My mom and I recently visited a small downtown thrift shop filled with hundreds of little treasures, including a very wide selection of vintage kitchen supplies. I somehow even got my hands on a beautiful embroidered apron from the 1940′s that I’m in love with, despite the fact that I can’t bring myself to wear it while baking and risk dirtying it. My mom generously treated me to quite a few goodies after our hunt through the baking supply section. Among the many retro tools and trinkets I ended up taking home was an Anne Willan cookbook, costing Mama Lew a whopping 99¢.
Leafing through the pages of my new French cookbook, there was one recipe that immediately caught my eye. It was a frozen dessert topped with a browned meringue, a play on a Baked Alaska, except with a hollow pineapple shell taking the place of the cake layer. The finished product made for a very dramatic presentation, one that may even be considered a slight bit tacky (Anne Willan is a legend, and the book is from 1980… so, we’ll give her a break). For whatever reason, I felt very compelled to recreate this dish. And that’s exactly what I did.
While Anne filled her pineapple shell with pineapple sherbet, I chose to go with a “Honey-Pineapple Semifreddo,” inspired by the increasingly popular summertime treat of grilled pineapple drizzled with honey. I decided to grill and glaze the pineapple pieces in the dessert, which added a caramelized sweetness to the final product. I assembled the dessert in Anne’s extravagant pineapple boat, and also did my own version in a smaller pineapple “bowl,” which turned out to be a little easier to handle and serve out of, and less messy. Both the bowl and the boat turned out very delicious and super cute… the type of thing that looks like lot of work went into it. In all honesty, the most difficult part of this dessert was trying to figure out what to call it.
I brainstormed lots of ideas, including “Baked Hawaii” (instead of Alaska), or anything else suggesting a tropical honeymoon. I bounced a few off Whitney, who admitted that every time I brought up “the pineapple,” all she could think about was Doody calling Frenchy a “beautiful blonde pineapple,” in her favorite childhood movie, Grease. I loved the Grease reference! I also loved the fact that she called it her favorite childhood movie. I, too, loved the movie as a kid, but my mom decided maybe it wasn’t the best childhood movie after my sassy 8-year-old self starting saying things like “Eat your heart out,” and asking what a “hickey from Kinicky” was. Anyway, as the dish came from a French cookbook published right around the time of the premier of the movie, and the “beautiful blonde pineapple” reference was describing French-y, I decided it was a perfect fit.
The “Beautiful, (Honey-)Blonde Pineapple”
Inspired by: Grilled Pineapple, Baked Alaska, “Ananas en Surprise”
Adapted from Anne Willan’s “Ananas en Surprise,” LaVarenne’s Basic French Cookery
Adapted from “Honey Semifreddo,” Tasty Palettes
20 ounces crushed pineapple, plus juice
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold
zest and juice of two lemons
pinch of salt
1 egg, plus 6 egg yolks
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
1¼ cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup honey
–recipe yield: about 8-10 servings
In a small, heavy bottomed saucepan, combine crushed pineapple, juice, brown sugar, ½ tablespoon butter, zest and juice of one lemon and salt. Whisk ingredients together over medium-low heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and, stirring occasionally, allow mixture to simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by half and pineapple is caramelized. Remove from heat and pour mixture over mesh strainer, reserving all the liquid and replacing it back into the saucepan, along with about 2 or 3 tablespoons of the strained crushed pineapple shreds. Discard the excess dry crushed pineapple. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 of the egg yolks and the cornstarch. While whisking, pour in a few tablespoons of the hot pineapple juice mixture into the yolk mixture, slowly warming the yolks without cooking them. When yolks are brought up to temperature, pour them into the saucepan containing the pineapple juice mixture. Heat mixture over medium-low heat while constantly whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon. When mixture has thickened (about 2-4 minutes), remove saucepan from heat and stir in juice and zest of remaining lemon, along with the remaining ½ tablespoon cold butter. Once butter has dissolved, transfer pineapple mixture to a small bowl and continue to stir until cooled. Once the mixture has cooled, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic wrap to sag into the bowl and cover the entire surface of the mixture so that it doesn’t develop a skin. Allow mixture to set up in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.
