Saturday, November 15, 2008

Floating Island Dessert or Ile Flottante (loosely pronounced Eel Flow-tawnt’)

Recipe from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten/Adapted and Husband-Tested in Alice’s Kitchen

I didn’t know how to pronounce this dessert, but the photo in my cookbook inspired me to make it. I called my good buddy, Linda, who speaks French, to hear how it should be pronounced so that when company came for dinner, I could present this dessert with flare! Ile flottante is French for “floating island.” Bob and Jim asked for seconds and then Bob asked if he could lick his plate when his wife wouldn’t let him have thirds. It’s that good and definitely passes the Husband Test! I made all of the components, except the meringues, the day before our dinner party so I can say that this was a great recipe for entertaining. I served this on ruby red glass dessert plates to show off the pale yellow sauce with the snowy white meringues floating on the top. The original recipe for the meringues called for 8 extra large egg whites. It made twice as much as what was needed, so, I’ve halved the original number of egg whites. You’ll need a good thermometer to make the caramel. Local eggs can be found at Lost River Market & Deli. The vanilla beans (optional) can be found in the bulk spice section.

2 ½ cups sugar, divided

1 cup water, divided

1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided

1 ½ cups (5 ounces) sliced almonds (slivered almonds will work too)
4 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Creme Anglaise*, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the caramel, heat 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Cook over medium heat until the syrup turns a warm caramel color. Don't stir, just swirl it in the pan. Off the heat, add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla; be careful, the syrup will bubble violently. Stir and cook over high heat until the caramel reaches 230 degrees F (thread stage) on a candy thermometer. Set aside. (Cover after it has cooled and leave at room temperature until you are ready to serve the dessert. Then, heat it until it becomes liquid enough to drizzle.)

For the praline, combine the almonds with 1/4 cup of the caramel and spread them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the almonds are lightly browned. Allow to cool at room temperature and then break up in pieces. (Place in a bowl and cover until ready to use. You’ll have plenty to use for this dessert and even enough left over to sprinkle on ice cream later.)

Right before you plan to serve your dessert, make the meringues. Lower the oven to 250 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. For the meringues, beat the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until frothy. Turn the mixer on high speed and add the remaining 1 cup of sugar. Beat until the egg whites are very stiff and glossy. Whisk in the remaining teaspoon of vanilla. With dessert spoons place 12 mounds of meringue on the parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. (The meringues should be soft, not crispy like meringue cookies. That’s why they can’t be made too far in advance.)

For serving, pour creme anglaise on the bottom of individual plates. Place a meringue on top of each serving, drizzle with caramel sauce, sprinkle with praline, and serve. To make a day or two ahead, leave the caramel and praline at room temperature and refrigerate the creme anglaise. Bake the meringues just before guests arrive and assemble the desserts right before serving.

*Creme Anglaise: (pronounced crehm ahn-glays’)

4 extra-large egg yolks

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 3/4 cups scalded milk (heat milk just until you see bubbles around the edge—do not allow to boil)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoons Cognac

Seeds of ½ vanilla bean, optional

Beat the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch. With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs. Pour the custard mixture into a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thickened. The custard will coat the spoon like heavy cream. Don't cook it above 180 degrees F or the eggs will scramble! Pour the sauce through a fine strainer, add the vanilla extract, Cognac, and vanilla seeds, if using, and chill. (The sauce will be like thin custard. Thin enough to pour.)

Yield: 2 cups

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This was so easy and the entire table of 8 asked for seconds! Thank You! What a Great way to end a French Meal!