggs from a farm you trust. Pasteurized eggs may not be easy for you to find. I have looked for them before without success.
Swiss Meringue – Oeufs a la Neige
This dish is balls of meringue that sit inside a custard. If you have ever made custard based ice cream before you should have no trouble with this dish. Part of the process calls for heating the meringue up to 140 degrees. You can do using a double boiler and whisk until your arm falls off or you could attach a hair dryer to a banana hanger, then attach a hose to that, where the ends fits over the bowl of your stand mixer. Only on Good Eats would you see such a technique. Alton was happy to show that a banana hanger is not a uni-tasker. To check the temperature of the meringue, Alton uses an infrared thermometer, which can get the results lickety-split.
Italian Meringue – Baked Alaska
This is a layered dessert. It starts with a layer of ice cream, with cake (Alton used a chiffon cake) on top of that, and then meringue on top of that. This meringue differs from the others ones in that it contains a syrup that has been cooked to 240 degrees. When the meringue is finished, Alton uses a torch to brown it. Others have suggested using the broiler but that could be too harsh.
This show was full of interesting dessert ideas if you are looking to change things up in your household. I think the Baked Alaska was the only one I thought sounded that appealing. For the full recipes, click here to be transported to Food Network’s website.