The confused and tumbled shoulders of its great base rose for maybe three thousand feet above the plain, and above them was reared half as high again its tall central cone, like a vast oast or chimney capped with a jagged crater. But already Sam was more than half way up the base, and the plain of Gorgoroth was dim below him, wrapped in fume and shadow. As he looked up he would have given a shout, if his parched throat had allowed him; for amid the rugged humps and shoulders above him he saw plainly a path or road. It climbed like a rising girdle from the west and wound snakelike around the Mountain, until before it went round out of view it reached the foot of the cone upon its eastern side.
The path was not put there for the purposes of Sam. He did not know it, but he was looking at Sauron's Road from Barad-dûr to the Sammath Naur, the Chambers of Fire. Out from the Dark Tower's huge western gate it came over a deep abyss by a vast bridge of iron, and then passing into the plain it ran for a league between two smoking chasms, and so reached a long sloping causeway that lead up on to the Mountain's eastern side. Thence, turning and encircling all its wide girth from south to north, it climbed at last, high in the upper cone, but still far from the reeking summit, to a dark entrance that gazed back east straight to the Window of the Eye in Sauron's shadow-mantled fortress. Often blocked or destroyed by the tumults of the mountains furnaces, always that road was repaired and cleared again by the labours of countless orcs.1
Yet another foray into Lord of the Rings food madness. The drama of the locale is undeniable. Frodo and Sam have toiled and struggled to the mountain, exhausted, starving and parched. The pockmarked plain of Gorgoroth is left behind and they climb literally to meet their doom. Needless to say, I need something dramatic for my party to mark this pivotal location and its events. Flames came to mind, and from flame, I thought Baked Alaska and meringue.
In the end, I decided to go with ice cream for this one for a number of reasons. First, the party will be in the winter, and I will be able to hold the prepared dessert outside on my sub-zero porch, well wrapped of course, for several days. This is extremely important considering all the other things that need to be made. Second, the shape of store bought quarts and pints is conducive to a volcano cone, and requires little fancy kitchen footwork. Third, the conflation of a frozen flaming dessert with a volcano struck me as funny. Since the food for my party is based on whimsy, it seemed appropriate. Never mind that by this chapter I always want to give Frodo and Sam breakfast, nuncheon, tea, supper and hot baths. *sniffle*
*Ahem* My June nodermeet gave me the opportunity to test the following recipe out with enough guinea p-- er... honored guests to eat up the prototype. There is a picture of the prototype at http://www.cjcurrie.com/2004jun12/12.jpg thanks to La petite mort. The same pic is at my website at http://www.geocities.com/chattering_teeth/nodermeet/2004june12/12.jpg but La petite mort's site doesn't have the bandwidth limitations that mine has! I have pondered the experience of making the first Baked Orodruin, and after much thought, I've come up with this new and improved recipe/plan.
Serves 9 mortal Men, 7 Dwarf lords, 3 Elven kings and 1 Dark Lord. Or 17-20 guests.
- Materials and Tools:
1 pint ice cream in a round tub (in this case, Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia)
1 quart ice cream in a round tub (in this case, Starbuck's Coffee)
A batch of brown sugar meringue (recipe follows)
a 1 inch thick x 7-8 inch in diameter cake layer to serve as the foundation (in this case, I used a batch of yellow cake, just about any cake would work as well, including a large brownie.).
A tiny quantity of rolled fondant, marzipan, almond paste, or other edible and sculpable compound. (About a teaspoon is plenty. This is just to make a little doorway. To tell the truth, even a black gumdrop would do....)
A small amount of food coloring, ideally powdered or paste, and a small brush for application.
A piece of drinking straw, about 3 inches long.
- An empty yogurt container or small glass/cup to use as a cone form.
- A strip of waxed paper or parchment paper to fit as a collar around the container or cup.
- A candy thermometer
- A small, heavy bottomed saucepan
- A stand mixer with a whisk beater and a 4.5 quart or larger mixing bowl. (If you haven't a stand mixer, you'll need to get a helper.)
