Today, June 6th …
The Baron Brisse was perhaps the first food journalist in the world. Not much seems to be known about him, apart from the fact that he wrote for “La Liberte” in the mid-nineteenth century, and that he published a book called “366 menus and 1200 recipes” in 1868. The recipes were apparently gleaned from various places – the good Baron, as befitted a gentleman of presumably aristocratic birth, did not himself do any cooking – and even at the time many of the dishes were considered outlandish.
On this day in 1866 his newspaper column reported the dinner of a Chinese delegation at the Grand Hotel in Paris, at which “baked ices” were served. The story has become one of several about the “true” origins of “Baked Alaska”.
The basic ingredients – ice-cream and meringue – have been around for quite a few centuries, so the debate is about who put them together in such an outrageous way. Other contenders are a list of the usual suspects:
- Thomas Jefferson, who served some sort of ice-cream with a crust in 1802.
- Benjamin Thompson, aka Count Rumford, in Monaco
- Charles Ranhofer at Delmonico’s, supposedly to mark the occasion of the purchase of Alaska.
Unfortunately, Jefferson and Rumford did not leave recipes for us. Ranhofer’s “Alaska, Florida” – which seems oddly named if it was to celebrate Seward’s Folly - contains apricot jam, cake, and banana and vanilla ice-creams, which is in complete contrast to the recipe recorded by the good Baron, which is very minimalist, and more like baked-not-fried ice-cream.
Make your ice very firm, roll out some light paste thin, and cut it into small squares, place a spoonful of ice in the centure of each piece of paste, and fold it up carefully so that no air may get in, and bake. The paste will be cooked before the ice can melt. In this dish gournamds have the pleasure of eating hot light paste, whilst their palates are cooled by the refreshing ice.
In a nice piece of synchronicity, for those readers who like such things, on this day in 1912 the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th Century began at Novarupta on the Alaska peninsula. Cold on the outside and hot inside? Sounds more like the “Inverse Alaska” of the physicist Nicholas Kurti, discussed in an earlier Old Foodie.
Tomorrow: The Three Emperors' Dinner.
On this Topic …
Charles Ranhofer’s recipe for “Alaska, Florida” from his famous book “The Epicurean” (1894) can be found on The Companion to The Old Foodie site here.
The story about “Inverse Alaska” was retropectively posted when the blog was started, and appears in the March archive, so after you click here you will have to use Ctrl+Find for “November 18”.
Quotation for the Day …
I doubt the world holds for anyone a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice cream. Heywood Brown (1888 – 1939).