Baked Icecream (that, um, melted. Help?)

by Deb on November 3, 2011

Baked Icecream

I‘ve tried to make meringue a couple of times and it hasn’t worked, so that was probably a sign that I shouldn’t have done this. Or at least that I should have tried it several times before putting it in the blogging schedule. But given trips to Melbourne and husband travel and another trip to Sydney coming up, we only got one go at it. And while I can tell you the reasons it should work theoretically, the reality was somewhat different.

But being a science blog and all, this is just an opportunity to work out what went wrong! Seriously! And the girls enjoyed it. So read this bearing in mind that if you know how to make successful meringues or have an idea how to get it to work, please let me know. There’s enough for a lot of experiments in a tub of icecream.

Materials

These amounts made far too much meringue for us, but given that I’m obviously not an expert I’m not going to modify the recipe. You can mess it up all on your own. I suspect that if you were to use only one or two eggs the right amount of salt and cream of tartar would be ‘a pinch.’

ingredients

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 tspn cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tspn salt
  • 1/2 tspn vanilla essence
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • Large plain biscuits
  • Icecream

Method

  1. Let the eggs come to room temperature and separate the whites and yolks. mixing
  2. Put the whites in a bowl along with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla.
  3. Whisk or beat the mixture until it makes stiff peaks.
  4. Slowly add the sugar a spoon at a time while continuing to beat until the mixture is thick and glossy.
  5. Space the biscuits on a lined tray. Put a small spoon of icecream on each one.
  6. Completely cover the icecream with the meringue mixture. Make sure there are no holes.
  7. Bake in a cool oven 110 degrees C (225F) for about an hour.

What should happen

Cream of tartar is actually tartaric acid, it produces carbon dioxide and helps aerate the meringue. When egg whites are beaten the protein forms long chains that tangle and surround air bubbles, which is what makes them stiff. As they are cooked the sugar hardens and crystallises but it is spread throughout the mixture, so it all goes hard.

The air and carbon dioxide bubbles act as insulation, which stops the heat getting through to the icecream inside and should stop it from melting.

Except

I have several ideas what might have gone wrong. The meringue was still chewy, the biscuits soggy and the icecream everywhere.

  • I’m pretty sure I didn’t use brand new eggs, that could have stopped them forming peaks but they seemed to work ok.
  • Possibly we didn’t whip enough, I was very conscious of the girls’ attention span and may have rushed making it.
  • The sugar didn’t really dissolve, not being experienced with meringue I don’t know if it is supposed to dissolve or just mix through.
  • I think the gingernuts were a problem. They do tend to go soggy where other biscuits don’t, so maybe they let the icecream out. Maybe try with large choc chip biscuits or milk arrowroot?
  • Getting it all together was difficult. Between children ‘helping’ and extremely sticky meringue mixture I probably left gaps.
  • I still have no idea how to cook the meringue properly – longer? higher temperature? I don’t know how to cook the inside!

Over to you – I’d love to get this to work, so does anyone have a foolproof meringue cooking technique? Or the perfect base? Who wants to have a go and then tell me how to do it?

ETA: Thanks to all the great suggestions below, we tried again successfully.

baked, melted icecream

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie November 3, 2011 at 7:47 am

I’m really surprised this recipe said to bake for an hour, even at such a low temperature.
Usually when I bake a pavlova I bake in a low oven for around an hour, but there is no ice cream involved!
When we make Bombe Alaska we put the biscuit base and meringue covered ice cream in to a very hot oven for only a short period of time. Just enough to give the meringue a nice browning on top, but not so long the heat gets through to the ice cream and melts it.
I will look around for my recipes and repost.

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Jamie November 3, 2011 at 8:06 am

Sorry, can’t find my bombe alaska recipe. Even called my husband to ask which book it was in but he can’t remember. If you look up recipes online, though, you will see what I was talking about above re. short time in hot oven.

I really think your recipe was wrong!

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Deb November 3, 2011 at 9:03 am

I thought the hour sounded wrong as well, but I assumed the insulation helped keep the icecream cold. And the meringue still didn’t cook! I can see it’s a good thing we have so many eggs, I’m going to have to do some serious experimenting to get a meringue that works.

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Veronica November 3, 2011 at 1:06 pm

I agree, I really think that the recipe was wrong. I would have thought that a hot oven for 10 minutes or so would have been a better plan.

