Category Archives: Floating Islands

Making Floating Islands

My daughters, my neighbors’ daughter, my neighbors and my wife were all stunned at how good this dessert was. On the face of it, it just doesn’t sound all that interesting. Meringue poached in milk? Oh, yippee. You really have to try this to understand how remarkable it is. With your caramel sauce and crème anglaise at-the-ready, start making your islands. Pour the milk into a saucepan and set it on to simmer.

Pour the whites into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whip.

Whip the whites to a froth and add the salt.

Whip on medium-high until the foam is opaque and start adding the sugar.

Whip to the stiff peak stage.

Then spoon up some of the meringue and drop it into the simmering milk. Poach from 1-3 minutes. I noticed that the longer the poaching goes on, the more the sulfur notes of the eggs comes out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The point is that these can be poached rather lightly if you wish.

Flip them with a spider or a spoon (I went over to a metal spoon after this photo, it was just too darn big for this pan).

When done, remove the islands to a clean kitchen towel or a paper towel to drain.

After a few minutes move the islands to a parchment or waxed paper-lined baking sheet.

Cover them with plastic and refrigerate at least an hour, up to five hours.

To assemble, simply place an island on a plate and spoon over the chilled crème anglaise.

Finish with caramel sauce and serve!

I should mention that caramel sauce is just one potential topping. “Spun” caramel is a very popular topping in French homes, and produces a nice crunchy texture contrast. For that, you’ll want to have a shallow pan containing a cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water standing by. When the islands are plated, swirl the sugar over high heat until it turns a dark amber. Insert the end of a fork into the caramel and — carefully — drizzle it over the islands.

If you prefer caramel sauce but still want a crunch, some sliced, toasted almonds are a nice addition.

Filed under:  Desserts & Cookies, Floating Islands, Pastry | 12 Comments

Floating Islands Recipe

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:

2 cups milk
4 room-temperature egg whites
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 recipe crème anglaise, chilled
caramel sauce

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.

Filed under:  Floating Islands, Pastry | 6 Comments