- A kitchen torch or some other way of applying fire to brown the meringue. (The shape is not conducive to using the broiler in your oven!)
- A clean pair of kitchen shears or scissors, for removing the ice cream cartons from the ice cream
- A rubber spatula and assorted other devices for measuring, stirring, scooping, etc.
- Optional: About half a cup of strawberry or raspberry preserves that has been thinned with water or juice, and blended into a smooth sauce; A few tablespoons of rum or brandy for flaming; about a quarter cup of cocoa in a wire strainer or dusting dispenser.
Note: If you are doing this much in advance of serving, you will need to keep the entire confection frozen until about an hour before serving. It will be quite large and the surface will be soft, so only do so if you have enough room so it doesn't come in contact with other items, and remember to wrap it against odors and freezer burn. Keep in mind, the meringue will not freeze hard. It will remain soft, and thus cannot be handled with impunity, even when frozen.
The other choice is to make this not long before serving. As long as the cake layer is baked in advanced and permitted to cool (chilled is better), and the ice cream is frozen hard, the uncut Baked Orodruin will hold without melting too much for easily half an hour after construction, and perhaps longer depending upon how hard the ice cream was frozen. The warm meringue will cause some softening and surface melting, but once it has cooled on contact with the ice cream, it will serve as insulation. In either case, whether holding it frozen for several days or whipping it up just prior to serving, make sure to save the pyrotechnics for when everyone can watch. They last, at best, for less than a minute.
Step 1: The Tower of Cirith Ungol
Make a small doorway to indicate the entrance to the Sammath Naur out of the small piece of rolled fondant or whatever you've picked. The easiest is to roll it out until it is about 1/8 of an inch thick, and using a small, sharp knife, cut it into the desired shape. I made my test doorway not quite an inch tall, cut 3 spikes into the top, and cut a small hole in the center for the actual doorway, something like this:
/ /\ \
| / \ |
| |__| |
Taking your food coloring (unless you're using a gum drop or something else that's already dark), tint the doorway as desired on the front and edges.
All of this can be done days in advance and the tiny piece of candy left to dry out. Either way, avoid handling it directly until the food coloring has dried, or else you'll probably stain your fingers and whatever else you're handling. Pick it up by a toothpick through the hole if you need to move it.
The rest of the advanced preparation, other than the cake round (which I'll assume you already know how to do) is mostly putting things in a handy location because you'll have to move fast when the meringue is ready. So, know where your ice cream is, have all the listed tools available, and decide what sort of serving platter you will be using for your Baked Orodruin.
When you're ready to make the meringue, place the cake round on the platter you've picked out, and proceed to:
Step 2: The Land of Shadow
The meringue is made with brown sugar, which has a slightly more interesting flavor than your standard meringue. It is also an Italian meringue, which not only means your egg whites are cooked, but the whole thing sets as it cools, leading to a stable, lofty meringue with great texture. All in all, I find it much more appealing than a white sugar meringue, and the quantity on a serving of Baked Orodruin is enough for a pleasant topping, without being absurd and cloying. There is one major caveat with this recipe. I've taken it from a Lemon Meringue Pie recipe in Fine Cooking Magazine and the author notes that different brands of brown sugar respond very differently, most likely due to the varying moisture levels in the sugar.2 I've given the variant for Domino brand light brown sugar. I strongly suggest you do a test run if you don't have access to this brand of sugar.
- Meringue Ingredients:
1.25 c. light brown sugar, firmly packed.
0.75 c. sugar
0.5 c. water
1 c. egg whites, room temperature (from about 8 large eggs, be sure to measure for the correct quantity of whites). For the highest loft, be sure to use room temperature whites, and the freshest eggs you can find. Also, don't let the smallest speck of oil, grease, or egg yolk get mixed into the whites, as they will impair the loft.
0.25 tsp. cream of tartar
Put the egg whites and cream of tartar into your large mixing bowl (4.5 quart or larger), and attach the whisk beater.
