I first encountered floating islands at Le Petit Vatel, a quaint little bistro in Paris. is a light and delicate dessert that charmed me as soon as I saw it sailing toward the table. It starts with crème anglaise, a light, vanilla-scented custard. Poached meringue floats on the crème anglaise, and the whole thing is topped with toasted almonds and warm caramel.
The dish is shockingly easy to make; all in all, I used one small pot, one shallow dish, one slotted spoon and one fork. In typical Rivka form, I got sucked into whatever D was watching on TV and totally burned my caramel. As a last-minute substitute, I drizzled a bit of buckwheat honey on top. Most would say that the buckwheat overpowers the delicate vanilla notes. But hey, my palate simply isn't that refined. I thought it tasted darned good. Let this be a lesson to those who are easily intimidated by scary-looking recipes: this one is REALLY not hard! please, I implore you, try it. Try it, please. :)
It's a simple job, and it's sure to impress your guests. Mine spend at least five minutes staring suspiciously at me and at their ramekins, finding it hard to believe that they were meant to eat these little balancing acts. I'll certainly be making these again.
"Île flottante" or Floating Islands
crème anglaise: Meringue:
2 cups milk 2 cups milk
4 egg yolks 4 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Honey of any variety, or caramel.
Put the milk and the vanilla in a pot, and bring just to a boil. Meanwhile, mix the eggs and sugar until they combine and the sugar dissolves.
When the milk is ready, remove from the heat and add, by the spoonful, to the egg mixture, beating rapidly all the while. This is to "temper" the eggs: if you add them to the milk mixture all at once, little bits of egg will cook. This way, the egg mixture is slowly brought up to the heat of the milk.
Gradually add the milk until it has all been added to the egg, and continue to beat briskly. When all has been added, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.
Bring the milk to a simmer in that same pot (rinsed out) on low heat. Meanwhile, whip egg whites with an electric hand or stand mixer until they form stiff peaks. Add sugar by the spoonful until all has been added and meringue has thickened and is shiny. By now, milk should be hot. Scoop meringue by the spoonful carefully into the milk; allow it to poach one minute; flip, and leave one minute more. With a slotted spoon, remove meringue and put into a shallow dish that can accommodate all the pieces. Do not stack on top of each other. When all meringue has been poached, cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour.
Divide crème anglaise among 6 cocktail glasses, small bowls or ramekins. Top each with a piece of meringue. Sprinkle toasted almonds over meringue, and drizzle with honey. ENJOY!