Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Meringue: Îles flottants (floating islands)

After rescuing custard from the jaws of defeat, I used it to make a traditional French dessert called Îles flottants which comprises poached meringues floating in the chilled custard.

To make the dessert, first make the custard (see below) and chill. Then toast some sliced almonds for garnish. I am always forgetting garnishes but I did not forget the tasty toasted almonds. MMMM! Then take 6 egg whites (left over from separating the yolks for the custard) and beat until creamy in a standing mixer. Next add a cup of sugar. Beat in mixer until stiff, shiny peaks form.

Divide custard among 8 bowls. The recipe serves 8 easily.

Put 5 cups of whole milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Drop meringue by 3 tablespoonfuls into the milk. Poach for 30 seconds on each side. Remove to bowls putting 2 poached meringues in each bowl. Sprinkle almonds around the custard. Serve.

For extra fun, make some spun sugar by bringing to boil 1 c. sugar and 1 c. water, stirring ocassionally. While it is boiling, oil a large sheet of waxed paper with butter. Boil the sugar until it turns caramel. This happens magically all of a sudden when the sugar reaches the right temperature. The sugar is actually burning but don't worry about that. Take it off the heat stirring constantly. When you pull up the sugar w/ a spoon, a ribbon should form. Once that happens, dip a fork into the sugar and drizzle all over the waxed paper until you've used all the sugar. It will look like a caramel Jackson Pollock painting.

When Jackson Pollock cools, you'll be able to peel it from the waxed paper and break it into pieces. A nice piece of Jackson Pollock looks pretty with the floating custard.

This recipe is easy and inexpensive except for the vanilla bean and the cream in the custard. I wonder if it is possible to use whole milk only in the custard. I think it would work since the egg yolks are the thickening agent. And by all means, use vanilla extract. If you do buy a vanilla bean, don't forget to save the pod to put in a jar of sugar to flavor it.

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