Thursday, March 13, 2008

Baked Alaska Pie

IMG baked alaska pie 1958
If you are also readers of The Old Foodie (and I certainly hope that you are!) you will know that it is Pie Week in honor of Pi. You can go here for some ideas on how to celebrate Pi Day - aside from the consumption of delicious pies, of course. I don't know if we are going to play the Pi version of Jeopardy! (I am already confused just thinking about it), or decorate the house (with pie plates?) but perhaps I will play "American Pie"on YouTube or something.

Pi Day is in fact tomorrow, but I am putting this up today. You can read it tomorrow if you like, of course. This recipe is from the festively-named Good Housekeeping Party Pie Book (1958). There's something about a party pie that sounds - so perky! A party pie for a Pi party. Let the calculations begin! Perhaps you could measure the slices with a protractor or a ruler or something (can you tell that I dropped math in 10th grade?)

Baked Alaska Pie

Baked 9" pie shell
16 large marshmallows
1 Tb water or canned pineapple juice
2 egg whites
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups chilled fresh raspberries or drained, just thawed frozen raspberries or strawberries
1 qt. firm vanilla, peach or pistachio ice cream

Refrigerate pie shell until well chilled. Preheat broiler 10 minutes, or as manufacturer directs. Over low heat, heat marshmallows with water, folding constantly, until marshmallows are melted. Beat egg whites until quite stiff; gradually add sugar and salt, beating until very stiff; fold into marshmallow mixture. Sprinkle 1 cup berries into pie shell; fill with ice cream; then sprinkle rest of berries onto ice cream; top with meringue, covering ice cream completely all the way out to edge of pie (this helps to keep ice cream firm). Broil several inches below heat until lightly browned. Serve at once.

Good Housekeeping notes that you can make this in advance - just leave out the berries, make and broil the pie with meringue, then bung it in the freezer all wrapped up. Thaw for about 45 minutes before you want it, and put the berries on top as you dish it out. Only they took about three paragraphs to say it, so I thought I'd cut to the chase.

Traditional Baked Alaska uses sponge cake as a base for the ice cream and meringue. It was made possible by a scientist named Benjamin Thompson (1753-1814) of Woburn, Massachusetts, who was well known both in the US and England. He was honored by the English with the title Count Rumford (after his wife's hometown in New Hampshire - I guess they didn't like the sound of Count Woburn). According to John F. Mariani in The Dictionary of American Food and Drink (New York, 1983), Thompson discovered that egg whites are resistant to heat. From this scientific breakthrough came a dessert at New York City's famous restaurant, Delmonico's, called Alaska-Florida. Fannie Farmer first called the dessert Baked Alaska in 1909 [Mariani, p. 23].

So there you have it - the perfect dessert for Pi Day, a scientific pie!

For more delightful pie recipes:

To Catch A Quiche
Rawleigh's Coconut Cream Pie
Silverwood Spice Pie
Baked Alaska on FoodistaBaked Alaska Fudge Pie

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