Travels with Dorothy were always filled with unexpectedly crazy moments. Well, actually, anytime with Dorothy could turn into a whirlwind adventure, all of which were accompanied by nuggets of “Dorothy Wisdom”.
There was an fortunate (or unfortunate depending on how you look at the world) flaw in our friendship. If one said, “You know what we should do?” then the other responded with “How about now?” not “Why?” It tended to create a leap before you look mentality in us both. There was no stopgap of caution. It did make life grand!
It had been a New York City week of walking head on into numerous adventures including an encounter with Willie Nelson’s bus driver, a culinary tour of the iconic restaurants from the 1960s courtesy of Max the bartender and an elevator run in with a celebrity and his entourage. Here we were at the final night.
It was suppose to be an evening of relaxation. You know, just a quiet dinner at Delmonico’s followed by cocktails back at the hotel and then to bed. Well, things did not exactly turn as relaxing as we planned.
After devouring Delmonico’s Baked Alaska, we were in a cab heading back to the hotel, when the conversation went something like this “This was a great trip.” “Yes it was.” Sigh from both. “You know what I have always wanted to do?” “What?” “Take a night carriage ride through Central Park.” “Driver, would you please take us to a carriage stand in Central Park?” Did I tell you it was late? And we were off.
Upon our arrival at 59th Street and 7th Avenue, we walked down the sidewalk to select not just our carriage but also steed and driver. Here were the criteria: dark horse; white carriage and old driver. I don’t know why. It simply was and the sixth carriage held it all and it was a bonus that the driver was attired in a tuxedo. Plus the driver’s name was Sam, poor Sam.
As Sam assisted us into the carriage, we introduced ourselves and inquired about his tenure as a driver. His response of “more than 30 years” could either make you comfortable knowing he could handle a horse or uncomfortable because of age he could not handle a horse. We were comfortable.
Within 5 minutes of the ride, we were fully engaged in conversation with Sam. Within 10 minutes of the ride, we were up top sitting beside him on the driver’s seat. I did warn you about adventures. The conversation went something like this, “Sam, may I hold the reins?” “No, Madame.” “Sam, how about the whip? May I at least hold the whip?” “No, Madame.” “Oh, Sam, please!” “Ok, Madame, but do use the whip. Simply hold it.” “Sam?” “Yes, Madame.” “May I hold the reins?” “No, Madame.” It was great.
Since it did not appear Sam was going to relinquish the reins to either of us, Dorothy turned the conversation to Sam’s experiences as a driver. Within minutes, Sam was regaling us with what he referred to as “tales of the carriage”.
For an hour, Sam entertained us with stories of famous late night riders including Barbara Streisand, Carol Channing and Richard Burton with someone who was not Elizabeth Taylor at a time when opening night meant theater goers dressed to the nines. He told of men in tuxedos on bended knee as they proposed and brides hiring his carriage for their ride to church. There were stories of his children and grandchildren all crowding into the carriage for special Christmas Eve rides before opening presents. He told of proposing to his wife in the carriage and driving alone for hours the day after she died. It was quite a life.
We left Sam after a much longer ride than we expected and hailed a cab for our hotel. As we settled back into the seat, we were quiet reflecting on the time with Sam. After a few moments, Dorothy turned to me and said, “Always remember, everyone has a story to tell. And generally, no one ever asks them about it. Ask. Make them feel important.”
I have never forgotten.
The New York iconic Delmonico’s Restaurant lays claim to the creation of Baked Alaska. Their French chef Charles Ranhofer was said to have created it in 1867 to celebrate the United States purchase of Alaska. The story is a bit suspect since a similar dessert named “the ice cream bombe” appeared on the American culinary scene sometime between 1820 and 1850. The 1960s saw a resurgence in its popularity with the size moving from a single serve to one that served up to 12 and versions ranging from chocolate to strawberry to spice plus complimenting ice cream flavors.