Put the sugars and water into your small saucepan and clip the candy thermometer to the side so the tip is well submerged. Boil the sugar over high heat. BE VERY ATTENTIVE! You are looking for two temperatures. When the sugar reaches 248°F (firm ball stage) and when it reaches 254°F (several degrees shy of hard ball stage). The syrup will take some time to reach the first temperature, but will reach the second one very quickly. Do not let it exceed the second temperature while you are cooking it; the sugar will continue to cook after you take it off the heat anyway and this is fine. However, if you cook it past the second temperature, it will also still cook as you handle it. This way leads to disaster as at a certain point overcooked syrup will harden and sink upon contact with the cool whites, and not beat in. The safe temperature window requires you to take the syrup off the heat and start adding to the whites as close to 254°F as possible.
When the sugar reaches the first temperature, turn on the mixer and beat the whites at medium-high speed. When the sugar mixture reaches 254°F, immediately take it off the heat, remove the thermometer, and lower the mixer speed to medium. Slowly pour the sugar syrup into the egg whites. Be sure to avoid the beater, or the beater will throw the syrup to the sides of the bowl and it won't get incorporated into the whites. Once the first third of syrup hits the bowl, it won't spit as much and you can add the rest of the syrup in a faster stream until it's all added. Don't worry if it looks like a thin brown mess, it will beat up beautifully.
Increase the beater to high and whip the whites until they form firm, yet still malleable, peaks (about 3 minutes). The meringue will still be warm. This is important as it stiffens as it cools, and you'll need it to be workable for several minutes.
Once the meringue is ready, set it aside and start moving fast. Take the ice cream out, and using the scissors, cut the ice cream out of the quart carton. Place it upside down onto the cake layer so that if forms a truncated cone sitting on the larger base. It's easiest to cut straight down to the bottom of the carton in 2 or 3 places, place the ice cream upside down on the cake layer, and then peel the carton sections up until you can remove the whole carton. Then, immediately cut the pint carton apart, and place the pint directly on top of the quart, again upside down.
Next, place a large dollop of meringue directly on the top of the ice cream ''cone.'' Place the empty yogurt cup on top of the this dollop of meringue and press it down so it is level, and there is about an inch of meringue between the ice cream and the cup. Wrap the sides of the cup with a layer of waxed paper or parchment paper, so that the cup can later be removed without sticking to the meringue. A bit of tape may be useful here....
Start applying the meringue to the sides of the ''cone'' using large dollops, and smoothing it out with the spatula. Aim for about a one inch thick layer all around.
Use extra care shaping the crater. Smooth an inch thick layer of meringue about an 0.5-1 inch from the bottom of the crater. Place the piece of drinking straw where you will have the doorway, so that it crosses the entire thickness of the layer of meringue, and the end is flush with the paper sleeved cup. Continue to build the cone of the crater until it is about 2 inches higher than the drinking straw.
While the crater sets a bit, texture the surface of the meringue however you like, to indicate lava flows, etc. You can make shallow grooves to indicate fissures and leave rough areas as if tumbled by earthquakes. It is not necessary to cover the edges of the cake, but you can do so if you have enough meringue. Use up all the meringue, as there's not much else you can do with it! Make sure not to poke through the meringue to the ice cream at any point, or the ice cream will leak out from the hole as it melts.
Once you've textured the surface of the cone, drag a clean spoon or some other utensil from the spot where the straw is sticking out, and around the circumference of the cone in a downward spiral, to indicate Sauron's Road to the Sammath Naur. It should go counter clockwise if you are drawing it from the entrance downwards. Follow the description quoted at the beginning of this writeup as much or as little as you like. In my conception of Orodruin, this represents only the narrow part of the mountain, and not the wide base. However, the door is a little too close to the top. It needs to be there because of the later pyrotechnics. However, if you wanted a deeper cone, you could forgo the pint of ice cream, and using a larger cup and a taller collar of paper, make a much deeper crater. You would absolutely have to use the straw and vent the doorway properly, however, or there won't be enough oxygen in the bottom of the crater for your mountain to burn.
