Why It Works
- Slowly including the sugar to the whipping egg whites ensures that it’s going to dissolve correctly.
- Whisking the meringue at a decrease velocity for longer leads to a stronger, extra steady foam that’s much less more likely to deflate.
For a very long time, île flottante—or floating island—was one thing I solely noticed in classic cookbooks and magazines. The easy, elegant dessert of baked meringue suspended in a pool of crème anglaise was supposedly a favourite of Julia Youngster’s and served on the famed New York Metropolis restaurant Le Cirque. From the Sixties to Eighties, île flottante and its shut cousin, oeufs à la neige, appeared to be all the fad: Related Press meals editor Cecily Brownstone referred to as ouefs à la neige a “dessert to recollect” in 1966; Leo Schofield of the Sydney Morning Herald described it as a “actual blockbuster” in 1983; and former New York Instances meals editor Craig Claiborne claimed it was his “favorite of all French desserts” in 1985.
These meringue-based desserts had been well-liked not simply at eating places, however at dinner events, too. Recipes for each abound in again problems with Gourmand, Bon Appétit, and newspapers throughout the nation. In some unspecified time in the future, île flottante and oeufs à la neige fell out of recognition. It wasn’t till I visited Paris in my early 20s that I lastly noticed it on the menus of bistros and brasseries in all places; right here in america, île flottante could also be relegated to the previous, however in France, the dessert goes sturdy.
“For the French, this dessert will not be solely a traditional, however typically a childhood touchstone,” baking skilled Dorie Greenspan famous in Fortunate Peach’s ebook All About Eggs. “In a rustic the place individuals are extra doubtless to purchase their desserts from a neighborhood pâtisserie than put together them at dwelling, îles flottantes (floating islands) stays a mainstay within the make-at-home repertoire, in some half as a result of it’s so simple and in some half as a result of it’s a naturally showy dessert.”
Île Flottante vs. Oeufs à la Neige
Although île flottante and ouefs à la neige have been used interchangeably by each cooks and writers, the 2 are—or are purported to be—ready in another way. The one hassle is that you will discover completely different solutions about what these variations are relying on the place you look. In keeping with Claiborne, a floating island ought to encompass a sponge cake brushed with liqueur (like Kirschwasser) and apricot preserves that’s then layered with rehydrated currants and chopped almonds. Whipped cream goes on the facet of the cake, and it’s then baked, sliced, and served with custard poured round it—no meringue in sight.
Then there are others, just like the authors of The Joy of Cooking, who declare that île flottante must be made with a meringue molded and baked in a ramekin set in a water bathtub. Seeing these variations of île flottante is uncommon, although. As a rule, the dessert comes out resembling oeufs à la neige: a poached meringue nestled into crème anglaise topped with praline or a spun caramel.
“For functions of readability,” Richard Sax wrote in his ebook Classic Home Desserts, “oeufs à la neige are usually thought of to be particular person egg-shaped meringues—’snow eggs’—whereas floating island is a single massive meringue afloat in a custard sea.” In keeping with Sax, the sponge model that Claiborne speaks of is an early French model, although it’s unclear when the cake within the dessert turned a meringue.
The Proper Meringue for the Job
The principle query for île flottante is what sort of meringue to make for it. Choices embrace cooked meringues like Italian and Swiss meringue, that are cooked as a part of the egg-beating course of (both with scorching syrup being poured into the eggs or warming the combination over a scorching water bathtub earlier than beating it), and French meringue, which is initially made with out warmth however then might be cooked after. Since now we have to bake our meringue with a view to slice it for île flottante, it appears unnecessarily fussy to need to make a cooked meringue that then will get baked a second time anyway, so French makes probably the most sense right here.
Making a French meringue is so simple as whisking the whites at low velocity till they’re frothy, then slowly streaming in a portion of the sugar earlier than rising the velocity of the mixer and including the remaining sugar. For a extra steady meringue, it is higher to not push the velocity of the mixer too excessive. Whereas quicker beating reduces the time it takes for the meringue to whip up, the ensuing meringue is extra more likely to deflate prematurely.
As soon as the meringue is made, it goes right into a baking dish and is then briefly baked till it reaches a young and lightweight marshmallow-y texture, good for slicing and floating on the crème anglaise. You’ve doubtless seen meringue cookies earlier than, the place meringue is piped into little stars or swirls and baked at a low temperature for a number of hours till crisp. Right here, although, the objective is not dehydration to the purpose of crispness, as a substitute it is simply to set the meringue till it is shiny and sliceable, which is why we bake it in a single mass at a barely increased temperature and for a shorter time.
Deal with Your île Flottante Like a Sundae—Ice Cream Included
Historically, île flottante is topped with a caramel drizzle or a nest of spun caramel, however there isn’t any purpose it’s a must to cease there. Provided that the crème anglaise is principally a pool of melted vanilla ice cream, I like to think about île flottante as a reconfigured sundae, open to all of the topping and condiment potentialities that permits. Some nice choices embrace pantry staples like crumbled cookies, toasted nuts, and fruit in varied types from dried to macerated and candied. Although crumbled amaretti cookies, candied citrus, and even chopped praline would all be scrumptious, there’s no proper or flawed solution to go about it. And should you actually really feel like holding issues easy, you would even skip the crème anglaise and simply soften a pint or two of fine high quality vanilla ice cream as a substitute. It’ll be simply pretty much as good—and nobody will know, except you need them to.