Years ago I bought a couple cook books from Dorling Kindersley in the Look & Cook Series by Anne Willan. They have amazingly clear step by step photos, and it was from them that I learned many basic cooking skills. Anne Willan makes puff pastry, crème brûlée, and soufflé insanely easy.
Unfortunately, the books are out of print, though you can still order them used through independent sellers on amazon. I highly recommend any of them, especially those that would teach you skills you have not yet mastered. They make superb reference guides for any kitchen.
I learned how to make Baked Alaska from her Delicious Desserts book. I adapted it myself, but the principles were form her.
Oh, and by the way, Italian meringue is definitely the way to go for Baked Alaska. Any other meringue will simply not do. Not after this. It tastes like one big fluffy marshmallow toasted to perfection. Mm. I wish we still had some left.
1/2 genoise cake (recipe follows)
strawberry coulis (recipe follows)
good quality strawberry ice cream, such as Häagen-Dazs
Italian meringue (recipe follows)
1. Slice génoise into 4 inch squares and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Spread a tablespoon of coulis on the top of each (In the picture, you can see I placed a second piece of cake on top of the coulis, like a sandwich. You can do this if you like, but looking back, I wish I had left off the top layer of cake and simply added more ice cream.). Spoon about 3/4 cup ice cream onto each square, and spread it out smooth as best as you can before it melts. Freeze until firm.
2. While the cake and ice cream freeze, follow the instructions for the meringue. Remove the cake and ice cream and place each on an individual plate. Working quickly, liberally cover each with meringue, and use the back of a teaspoon to create little peaks all around the outside. (If the meringue starts to firm up before you finish this step, simply put it back on the mixer to whisk it up again.)
3. Use a kitchen torch* to brown all the edges of the little peaks.
4. Pour a generous amount of strawberry coulis around the bottom of the Baked Alaskas. Serve immediately.
*If you don’t have a kitchen torch, be sure to place the desserts on oven safe plates, then return them to the freezer after step 2. Freeze for about an hour. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (220 degrees celsius), sprinkle the meringue with a little bit of sugar, and bake them for 3-6 minutes, or until the meringue is browned. Return to step 4.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
1 1/3 cup (170g) flour, plus more for pan
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (190g) sugar (or evaporated cane juice)
2 teaspoons very good pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees celsius). Butter a half sheet pan (17×12 inches), then line with parchment paper. Butter the paper and sides of pan and dust with flour. Set aside.
2. Melt butter and set aside to cool. Whisk flour and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
3. In a large heat proof bowl (use the bowl from a stand mixer if you have one), Whisk together eggs and sugar. Set the bowl over simmering water and continue to whisk until mixture is warm. Transfer bowl to the mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and mix on high until mixture is fluffy, thick and light in color.
4. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and use a sieve to sprinkle in a third of the flour and salt mixture. Fold in. Repeat with the next third of the flour, then fold in the melted butter. Finally, fold in the last third of the flour mixture and spread batter in the prepared pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cake springs back when touched. Remove from oven and let cool completely in pan. Invert on a cooling rack and remove parchment paper.
for the meringue:
2 cups (380g) granulated sugar
1 cup (250mL) water
8 egg whites
1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat until dissolved. Bring to a boil without stirring, and continue to boil until the temperature reaches the firm ball stage, or 248 degrees.
2. While the sugar syrup comes to temperature, beat egg whites in an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form. With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the hot sugar syrup.
3. Gradually increase the speed to high, and whisk meringue until stiff and cool, about 7 minutes.
for the strawberry coulis:
1 12 ounce (340g) bag of frozen strawberries, thawed
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2-1 cup (65g-130g) confectioner’s sugar
1. In a food processor, pulse the strawberries until smooth. Press through a strainer to remove any seeds.
2. Gently whisk in lemon juice and powdered sugar to taste.