Delmonico’s retains the greatest association to Baked Alaska, though, and is still served in its original form today. Walnut sponge cake and vanilla ice cream encased in a mound of meringue which is then either flambéed or baked until brown and served with an apricot puree drizzle.
This version, Opening Night Tuxedo Baked Alaska in honor of Sam’s story, creates a tower of three chocolate orange sponge cake discs, with vanilla bean ice cream discs sandwiched between and a spread of dark chocolate ganache separating the cake and ice cream.
All is encased in meringue that it is easily browned with a kitchen torch to ensure even browning and no burning.
Working in stages is imperative to ensure the ice cream does not completely melt during preparation. It is not a dessert to create at the last moment but can be prepared ahead and then torched at the table when serving.
1-2 T unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ + 2 T unsweetened cocoa
¼ + 1 T cake flour
6 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 c + 3 T fine grain sugar
1 T orange zest
1 T finely chopped dark chocolate chips, such as Guittard’s Extra Dark Chocolate Chips 63%
1 t vanilla
¼ c heavy cream
1/3 c dark chocolate chips
4 dashes orange bitters such as Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
1 T orange peel cut into small strips
Preheat oven to 400
Butter a 9 x 13 pan. Cover bottom with parchment paper. Butter paper. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons cocoa into pan. Shake to coat. Tap out excess.
With a fine mesh sieve, sift the flour and cocoa together. Sift again 3 more times. Set aside.
Place 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks (reserve whites) in a medium bowl. Mix on medium until blended, about 3 minutes. Add 1/3 cup sugar. Mix on medium until lemony in color and completely smooth. About 5 minutes.
Add the finely chopped chocolate and the orange zest. Mix on low for one minute to combine.
In a separate bowl, mix the egg whites until foamy, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form, about 3-4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon sugar. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3-4 minutes.
Add half of the cocoa mix to the egg yolk mix. Using a spatula, blend until incorporated.
Add half of the egg whites. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
Repeat with remaining cocoa mixture and egg whites until batter is combined.
Spread in the cocoa dusted pan. Place in the oven and bake 17-19 minutes until cake springs back when touched. Do not over bake!
Remove from oven and place on wire rack until completely cool to the touch.
Flip cake onto a cutting board. Peel off parchment paper.
Using a ...... cut circles from cake. Each cake will require 3 circles. There will be left extra. Enjoy! Set circles aside and cover.
Line a 8 x 8 pan with plastic wrap. Spread 2 cups ice cream in the pan. Place in freezer for 30 minutes.
Remove pan from freezer. Using a cutter slightly smaller than the cutter used for the cake, cut 8 ice cream discs. Place on a place and back in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Line a plate with plastic wrap. Make four mounds of ice cream, each measuring 2 tablespoons. Place in freezer for 30 minutes.
While ice cream is freezing, place the heavy cream and the chocolate chips in a medium size bowl. Place the bowl in the microwave for 30-45 seconds. Using a spatula, stir the cream and chips until the chips have melted and the sauce is smooth. This may take up to 15 minutes. Add 4 dashes orange bitters. Stir. Set aside to cool.
When ice cream shapes have frozen, place one cake disc on a dessert plate. Spread 1/2 teaspoon sauce over the cake.
Place one ice cream disc on top of the sauce. Repeat with an additional cake disc, sauce and ice cream disc.
Top with an ice cream mound and place in freezer for 30-45 minutes or up to 24 hours.
When ready to serve, beat the remaining egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tarter and 1/2 tablespoon sugar. Beat an additional 3-4 minutes. Add remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Beat until stiff (almost dry) peaks form, about 4-5 minutes.
Using an icing decorating bag and a rosette tip, fill the bag and cover the cake tower with meringue swirls. Can be place in the freezer at this point for up to 2 hours.
Using a kitchen torch, cook the meringue until golden brown using circling motions.
Drizzle the remaining sauce on the 4 plates. Sprinkle with shredded orange peel. Serve immediately.