Once the Road is drawn, carefully twist then remove the straw and press the doorway gently to the meringue so that the hole in the meringue is framed by the doorway. It will stick readily.
Step 3: Mount Doom
Remove the cup from the crater, and then slowly and carefully remove the parchment paper by rolling it up. Gently nudge back the meringue if it sticks unduly to the paper; a cone collapse at this point would be very bad!
Now, you need a marshmallow that will fit into the cone with roughly half an inch clearance all the way around. If the marshmallow is too big, remove a wedge and stick it back together again so that as little of the sticky interior is exposed as is possible. It is the cornstarch on the exterior of the marshmallow that permits it to burn readily.
Prep your marshmallow to burn by gently toasting it with your kitchen torch on all sides except for one flat side. Do not let it catch fire or char. The only purpose of this is to encourage it to catch fire more readily later, so go for an even toasty brown. Place the marshmallow untoasted side down into the center of the crater. Note, a stale marshmallow would probably work better for this, but I haven't tried one.
Other flaming alternatives: Since I don't generally serve the crater and its ice-cream-less quantity of meringue, you could use a small, loosely wadded ball of waxed or parchment paper. Use caution as small bits of flaming paper may float out of the crater if you do this. Or, use the dehydrated mini-marshmallows from instant hot cocoa mix. According to rootbeer277, who tested these mini-mallows, they burn for about 10 seconds each and readily light. So placing a pile of them in the center of the crater and lighting one, would work.
Next, apply your kitchen torch to the exterior of the meringue, toasting it brown to enhance its texture and generally getting rid of some of its pallor. A little extra attention to the Road will make it more visible. If any of the optional ingredients are desired, now is the time to apply them. Holding the wire strainer over the sides of the cone (don't get any on the marshmallow as it may hinder burning), gently sift small quantities down onto the meringue and blow lightly to get it stick to the sides. Spoon the thinned strawberry sauce into craters and trickle some down the sides. Make a moat of strawberry sauce, if desired. Get creative. Chocolate Ovaltine makes great small rocks and ash, as does instant coffee (if you don't mind the strength of the taste). The meringue holds up suprisingly well to liquids, so if there are spoonlike depressions, you can pour in a little warmed rum or brandy at the last minute and light it right before the marshmallow. Make sure to use at least a tablespoon whereever you are planning on lighting the alcohol, as it burns off quickly, and will leave a much depleted puddle of rum, etc. Also, keep in mind that they won't be visible unless the room is dark, as they will burn blue.
If you are planning to store this frozen for any period of time, do everything except for the strawberry sauce, the marshmallow, and the rum or brandy. Place it in a box or carefully wrap it in foil so that no parts touch the meringue. Freeze for up to 3 days. After 3 days, you will need to start worrying about freezer burn with such a loosely wrapped item. Allow the meringue to warm up a bit prior to unwrapping, or you will have condensation on the meringue.
Step 4: Fire and Light
First, dim the lights for greater effect. Then, take your kitchen torch when everyone is ready and watching, and light the marshmallow. If it is adequately vented by the hole, it will burn between 30-50 seconds, until all the available surface has turned black. Light from the flames will shine through the doorway as well.
Once this evanescent delight is over, it's time to serve. Take a knife and spoon or cake server and remove the top bit of meringue, exposing the ice cream. Then, cut straight down into the ice cream and divide it into wedges. Quarters is easiest for the first bit, as the pint is quite small. Then, cut horizontally to free each wedge. Place in dishes and proceed with the rest of the ice cream, increasing the number of wedges as the ice cream increases in diameter. The last layer will have cake, as well. Make sure to leave a good thick layer of ice cream on top of the cake, and to cut smaller wedges, or your guests might resent not getting enough ice cream!
1 Tolkien, J.R.R., The Lord of the Rings, Houghton Mifflin Co. 1994 (single volume text): 920-921.
2 Callinan, Brigid, ''Lemon Meringue Pie, Taken to New Heights,'' Fine Cooking Magazine, May, 2000, #38: 50-53.