It’s a sunny morning with the last hints of spring in the air when I make my way to Trade, Jody Adams airy, modern restaurant in the financial district. With its “think globally, source locally” vibe, the space is known for its lunch and after-work offerings of decadent small plates, shareables and flatbreads. And while Chef Adams does pop out of her kitchen to say hey, my appointment today is not with the James beard winning chef, but with up and comer, Christina Asmutis.
“I am the pastry chef at Trade – this is my first official pastry chef position,” Asmutis tells me. “I get to really work closely with the chef owner Jody Adams creating the menus and kind of changing the Boston restaurant scene. I just really like making tasty food that people want to eat.”
With a statement like that, its really no surprise that Christina chose a direction that allows her to create the exclamation point at the end of the meal. And while her creations grace the Trade menu daily, we’re meeting today to talk about a dessert that she inherited from pastry-chefs past: The Baked Alaska.
“Baked Alaska is definitely something that I was first introduced to in culinary school and it does kind of have this really intimidating factor,” Christina grins. “There's definitely some tricky processes involved. It takes a little bit of practice, but once you get your technique down it's like the sky's the limit. It's totally worth it. It's an awesome dessert.”
But despite the ‘intimidation factor’ the Baked Alaska has for us home-grown chefs, Christina re-assures me that it’s as easy as… well, meringue, I suppose. And for those of us looking to impress our dinner guests – or at least serve up a side of drama with dessert – Christina has a few simple tips to help us get our Baked Alaska technique down.
First, you have to get the right tools. “If you're about doing this at home buy a torch. You can get some on Amazon pretty cheap. That will really get your marshmallow toasty and keep your ice cream from melting.”
Next, Christina says that it’s vital to keep your cold ingredients as cold as possible for as long as possible.
“We scoop our sorbet one at a time… then freeze it again, and then pull it out, decorate them freeze them again,” Asmutis explains. “We only do a couple at a time so that way you're never letting those ingredients get too warm and you're going to have a disaster.”
And third? Well, it’s more of a word of encouragement than a tip.
“Be as creative as possible because you can use any flavors, any components,” Christine urges. “If you want a cake or cookie base, or Brownie base – customize it as much to the people who you’re serving as possible.
Here at Trade we make it so that it is as allergy friendly as possible which is pretty unique. We use sorbet from Toscanini's they bring us a coconut ice sorbet rather and mango sorbet and the creaminess or the coconut with the brightness of the mango really work well together. So, it's really fun to be able to make out every day.”
If you want to try out Christina’s recipe for a Baked Alaska, you can find it below! But, if like me, you’re more about the eating than the cooking? Head on down to trade and let Jody, Christina and their incredible team serve you a meal you won’t forget.
540 Atlantic St., Boston, 617-451-1234, trade-boston.com
Trade's Baked Alaska
Dacquoise (The base of your Alaska)
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup egg whites
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- Lightly toast the coconut.
- Whisk together the first four ingredients.
- Whip egg whites till frothy, slowly adding sugar and cream of tartar till it forms stiff peaks – but is not dry.
- Fold ingredients together until they are fully incorporated – be sure to be gentle, but thorough.
- Pipe the mixture in a tight spiral on a sheet tray lined with parchment.
- Bake at 300 degrees for 35 minutes.
- Do not peel off the parchment until they are cool.
- Freeze until needed.
Italian Meringue (The top to your Alaska)
- 11/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 cup egg whites
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla
- Boil the first measure of sugar and water to 238 degrees Fahrenheit.
- When your sugar reaches 220, begin to whip your egg whites until frothy.
- Begin to rain 1/2 cup of sugar into the egg whites, and bring to a soft peak – if your syrup is not ready yet, turn the mixer to speed one as you wait.
- Once your syrup is ready, pour it slowly down the side of the bowl into the meringue.
- Whip the meringue on medium high speed.
- When the meringue is cool and stiff, it is ready to use – this will take a few minutes.
- Scoop ice cream or sorbet onto a frozen tray or plate.
- Place the ice cream or sorbet back into the freezer to allow for ease of handling.
- After about a half hour, pipe a dollop of meringue onto the dacquoise and place your scooped ice cream on top.
- Pipe meringue over the entire surface of the ice cream. Be creative! You can make swirls, use different tips, write a message. Decorate two or so at a time, depending on how fast you are, so they do not melt.
- Re- freeze until you are ready to torch these babies in front of your excited guests!