Île Flottante isn’t just a fabulous French dessert — it’s a mouth orgasm. I’m talking about voluptuous clouds of meringue, floated on a bed of luxurious creme Anglaise, and drizzled with thin strands of caramel. Are you drooling yet? Here’s the recipe:
Île Flottante (or “floating island;” pr. “eel flow-tawnt”) rocked my world when I was fourteen years old. That’s when Juliette Miller — my friend Gerald’s French-born mother — made it for me. One bite and I was hooked.
Here’s the photographic, step-by-step recipe, followed by a printer-friendly copy-and-paste version:
Meanwhile, put the 6 egg whites in a large mixing bowl, and set them aside. They will mount better when they warm to room temperature.
*I poured my milk into a glass measuring cup, and then heated it in the microwave for about 3 minutes. If you are adamantly opposed to microwaving, then by all means heat your milk in a sauce pan on the stove. Just make sure the milk doesn’t scorch. It should barely come to the simmer.
Set the saucepan over a medium-low flame. Stir slowly but constantly, until the sauce becomes thick enough to coat the back of your wooden spoon, as pictured above. Promptly remove the pan from the heat.
Warning! Be careful not to over heat, or the yolks will scramble. I can tell you that thickening always occurs just before the simmering stage. You’ll know that the sauce is about to reach the simmer when a cloud of steam arises from the pan.
A note from reader Carrie Nation, along with my response:
Dear Kevin — I don’t permit alcohol in my home! I’ll stick with my pure vanilla extract and skip the rum, thank you very much. Sincerely, C.N.
Dear Carrie — I don’t mean to shock you, but pure vanilla extract contains 41% alcohol. That’s right — it’s even boozier than rum. But you can use a variety of imitation vanilla which does not contain spirits. Check labels to be sure. Meanwhile, have fun smashing your own windows for a change. Love, Kevin
If you are not going to use your creme Anglaise right away, let it come to room temperature. Then cover it with plastic wrap and pop it in the fridge. It will stay fresh and wonderful for up to 3 days.
Bake the meringue on the lower-middle rack of a preheated 250°F oven for 35-40 minutes. Then let it cool briefly on a wire rack. When thoroughly cool, you can wrap it in plastic and keep it in the fridge for a day or two. For longer storage, freeze the meringue for up to one month.
Shall we make the caramel? Stir together 1 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of water in a heavy-based pot. Without stirring, heat the mixture over a medium flame until the sugar dissolves and the syrup turns a light caramel brown — about 5 minutes. Immediately place the pot in a pan of ice water to stop the heating. If the mixture seizes up — meaning it crystallizes into a hard mass — just gently reheat it until it softens.
To assemble the dessert, pour the creme Anglaise onto a serving platter or bowl, and then place chunks of mergingue on top. Or, do what I do, and pour a spoonful or two of the creme into an oversized cocktail glass, as pictured above.
One final note: If it’s any encouragement, you can assemble and refrigerate the finished dish several hours before your well-dressed guests arrive.
As promised, here’s a printer-friendly version of the above deliciousness:
Île Flottante (Floating Island)
Kevin Lee Jacobs (www.kevinleejacobs.com)
Ingredients for 6 servings
For the Creme Anglaise:
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups hot milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum (optional)
For the meringue:
6 egg whites at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the caramel:
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
Special Equipment: A standing mixer or hand-held electric beaters; a 2 1/2 quart baking dish, buttered and dusted all over with confectioners’ sugar
The Creme Anglaise
1. Put the egg yolks in a heavy-based saucepan, and beat them briefly with a wire whisk. Gradually whisk in the sugar, and continue beating until the yolks turn pale yellow and thick — about 3 minutes.
2. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, gradually stir in the hot milk by droplets. (If you add the milk all at once, you might scramble the eggs.)
3. Set the pan over medium heat, and stir slowly but continuously with the wooden spoon until the sauce becomes thick enough to coat the back of your spoon. Thickening will occur just before the simmering stage, or when a puff of steam arises from the pan. Do not overheat, or you will scramble the eggs.
4. Off heat, stir in the vanilla and the optional rum. If you are not going to use the sauce right away, let it come to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Place the oven rack at the lower-middle position; preheat the oven to 250°F.
1. Beat the egg whites at medium speed. When they begin to foam, add the cream of tartar and the salt. Then increase the speed to “high,” and gradually add the sugar and the vanilla. Continue beating until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks — 4-5 minutes.
2. Gently pack the meringue into the prepared baking dish, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes. The meringue is done when a wooden skewer or a plastic straw inserted in the middle comes out clean. Set the baking dish on a rack to cool. When completely cool, the meringue can be placed in an airtight continue and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Or, freeze the meringue for up to one month.
Stir together the sugar and water in a heavy-based saucepan or small Dutch oven. Bring the syrup to a simmer over a medium-low flame. When the syrup turns a light caramel brown, immediately remove from heat, set the pan in a dish of ice water. If the caramel hardens too quickly, simply reheat it over a low flame.
Assembling the dessert — Pour the creme Anglaise onto a serving platter or shallow bowl, and top it with chunks or spoonfuls of meringue. Then, using a fork, drizzle thin strands of caramel over the meringue. Alternately, you can make individual portions in dessert goblets or large-size cocktail glasses. The dessert can be assembled several hours in advance, and then refrigerated.
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