This take on baked Alaska actually skips the whole baking part of the process, but preserves some of the characteristics that makes this such a classic dessert. You just make a creamy, fluffy filling from whipped cream and tangy crème fraîche, sweetened with roasted pineapple and dulce de leche. After freezing this base, you whip up some Swiss meringue and cover the whole thing with it, employing your finest piping skills or using the back of a spoon to create peaks across the surface before taking a kitchen torch to it.
1 8-inch dessert, or 6-8 individual mugs, jars, or cups
- Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Toss pineapple chunks in a bowl with sugar and ½ teaspoon of salt to coat, and transfer to prepared baking sheet (taste your pineapple-if it's not super ripe and sweet, you can use an additional tablespoon of sugar here). Roast for 15-20 minutes, until pineapple is a deep yellow and beginning to caramelize around the edges (check the bottom and flip if coloring too quickly). Remove pan from oven and let cool to room temperature.
- Once pineapple is cool, you can prepare your filling. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer or by hand), combine crème fraîche with heavy whipping cream on medium-low speed, then increase speed gradually to medium or medium high, and bring mixture to a stiff peak, meaning that when you lift your whisk out of the mix and point it in the air, it should make a point that stays vertical. Add the dulce de leche, which will be a little clumpy at first but should eventually dissolve and turn your cream a deep golden brown. Whisk this mixture at medium speed back to a nice stiff peak, 30 seconds to 1 minute more. Remove from mixer. Season with ½ teaspoon of remaining salt and taste-it should be bold tasting and a little salty (it will mellow in the freezer), and add more salt, a tiny pinch at a time, if you like.
- Fold in your cooled, roasted pineapple chunks, and transfer this mixture to either an 8-inch-square baking dish or any number of glasses of your choosing (if proceeding with making and torching your own meringue, make sure to use a cup, jar, or glass that can handle the heat of a torch). Cover the surface with plastic wrap, and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.
- When ready to serve, prepare your meringue. Combine your egg whites, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a heat-proof bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), and whisk to combine. Set the bowl over a small saucepan filled with a few inches of water, set over a medium-low flame. Warm mixture, whisking periodically, for 3-5 minutes, until your mixture is hot to the touch, or hot enough that you don't want to keep your finger in it for very long (about 160°F on a thermometer). Remove from the water bath and whip on a high speed until you get stiff, glossy peaks, approximately 3-5 minutes.
- Remove your dessert from the freezer and dollop your meringue over the top. You can employ any number of decorative techniques: use a spatula to make billowing waves across the surface; use the end of a spoon to tap across the entire surface, pulling up as you go along so you are left with a bunch of tiny, wispy spikes in all directions; whip out your piping bag and tips and really go ham. Or, my favorite, a faux finish: flatten the entire surface of your meringue with a spatula (offset or otherwise) and draw diagonal lines with a sharp knife 1 ½ inches apart in each direction, so you are left with a cross-hatch pattern across the surface (cleaning the knife after each swoop so that you make lines rather than drag the meringue), then use the back of a spoon or a small offset spatula to lightly tap the center of each square and lift up to make tiny spikes. What you will be left with should look like the pattern on the outside of a pineapple. Next, working from the center outward and using circular motions, torch your meringue until it is a deep golden brown. Serve immediately. (As an alternative, you can skip the entire meringue-making process and dot the surface with premade whole or crushed meringues for a similar flavor).