Line the inside of a 9×5 inch large loaf pan with plastic wrap In a large, chilled glass bowl, beat the heavy cream until it just reaches stiff peaks. Place the bowl in the freezer and allow it to chill while preparing the rest of the ice cream. Prepare a double boiler fitted with a very large glass bowl. Combine the remaining 4 egg yolks, the whole egg, and the honey in the large bowl of the double boiler over medium-low heat and beat the mixture for 8-10 minutes, or until pale yellow and tripled in volume. Remove bowl from heat and continue to beat on high to cool and thicken the mixture. Once the thick yolk-honey has cooled to lukewarm, fold it into the chilled whipping cream until there are no colored streaks visible in the mixture. Gently pour the ice cream base into the lined loaf pan and place it in the freezer to set. Once the ice cream has been been freezing for about an hour, remove the pineapple-honey mixture from the refrigerator. Discard the plastic wrap and stir the set custard to loosen it up. Remove the loaf pan containing the semi-frozen ice cream from the freezer and dollop pineapple custard in heaping tablespoons onto the ice cream. When all of the custard has been dotted onto the cream, insert the tip of a butter knife into the cream and run it through the cream a few times to cut and swirl the custard into the cream, creating a marbleized effect. Replace the loaf pan back into the freeze allow swirled ice cream to set up and freeze overnight.
Rum Scented Meringue
This meringue shouldn’t be prepared until about 20 minutes before serving time. The rum extract adds a nice depth of flavor to the meringue, but can easily be replaced by vanilla extract.
4 egg whites
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½-¾ cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon rum extract
Prepare a double boiler fitted with a large glass bowl over medium-low heat. Using an electric mixer, mix egg whites and salt until slightly foamy. Add in cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks have been achieved. Gradually add tablespoon after tablespoon of superfine sugar, continuing to beat on medium speed. Continue to beat mixture for 7-8 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and mix in the rum extract. When the meringue has been brought to stiff peaks, the meringue is ready.
To prepare the pineapple shell, the pineapple must be sliced and hollowed. For a bowl-shaped shell, simply slice across the width of the pineapple below the leaves, leaving only the bottom portion to be hollowed out. For a boat-shaped shell, slice across the entire length of the pineapple (my cookbook sliced through the leaves as well in order to make two boats with the halves, I chose to make one boat and leave the leaves in tact for a prettier presentation). Using a sharp paring knife, slice around the inner perimeter of the halved pineapple (boat or bowl). Cut the inner portion into cubes and, using a spoon or the knife, remove the cubes. Scrape the inside of the hollowed pineapple to smooth out the inner-surface. Place the hollowed bowl or boat shell(s) into the freezer to chill. Any leftover pineapple should be cored and sliced.
In a small bowl, whisk together the following ingredients:
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon honey
½ tablespoon lemon juice
Pour the glaze over the sliced pineapple pieces and toss until coated. The pineapple can, at this point, be grilled (over medium-low heat for about 3-5 minutes, turning once) or used as is. If choosing to grill the pineapple, be sure to brush the pieces with the leftover glaze afterward as well. Sprinkle the glazed pineapple pieces into the chilled pineapple shell(s) in a even layer along the bottom. Scoop the set, frozen semifreddo into each shell directly on top of the layer of pineapple pieces. The shell should be completely filled by a mound of the scoops of semifreddo. Place filled shell(s) back into the freezer and prepare the meringue.
Transfer meringue into a pastry or plastic zip-top bag, (fitted with a large star tip, if desired). Remove filled pineapple shells from freezer and pipe meringue onto the top of the shell, completely covering any semifreddo or sliced pineapple pieces. Brown the top of the meringue-covered pineapple shell using a kitchen torch, or place the dessert in the oven directly under a preheated broiler for 6-8 minutes, or until desired golden brown color has been achieved. Serve immediately.
To serve, scoop directly through the meringue down to the bottom of the shell to include pineapple pieces, ice cream and meringue into each serving. It will be messy! Garnish with an extra slice of grilled and/or glazed pineapple and a drizzle of honey.