I thought this one would be, and it should be, an easy one. However it wasn’t, our custard didn’t want to thicken, and I knew not why, neither did my friend, and beautiful “hand model”, Lilla.
Still, Floating Islands made another lovely Friday episode shot in her kitchen.
For the blog post, therefore, I decided to coat it rather as a new skill experience, and also, some low light photographic challenge. It doesn’t always need not be that “super simple & delicious” thing after all, right?
As to “delicious”, it still was. As long as you like really sweet and mellow tastes and textures. This pud might not impress your domestic “Viking”, but may awake the “Gallant” and keep him at your feet. Well, as I found out, its origins are related to France (called oeufs à la neige; and îles flottantes are very similar but may contain layers of alcohol – soaked dessert biscuits and jam). Therefore no wonder to some it may stand for a culinary lightly frivolous appreciation of the meringues (whipped egg whites & sugar, often baked but poached in milk in this recipe) and crème anglaise (light cream of egg yolks, milk, sugar, vanilla) – it is sweet, sensuous, full of lust and temptation..
For both Lilla and me, this dessert also carries another sweet attribute – a childhood memory. When she suggested this recipe to try for one of my spring blog posts, we both had its particular presentation in our minds, based, quite needless to say, on how typical we thought it was in our country, and also, how we used to eat this. For me, it definitely brings on the times of kindergarten after which, sometimes, usually my Mum took me to a cafe in the centre of our old town – which was one rather dark, steamy place – as perceived by me – the four year old little person, but filled with the most gracious agreeable scents.. Wonderful, it was, and will stay in my mind, safely.
Recreating and bringing to life these very memories was like making history coming alive, and things almost forgotten and left behind once, came to life, fresh and inviting as ever.
I will not be precise in measures, I must admit, we worked these measures out, after only one try – as we do not intend to try this recipe any time soon, and the one we used, didn’t work so well. However, we still would like to keep a record of how to revive this symbol of our early lives – for the two girls in their mid thirties (if anyone wishes to relate their age, smile & wink), but rather will give you some clues of what you will need. It is up to you then, find your perfect version.
As you could have noticed, the dessert has two main parts – and that is the yellow custard base, on which, meringues of well whipped egg whites float – yes, float, and keep chillin’. Smile.
You will definitely need eggs – their whites and yolks separated carefully. make sure not a tiny bit of yolk stays in any of the whites – any of it would prevent them from whisking well into the snow peaks. We used six of them.
For the custard, you’ll need to mix the yolks with about 120 g sugar and 1 tsp good quality vanilla bean paste, or at least vanilla aroma. But we most certainly prefer the paste, or vanilla seeds still. Just saying.
Whip the egg whites together with 150 g caster sugar – do this gradually. Start whisking the whites, and once they start thickening, add a spoon of sugar every now and then, till you get these beautiful glossy white peaks – and see them stay firm in the bowl turned upside down – a testing trick my Dad once taught me.
With this done, you will need to warm about 500 ml milk with 1 tbs caster sugar. which will serve as the pouching liquid. Do not bring it to the boiling, keep the heat low.
As shown in the pictures, create quenelles of egg whites, that you place onto the milk, poach and turn every 5 minutes to cook them from both sides. This was a new experience for me, and I liked how gently they floated, and cooked well, too. Let them cool and dry on a grilling rack – we also used a kitchen paper towel, and found it helpful. Repeat until you use all the whites. Keep the milk for the custard. Bits of cooked white eggs or milk skin may not look impressive in your dessert bowl, so you can sieve the milk and keep it clean in another pan for the crème anglaise.
Whisk the yolks, sugar and vanilla bean paste well, till it becomes of pale cream consistency. Pour the cream over the milk, stir and whisk over the low heat for about 5 minutes until it’s nicely smooth. Then remove from the heat.
We served our Floating islands in glasses with almond and hazelnut flakes. If you wish so, you can also toast them. For that, preheat a heavy – bottomed pan, and once hot, place the flakes evenly all across the pan, toss and turn frequently till they start becoming golden brown. Remove fast from the pan, don’t keep them in it, because this may cause you burn them as the pan holds the heat a while.
This dish may be served warm as well as chilled, and we like both versions, I myself prefer the cooler one. Hope you will enjoy it as much as we did – cooking or picture taking. Bon appétit!