Easter Lunch highlight #1 - French Floating Islands
Floating islands ( Île flottante) is a very delicate and easy to prepare French dessert. No baking involved, just poached meringue islands floating in a velvety, hassle free stirred custard sauce called Crème anglaise (English Cream- good old custard !!!!) . Drizzle caramel all over and your sweet note is ready for presentation. Custard can be made ahead and chilled, but meringue needs to stay outside to keep its shape. Though making and plating of this dessert is simple, there is still room for creativity. Poach spoonfuls of whipped whites to make freeform islands, or make elegant shapes using a pastry bag and icing tip. Either way it looks beautiful. If you are not quite a plain custard aficionado, flavor it with a liquor of your choice, or add a few drops of your favorite flavor extract.
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup (200 grams) superfine granulated white sugar
In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment beat egg whites on low-medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites until it hold soft peaks. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Simmer 3 cups of water. Drop spoonfuls of meringue into the simmering water to make freeform islands. You could use pastry bag fitted with a wide opening tip to make more uniform shapes. Cook for 2-3 min, turning the islands once in between. Keep at room temperature till serving.
2 cups of Fresh milk
4 egg yolks
½ cup of granulated sugar
Add sugar to milk, and boil with constant stirring. Whip egg yolks until they are light and frothy. Pour half of the boiling milk to the beaten yolks and stir vigorously. Fold the yolk mixture to the boiling milk. Cook the milk / yolk mixture stirring constantly across the bottom of the pan on a medium heat. Stop cooking when the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Quickly transfer the pan to a cold water bath to finish cooking. Strain, and refrigerate, stirring every twenty minutes for the first one hour.
Heat 3 tsp sugar mixed with 3 tsp water in a thick bottomed pan, Stir with a wooden spoon till the mixture thickens and acquires a golden brown color.
On a shallow dessert plate, spoon some Crème anglaise, and top with a meringue island. Spoon caramel over the meringue and serve decorated with fresh mint leaves and optionally, slivered almonds.
I used a custard recipe I had for a long long time, and since I have used 4 egg yolks for cream, decided to do the meringue with 4 whites. You could make this recipe richer, by substituting ½ cup milk with heavy cream. Vanilla bean is often added to Crème anglaise as a basic ingredient. This is one good recipe to show off your stock of fresh eggs and milk.