When I was in my final semester of culinary classes, one of my instructors impressed upon us how important it is to always continue learning, because learning = growth, and I've been told on numerous occasions that I should grow up! Hmm... probably not the kind of maturity my instructor had in mind, but still.... growth & maturity are great things.
I love challenging myself to "color outside of the lines" and the kitchen is a great place for me to do that! After all, where else can you screw up and then scarf down the mistakes (or shove them down the garbage disposal with a gas mask on) before anyone catches on? Not that I have experience with that or anything. Just sayin'...
So in my efforts to push myself and grow, I've created a culinary bucket list of dishes that I want to make before I die.
A couple of the items on my list have already been crossed off because I've been out of school for over a year and my health was so bad there for a while, I wanted to make sure that I knocked at least one item off of my list before God called me home! Pretty somber and depressing knowing that you died with a culinary degree in your right hand and no great dishes in your left to show for it. So without further yapping, (and in no particular order), here's my list:
Becca's Culinary Bucket List
- Seared ahi tuna
- Beef Wellington
- Fresh mozzarella cheese
Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon(see my creation HERE)
- French Macarons (not to be confused with coconut macaroons... yuk...allergic reaction...Anaphylaxis = death)
- Tiger bread
- Vegetable terrine
- Fresh pasta (I learned how to roll and cut it in culinary classes, but I've never made it start to finish)
- Sausages and/or Bratwurst (this will require me to own one of these. My birthday is January 30th *HINT*)
I'm sure that my list will be ever changing, but that's where it's at for now. As you can see, baked Alaska was right there smack in the middle, calling my name. When the holidays roll around, I always think about what a gorgeous presentation this would make. In addition to the WOW visual factor, the inside is delightfully filled with sponge cake and ice cream, usually in a vibrant color for full effect. Although any variety of cake can be used, the sponge cake is the traditional route, as it's a bit firmer and holds up better to being topped with ice cream and all of that lovely Italian meringue on the top.
I'm not entirely sure what intimidated me about making this dessert, because it really was much easier than I initially thought. The toughest part of the challenge for me was the Italian meringue. I had only made it once before this, and technically I didn't make it, I watched it being made by a classmate in culinary school. I didn't have a chance to drop my head into the mixing bowl to see just how glossy the egg whites should have been before adding the sugar, and had I dipped a finger or two into the bowl as my instructor was glancing in the opposite direction, I probably would've had a better idea of what the consistency should have been like. I'm impatient and my meringue is the proof of that. I didn't wait long enough for the egg whites to whip up, so my meringue was pretty soft. It piped out way too runny, but fortunately, it tasted phenomenal! It was almost like marshmallow fluff without the stickiness. I kinda wanted to drop everything I was doing right there and cover myself in it. Thank goodness I changed my mind, cuz those photos would've been really great at making you lose your appetite.
I made the vanilla sponge cake using a recipe from my baking class textbook, "On Baking" 4th ed. (Pearson/Prentiss Hall)...tried and true methods are usually best when you're making something for the first time. I ALMOST went with chocolate sponge cake, and in retrospect, I should have. The black with white meringue would have REALLY given me a WOW factor, especially since I used Ben & Jerry's Red Velvet ice cream! Oh yeah... I totally went there, and it was beyond yummilicious! Take a peek at this beauuuuutiful creation.
So now that I've knocked this gorgeous baby off of my bucket list, which recipe should I tackle next?
How about YOU? Do YOU have a culinary bucket list? Tell me all about it!
- FOR THE VANILLA SPONGE CAKE
- 5 large eggs
- 2 large egg yolks
- 5 ounces (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2.8 ounces (1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon) all-purpose flour
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 ounce (1/3 cup) UNPACKED powdered sugar
- FOR THE ITALIAN MERINGUE
- 7.5 ounces (1 cup) granulated sugar
- 1 ounce (2 Tablespoons) light corn syrup)
- 1.5 ounces (3 Tablespoons) water
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- Ice cream (flavor of your choice, I used Ben & Jerry's Red Velvet Cake)
- FOR THE SPONGE CAKE
- Heat oven to 425°F (400° F if using a convection oven)
- Spray a half-sheet pan with non-stick spray. (Place parchment paper on top of the spray and then butter the top of the parchment paper. This is to make the cake easier to remove from the pan after baking); set aside.
- Using a stand or electric hand mixer with a whip attachment, combine whole eggs, yolks, sugar, and vanilla on medium-high speed until it's pale yellow and develops thick ribbons. using a rubber spatula, gently fold in flour; set aside.
- In a clean, grease-free bowl, whip egg whites and powered sugar on high speed until medium soft peaks appear. **
- Using a clean rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake for 7-8 minutes, until top of cake is lightly browned and still bounces back when touched.
- Remove pan from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
- Use edges of parchment paper to release cake from pan. Lay cake side down on a table or cutting mat and peel the parchment paper away from cake. Discard paper.
- Use a 3-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter to cut circles of cake. Stack 2 or 3 circles together between squares of parchment paper and place the stacks in a freezer until ready to assemble.
- ICE CREAM PREPARATION
- To assure ice cream is as frozen as possible, place single scoops into the tins of a muffin pan. Cover with plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil until ready to assemble.
- FOR ITALIAN MERINGUE
- Place egg whites into the clean bowl of a stand mixer with a whip attachment.
- Place 3/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, and water into a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Place a candy thermometer into the pan; be sure that it doesn't touch the bottom of the pan. Bring sugar to a boil over high heat. Be VERY careful, as cooked sugar reaches temperatures hotter than boiling water!
- When sugar reaches 200° F, beginning whipping the egg whites on high speed. When soft peaks have formed, lightly add in the remaining 1/4 of sugar (DON'T dump it in all at once!). Reduce speed to low and continue mixing.
- When sugar reaches 240° F, remove from heat and turn off stove. Turn mixer speed to high and quickly but carefully add sugar mixture to the bowl in a steady stream between the edge of the bowl and the whip attachment of your mixer. Mix on high for one additional minute, then reduce speed to medium until the bottom of the mixing bowl is warm to the touch. Turn off mixer and transfer meringue into a 12 or 14-inch pastry bag fitted with a coupler and a Wilton 1-M tip or similar.
- ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS
- Place stacked cake rounds onto individual oven-proof dessert plates or ramekins.
- Place one scoop of ice cream on top of each stack of cake.
- Pipe meringue around each stack of cake and ice cream, making sure not to leave any gaps or spaces. The desserts should be encapsulated with meringue, which will prevent the ice cream from melting during cooking.
- Cook the meringue to a golden brown color by either baking the desserts in a 375 degree oven or by using a kitchen blowtorch to cook the meringue.
- Garnish with a fruit coulis, caramel sauce, or chocolate ganache, if desired.