Oeufs a la neige (a/k/a “Eggs in Snow,” “Île Flottante,” or “Floating Island”) isn’t just a French dessert — it’s an unforgettable experience. I’m talking about luxurious Crème Anglaise. And voluptuous clouds of meringue. And sweet strands of caramel. Are you drooling yet? Here’s the recipe:
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.
If you are not going to use your creme Anglaise right away, let it come to room temperature. Then cover it with cling film and pop it into the refrigerator. There, 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. Cool briefly on a wire rack. When thoroughly cool, you can wrap the meringue in cling film and store it in the fridge for a day or two. For longer storage, freeze 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.
As promised, here’s a printer-friendly version of the above deliciousness:
Oeufs a la Neige
- A standing mixer or hand-held electric beaters
- A 2 1/2 quart baking dish, buttered and dusted with sifted confectioners' sugar.
For the Creme Anglaise:
- 6 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups (350ml) hot milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Meringue:
- 6 egg whites at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the Caramel:
- 1/3 cup (80ml) water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
The Crème Anglaise:
- Put the egg yolks in a heavy saucepan, and beat them briefly with a wire whisk. Gradually whisk in the sugar. Continue beating until the yolks turn pale and thick -- about 3 minutes.
- 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.)
- 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 the 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.
- Off heat, stir in the vanilla. 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 (120°C). Butter a 2 1/2 quart baking dish, and dust it with sifted confectioners' sugar.
- 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.
- 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 saucepan or small Dutch oven. Without stirring, bring the syrup to a simmer over a medium-low flame. When the syrup turns a light caramel brown, immediately remove the pan from the heat, and place it in a dish of ice water. If the caramel hardens too quickly, or if it crystalizes into a hard mass, simply reheat it slowly over low heat.
Assembling the dessert:
- Pour the crème 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 and refrigerated 2-3 hours ahead of serving time.
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