Floating Islands

Why don’t we make this dessert all the time? Airy and sweet soft meringue “islands” float over a pool of crème anglaise (custard sauce), with drizzles of caramel and chocolate sauce–it’s one of France’s best desserts, ever. Rich, cool, creamy, and dreamy, it’s by no means difficult (though you will need to plan ahead to let things chill in the fridge). I find it one of the best make-ahead desserts on the planet, and I can guarantee you that almost nobody else on your block (or maybe even in your city, if it’s mid-sized) is serving it tonight. And it’s inexpensive–basically, just get a bunch of eggs, some butter and cream (for the caramel sauce), and some chocolate (for the chocolate sauce).

P.S.: This is one of the few desserts that tastes even better than it looks….the crème anglaise and caramel sauce make it so.

Makes 4 servings

6 large egg whites
Pinch salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 recipe Crème Anglaise, chilled
1/2 cup high-quality purchased chocolate sauce
1/3 cup high-quality purchased caramel sauce

In a large bowl, beat egg whites and salt on high speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar while continuing to beat to stiff peaks.

Fill a large skillet half full with water; bring to a boil. Reduce boiling water to a simmer. Using an oval-shaped soup spoon, scoop up oval mounds of the meringue the size of the spoon. Using a small spatula, scoot the oval from the spoon into the simmering water. Repeat quickly with five more ovals to place a total of six ovals at a time in the simmering water. Let them cook in the simmering water for 1 minute; turn them over with a slotted spoon and let them cook 1 minute more.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer poached meringues to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain, then transfer to a clean plate. Repeat with the rest of the meringue until you have 12 “islands” total (you will have more meringue than you need, but that’s okay—continue cooking until you have at least 12 island that look good). Chill for at least 2 hours, loosely covered with plastic wrap. Transfer to an airtight storage container if chilling longer than 8 hours. They’ll keep for 2 to 3 days.

To serve, if needed, gently warm the sauces to drizzling consistency. Spoon about 2 tablespoons chocolate sauce in each of 4 serving bowls. Divide chilled Crème Anglaise evenly among bowls. Top each with 3 poached meringues. Drizzle with caramel sauce and a little bit more chocolate sauce.

Tips for poaching meringues:

Do not allow the water to go above a simmer (water is simmering when just a few bubbles rise but burst before they reach the surface).

Avoid overcooking; one minute per side should do it. When finished cooking, ovals should still be soft and airy, but not sticky.

The ovals will puff up while they poach, but will deflate a little after they stand. (If they deflate while you’re cooking them, you’ve cooked them too long. Discard, and start again—you’ll have plenty of meringue so don’t worry about making a few mistakes).


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2 comments to Floating Islands

  • I need to settle a question from my granddaughter….What is the name of the oval pan often used by the French to make this “floating island” dessert. And isn’t there another name of the dessert? Thank you.

    • Wini

      Hi Lorraine. I’m not sure about the name of the oval pan. I don’t know if I’ve seen it. If you can send me a link to a photo of one, I’ll be glad to take a look and see if I can solve this mystery.

      Iles Flottantes are also called “oeufs a la neige” — eggs in the snow.

      Thanks for writing!

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