Sumptuous Îles Flottantes, "floating islands," are a rustic French dessert. Part custard, part meringue; think of these as decadent deconstructed egg desserts. We were first introduced to this old-fashioned dish on a trip to France, where Paul ordered it for dessert on a whim. He developed something of an obsession with this quirky dish, and would call ahead to restaurants to confirm they made it from scratch. On his fourth round of Îles Flottantes, he finally persuaded me to dip my spoon, and in a creamy instant, I too become a devoted fan. For Paul's birthday this month, we decided to create our own simplified and less sweet version of Îles Flottantes. We ditched the step of poaching the meringues, and baked ours scented with almond. We served these toasted almond meringues floating in a creamy bath of egg yolk thickened creme anglaise with a fresh berry sauce for a bright fruit contrast to all that creamy goodness. Note that the quality and flavor of your eggs make a huge difference in this dish, so use the best eggs you can find (we used local Clarion River Organics).
Yield: Serves 6
- 1 1/4 cups milk (we used 1%)
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 egg whites
- pinch (1/16 teaspoon) cream of tartar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups mixed berries (raspberry, blueberry, strawberries)
- Start with the Creme Anglaise: In a medium pot, heat the milk over low heat.
- While the milk is heating, separate the egg yolks from the whites. Reserve the egg whites in the refrigerator for the meringues. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks, sugar and salt for 2-3 minutes on high until they change from a runny deep yellow to a thicker light yellow.
- With the mixer running at low, carefully pour half of the hot milk into the yolk mixture, allowing the mixer to whisk the whole time. This tempers the eggs so you don't end up with sweet scrambled eggs.
- Scrape the yolk and milk mixture back into the pot with the remaining hot milk, whisk constantly to combine. Turn the heat to medium, whisking constantly until the mixture is thickened and coats the back of a spoon like a thick whipping cream. This step usually takes 3-5 minutes depending on your heat level. Do not allow the mixture to boil, or your eggs will curdle.
- Once the sauce is thickened, remove from heat, add the vanilla, and set on a bowl filled with ice water to cool down quickly, or, since we are usually too lazy for this step, we just keep whisking for another couple minutes to help the sauce cool down.
- If you find your sauce has curdled slightly, never fear, all is not lost, as long as the majority is still liquid, you can strain the sauce and still use it. Refrigerate the creme anglaise sauce until ready to use, with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
- For the Almond Meringues: Preheat the oven to 350.
- In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on high for about 2 minutes until medium peaks form. To check the status of your egg whites, dip the beater into the egg whites and pull straight up, and turn upside down so the peak is sticking up in the air. If the tip is firm but still curls over, you have medium peaks.
- Add the sugar, and continue beating on high for an additional 1-2 minutes until stiff peaks have formed. To test your peaks, repeat the process above -- this time looking for the peaks to stick straight up.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicon baking mat. Spoon or pipe the meringues into the baking sheet in 6 round balls. One way to control the shape is to put the beaten whites into a large ziplock bag and cut off the tip to make an improvised piping bag. These do not have to be pretty.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden. Cool for ten minutes. Grease a spatula and carefully remove the meringues from the baking sheet, they will be sticky.
- For the berry sauce: Puree the mixed berries until smooth. Strain through a fine meshed strainer and refrigerate.
- To assemble the Îles Flottantes: Serve the almond meringues surrounded by a puddle of creme anglaise sauce, fresh berries and a drizzle of berry sauce. Serve immediately and store leftovers separately.