I remember the first time I tried this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe (p 427) – île flottante – floating islands, sounds so much less romantic in English! It was back in 1988 when I was an exchange student living in Brussels and my host family had taken me out for dinner. They insisted I try this “special dessert” but I’d never heard of it. I struggled to understand the description (a combination of French, English and gestures – it was one of my first months in the country and even though I could fluently read French and understand most conversations, cooking vocabulary was not part of what we learned in Grade 12 French!) but soon it became apparent that I might just like this. A lot. Fluffy meringue, floating in a pool of crème anglaise and topped with a caramel sauce? Strange but delicious. Sign me up! The plate that arrived was much more fancy than I had been expecting and I felt very chic as I ate my strangely named dessert!
It’s actually pretty easy to make – though it has three components (meringue, crème anglaise and the caramel). For the two of us, I halved the recipe and made two meringues only in 4″ springform pans. I found these just a tad large for a single serving because it is a fairly sweet dessert. But you know, we soldiered on and finished them! This recipe called for the meringue to be baked in the oven as opposed to poached in milk and I think I prefer this style – I’ve eaten the poached ones once but I prefer the slightly more cooked oven-baked meringue.
The crème anglaise, on the other hand, I could easily have made the full amount and, well, just sipped on the stuff. I know – shameful but there is a dessert I used to buy in France that came with a “petit pot” of crème anglaise liquide (like this one) and it was all I could do to wait to serve the dessert instead of simply drinking the crème anglaise! Apparently someone else in our house agrees!
For the caramel, I used cajeta which I found lurking in the back of the fridge (amazing the things you find when you are forced to clean out your old fridge because you are getting a new one!) and it was perfect. I do like a proper caramel topping because I find the dessert does need some crunch – it’s a fairly soft dessert otherwise – but this was more than adequate as I prepared to go back to work after 10 week off! Easy was more than welcome!
Would I make these again? Absolutely, for a dinner party and with proper caramel – they do have a certain “wow” factor for sure!
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