Sunday, May 1, 2011

you call it a smoke alarm I call it a dinner bell

Feb through to May its celebration Central at ours. Kicking off with Valentines day, the 15th is my sisters birthday, then my Dads, mine,my daughters, Easter, Rich's birthday, my nieces birthday Mothers day, ANZAC day and my Father in Laws b'day - all within 6 weeks. Whew! its a lot of Cake, also a lot of fun.

Is a challenge to make each special and memorable. Belles 2nd birthday and most recently her 18th are beyond memorable and likely to become stuff of family legend.

The 2nd birthday descended into complete chaos as soon as little friends arrived. I'd set up low trestle for kids to use as party table, resting old door on couple of empty crates, covered with cloth and plates of party food kids couldn't tell wasn't very stable - 2 -3 yr olds only barely human anyway.
Birthday girl, known to her family as "Cyclone Bella" for her tendency to leave trail of destruction in her wake, lent on it, sending entire table top and contents onto floor, in avalanche of party food, at which point kids thought it was like lolly scramble and dove for flying sausage rolls and cupcakes. Grown ups reinstated table and restored order only for it to happen again, twice.
All attempts at civility completely abandoned when someones kid kicked football across room. Ball landed squarely in middle of cake, impact sent table top slipping inexorably to carpet once again - At that point decided to just let them go for it. Was like lord of the flies as they scrabbled up the party food from the floor, the table, the ball...haven't laughed so hard in ages.

That two year old just turned 18, which must make me about 200 now. Anyway, Family Tradition dictates birthday person chooses menu for your big family dinner. Belle chose Ham a la Christmas eve, Pomme Dauphinoise - layers of potato sprinkled with a little garlic and salt and cream, slow cooked until tender and crispy on top. Arteries contracting at thought, but it is sooo good (trust the French to Kill you with Kindness).
We decorated and covered every surface with candles, accented with pink decorations and flowers, complete with floating candles in bowls of flowers on table - so pretty.
All went swimmingly, ham was Triumph, pototatoes eye rollingly good. Baked Alaska filled with Ginger nut ice cream was whipped out of freezer and slipped into hot oven to lightly brown, seconds later, spiked with sparklers, baptised with brandy, placed on a cake stand and set alight with a flourish. The flaming, sparkling, show stopping dessert was placed in front of the birthday girl, or at least cake stand was. Baked Alaska had taken leave of stand and was moving at alarming rate. Heat separated it from its base and it rocketed in flaming glory off the cake stand, only coming to rest when it collided with the table decorations in a retina searingly bright solar flare.

Was like watching a Viking funeral barge, as pudding blindly flamed its way down the the length of the table, flanked by awe struck family members some of whom likely thought this all part of the show. Rich was frozen in horror but I, never one to waste a good dessert, scrambled in between the relations and slipped my hand under the incandescent mound and lobbed it back onto the plate but not before we had burned a substantial impression into the dining table.

The dessert was a hit, and the daughter delighted but think next year we might just go to a restaurant.

Baked Alaska with Ginger nut ice cream

I used to think my mum was so clever when she made baked Alaska. Putting ice cream in the oven then setting it alight was culinary alchemy. Now my kids gasp with amazement as the golden tipped meringue covered “Bombe” emerges from the oven. This one is filled with Ginger nut ice cream. It’s dead easy, quick to make and can be made and frozen a day ahead.

Time to make:25 minutes plus freezing
Serves: 8-10

1 litre reduced vanilla ice-cream
½ packet of ginger nut biscuits – we use Griffins
1 thick trifle sponge
3 egg whites
¾ cup caster sugar
40 ml brandy- optional

A 1 litre - 1.2 litre capacity bowl
Cling film

Remove the ice cream from the freezer and allow it to soften but not melt.
Tear off a long piece of cling film and lay it inside the bowl covering the base of the bowl with the excess length hanging over the sides. Spread it to line the sides of the bowl as best you can.
Slice the sponge in half horizontally to make two sponge sheets. Cut one of the sheets into triangles and arrange the triangles in the base of the bowl, cutting and trimming (and squashing if needed) to completely cover the base of the bowl. Cut the remaining sheet of sponge into strips to cover the sides of the bowl, again trimming and packing so there are no gaps. It’s easy and quick to do.
Place the biscuits into a bag and smash them with a rolling pin until crumbs. Using a large spoon, fold the crumbs into the softened ice cream.
Pack the ice cream into the sponge lined bowl and fold the excess cling film over the top. Place into the freezer to re freeze.
When the ice cream is frozen again prepare the meringue. Place the egg whites in a clean bowl completely free from any grease. Beat with an electric beater until it forms firm peaks, then beat in the caster sugar a spoonful at a time. When all the sugar is incorporated and the ice cream has frozen solid, remove the bowl from the freezer and invert the bowl over a heat proof plate or platter. Using the cling film to gently pull, easing the “bombe” out of the bowl.
Using a spatula, pile the meringue onto the Bombe, working from the top down, quickly cover it in a thick layer of meringue. Take a bread and butter knife and use the tip to make swirls of meringue all over the bombe- this all only takes a few minutes.
The bombe can now be re frozen for use the following day or it can be baked.
To bake the Bombe pre heat the oven to 220°. When the oven is hot take the bombe from the freezer and place directly into the oven. Bake for 5-10 minutes until golden. To flame the bomb, heat the brandy in a small saucepan then set it alight and pour over the cooked meringue bombe.