Even ice-cream in the fridge (4C) will melt after an hour.
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Lisa November 3, 2011 at 10:21 am

When I bake meringue cookies, I only use 1 C of sugar and 3 egg whites (I’ve never brought them to room temperature first). I bake them in a 400 F oven preheated and turned off. They stay in for four hours (or you can simply ignore them and take them out in the morning). I’m guessing that that would be too long to do with ice cream, but the recipe has never failed me.

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Deb November 3, 2011 at 10:27 am

That sounds right for meringue, mine are still gooey inside so I think they need more time. Obviously the icecream is making things difficult.

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Science@home via Facebook November 3, 2011 at 10:30 am

I seem to have the chewy meringue happening. It’s also possible our biscuits and icecream scoops were too small so they melted too quickly. Maybe trying with giant cookies or making a base (is that how a baked Alaska works?) might help.

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Ann November 3, 2011 at 10:56 am

I agree about the timing — seems much too long, especially for single portion sizes.

You need to incorporate the sugar completely – ideally there should be no sugar crystals left in the mixture (shouldn’t feel gritty) ; or the meringue may split and ‘weep’
My ‘never fail’ meringue recipe uses icing sugar, rather than caster sugar, so it incorporates really quickly. It results in a slightly caramel coloured meringue — but that’s a bonus so far as I’m concerned.
I never worry about the freshness of the eggs, or bringing them to room temperature first.
I’ve made meringue successfully without using either cream of tartar or salt — the sugar seems to stabilize the meringue enough for piping or spooning if you’re quick enough and bake it directly.

4 large egg whites
pinch cream of tartar or salt
9 oz icing sugar, sieved
3 drops vanilla essence (I often add more)

Whisk egg whites with cream of tartar until stiff (really important, should be able to turn the bowl upside down, and the egg whites stick in place). Whisk in the icing sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Whisk in the vanilla.

At this point, you have 2 options, since the meringue won’t be cooked through in the oven, you may want to cook it on the stove.
Option 1: Place bowl over simmering water (making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom of the bow. Whisk until meringue is very thick and stiff.
Option 2: Use ‘as is’ (this is what I do, and no one has died yet!)

I’ve always used sponge for the base of the Baked Alaska. Not saying that biscuit won’t work, but the holes in the sponge will hep with the insulation effect.

Place scoop of ice-cream on the base. I do this first, and pop them back in the freezer while I make the meringue. A good idea, especially if you’re using option 2 above, as the meringue will be warm.

Coat with meringue. Bake at 230 degrees C for 4 (four) minutes (short time in hot oven) until meringue is lightly browned.

Eat at once!

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Deb November 3, 2011 at 11:10 am

4 minutes definitely sounds much more like it, and putting them back in the freezer to make sure they’re really cold. Thanks!

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Jamie November 3, 2011 at 11:24 am

When you are cooking meringues usually you aren’t actually wanting it to cook. You are wanting it to dry out. That is why you cook it for a low temp over a long period of time.
For a baked alaska I think you are more just wanting to brown the top, so hot temp and short period of time in the oven.
Hope this helps it all make a bit more sense.

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Deb November 3, 2011 at 11:31 am

So it should still be soft? That makes much more sense. Although I’d still like to know who trialled the instructions in my book!

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Alicia C. November 4, 2011 at 12:06 am

If you’re a visual learner who loves to learn about the science behind how food works, check out Alton Brown. Here’s a YouTube link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MLMgkxQgNE) to one of his shows “Let Them Eat Foam” – all about egg whites/meringue.

I swear, after watching a lot of his shows, I’ve picked up little facts here and there that have really helped my understanding of recipes and ingredients.
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Marita November 4, 2011 at 9:33 pm

That sounds horribly incredibly complicated – although I do like Ann’s recipe and of course now I want to try and make it because horribly incredibly complicated baking is a sure fire de-stresser for me 🙂
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trinity November 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I’d try an “italian meringue” for the topping- when I did Bombe Alaska, that’s what I used. But it’s not kid friendly really, because you’ve got to basically make a very hot sugar syrup (soft ball stage – 115C), and pour that slowly into the egg whites as they are beating. The sugar syrup (boiled until just before turning into toffee) cooks the egg whites and turns the whole mixture very stiff. You need a pretty good stand mixer to continue to beat as the mixture gets pretty hard to mix. Then you just put it on the outside of the frozen cake and ice cream and pop it under the griller or have at it with a blow torch to brown it up. Voila! The meringue is still sticky- not crumbly like a pavlova-type meringue at all.
When I saw your instructions to cook for an hour, I thought that the ice cream would probably have evaporated by then!

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