I wouldn’t call floating Islands a no-brainer, but they do offer a surprisingly high return on the time and ingredient investment. Like most home-spun classics, there are several ways you can make them. This is how I do it. You’ll want to gather:
If you’re not in the habit of making caramel sauce and keeping it in your refrigerator in a squeeze bottle, now’s a good time to start. It’ll store indefinitely and only needs to be brought to room temperature to be used. As for the crème anglaise, you can use the yolks from the separated eggs to make that. For the truly lazy and/or time-pressed, some melted vanilla ice cream will stand in for the crème anglaise (it’s pretty much the same thing).
Set the milk on to simmer in a shallow saucepan while you prepare the meringue. Have a clean kitchen towel and a sheet pan lined with parchment or waxed paper ready. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer with the whip attached. Whip the whites until they’re foamy, then add the pinch of salt. Continue whipping to the soft peak stage, then with the machine running add the sugar in a slow stream. Whip to stiff peaks.
With the milk simmering — but not boiling — spoon two or three heaping spoonfuls of the meringue into the pan. Poach the meringue for 1-2 minutes, then flip and poach another two minutes more. Remove the meringues to the towel to drain. Add more spoonfuls of meringue to the pan and continue poaching in batches until you have about twelve of them. When they’ve all drained for a few minutes, remove them to the lined sheet pan, cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour, up to five hours.
When you’re ready to serve, place an island in a shallow bowl, spoon the crème anglaise over the top and finish with a drizzle of caramel sauce. Obviously, these are great for dinner parties since you can make all the components ahead and they take almost no time to assemble.