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French Fridays: Ile Flottante

Floating Island Ile flottante dessert on eatlivetravelwrite.com

Photo © Kyla Zanardi Styling by Dara Sutin

Floating Islands…. it’s a lovely name for a dessert, isn’t it? It’s even nicer in French – Île Flottante !

This dessert is an easier version of another French classic, œufs à la neige (snow eggs), where spoonfuls of meringue are poached in milk then served floating in a pool of crème anglaise (a thin custard sauce). I don’t know about you but I find making meringues hard enough without the added issue of poaching them! Even if you’re baking them, piping them out onto a baking tray (and keeping them the same size/ shape) can be challenging.

When I was working on recipes to include in In the French kitchen with kids, I came up with the idea of baking the meringue in a small ramekin instead, which is so much more doable – especially for young chefs and little hands. This recipe didn’t end up making it into the book, sadly (so many recipes and words, so few pages allotted!) but it’s one I love still (maybe more since it is a “reject”), especially this easier version!

Yield: 6

Ile Flottante (Floating Islands)

Ile Flottante (Floating Islands)

The classic French dessert - Île Flottante - made easy! No poaching, no piping, no fuss!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes

Ingredients

For the crème anglaise:

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (250 mL) 2% milk
  • 1 cup (250 mL) heavy (35%) cream
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the meringue:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for greasing the ramekins
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

To serve:

  • Caramel sauce or dulce de leche (optional)

Instructions

Make the crème anglaise:

  1. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a medium bowl until well combined. Place the bowl on a damp cloth or paper towels to hold it in place later when you are whisking one-handed.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the milk and cream in a small pot over medium-high heat until simmering. Do not boil.
  3. Remove the milk-cream mixture from the heat and gently drizzle about 1/4 cup (60 mL) of it into the egg yolk mixture, whisking the yolks constantly (this is where the damp cloth helps prevent the bowl from dancing all over the countertop). You want to whisk constantly so that you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.
  4. Continue to drizzle all the warm milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly as you do so.
    Pour the mixture back into the pot and cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring it with a wooden spoon, until the custard thickens slightly. It should be the consistency of heavy cream. Remove from the heat.
  5. Place a metal sieve over a small bowl or jug and strain the custard through the sieve.
  6. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, with the wrap touching the surface of the custard to avoid a skin forming, and refrigerate until chilled and ready to use.

Make the meringue

  1. Preheat the oven to 300˚F (150˚C). Butter the ramekins and place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  2. In a metal or glass bowl, using handheld electric beaters on medium speed, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks, about 2 minutes.
  3. With the beaters running, gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. When all the sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to high and whip for a further 2 minutes to shiny, stiff peaks.
  4. Gently fold in the vanilla with a rubber spatula. You should only need a couple of turns of the spatula to fold this in. You don’t want to deflate the meringue.
  5. Divide the meringue between the ramekins, smoothing the tops with the back of a spoon or a rubber spatula. Rap the ramekins gently on a hard countertop to help the meringue settle.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes—the meringue might start to go a little brown on top, but that’s okay—then remove from the oven and place the ramekins on a wire rack.
  7. Allow to cool to room temperature before you serve.

To serve:

  1. Gently run a knife around the edges of the ramekins to loosen the meringue.
  2. Divide the crème anglaise evenly between six shallow bowls and place a meringue on top of each.
  3. Drizzle the caramel or dulce de leche over the top of the meringues, if using.

Notes

Don’t worry if you overcook the crème anglaise slightly and it is a little bit lumpy. Every stovetop is different, so it’s just a matter of figuring out whether you need to cook for 3 minutes or 5. In any case, that’s what the straining step is for—to remove any bits of cooked custard! Your crème anglaise should be smooth and liquidy with no lumps at all.

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Et voilà – The classic French dessert – Île Flottante – made easy! No poaching, no piping, no fuss!

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5 Responses to French Fridays: Ile Flottante

  1. Christine Cooper October 21, 2019 at 09:23 #

    Thanks for sharing this recipe Mardi. I have a dinner party coming up and was looking for a simple, yet slightly elegant dessert and I think that this will hit the mark. I had never considered using ramekins to create little meringue “pucks” but I love this idea! That is a very versatile idea that could be used in many different ways. I’ll let you know how this goes!

    • Mardi Michels October 22, 2019 at 06:11 #

      Oh you MUST let me know how this goes!!

      • Christine Cooper October 27, 2019 at 13:05 #

        Mardi, quick question. This creme anglaise, I’m just wondering is there any way that I can make it lemony? Or would that be a no go on that?

  2. Mr. Neil November 3, 2019 at 11:00 #

    This is a wonderful dessert, a treat every time I get. 🙂

    A nice light way to end a meal…and even better paired with a French dessert wine or off-dry bubbles from the Loire.

    • Mardi Michels November 6, 2019 at 06:40 #

      I agree, so sad this didn’t make it into the book!

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