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:
Oeufs a la neige 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:
To make the creme Anglaise, first separate 6 large, organic eggs.
Put the yolks in a heavy-based sauce pan.
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.
Beat the yolks with a wire whisk…
And then gradually beat in one 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. You have to add the sugar gradually, or the mix will turn grainy. Keep beating until the yolks turn pale and thick — about 3 minutes.
Now trade your whisk for a wooden spoon or a wooden spatula. We will be stirring the sauce (not beating it) from this point forward.
Stirring continuously, add 1 1/2 cups of hot milk* by droplets. The goal is to avoid scrambling the yolks, which will happen if you add the milk too quickly.
*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.
Off heat, stir in one teaspoon of pure vanilla extract…
And perhaps a tablespoon of dark rum.
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.
Using hand-held electric beaters or a standing mixer, start beating the egg whites at medium speed (No. 4 on my Kitchen Aid mixer).
When the whites begin to foam, add one 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt.
Then increase the speed to “high,” and gradually add 3/4 cup of granulated sugar…
Continue beating until the whites form fairly stiff peaks — about 5 minutes.
Now butter a baking dish, and dust its bottom and sides with confectioners’ sugar. Tip the dish over the sink to dislodge excess sugar.
Gently scoop the beaten whites into the prepared dish, and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
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.
Float big spoonfuls of meringue atop the Anglaise…
And then, using a fork, draw up some caramel, and drizzle it over the “island.”
I hope you’ll try “Eggs in Snow” some day. 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:
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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Jean Shepherd says
Hi Kevin! Love, love watching you make this charming recipe! (Did you lick that spoon off camera??). Kevin, I cannot find your information about those white oven proof gloves. I am interested to know more and also to get some for myself. If the info is on this site, I have not been able to locate it. Help?
Happy holidays to you and Mr. Fox…
Kevin Lee Jacobs says
Hi Jean – Info for the oven gloves is on my YouTube channel, in the description box below the “Winter Dinner Party” video here: https://youtu.be/MbJ-9aFHUow The gloves are wonderful!
Pat C says
I’m not sure why I stopped receiving your weekly newsletter but I would love to continue to get it. I looked forward to it every week.
It looks like this website is dead in the water. I hope you are ok, Kevin. I hope your power stayed on in the Arctic Blast and that your plumbing didn’t freeze.
Does anybody know what has happened to Kevin?