Îles flottantes (floating islands)
A good meringue is cooking sorcery. To those who have watched a soufflé go from a fluffy success in the oven to a deflated plate of sadness when served, I offer my sympathy. To achieve perfection in cooking, we sometimes need to cheat. The addition of cornflour to egg whites may be viewed as a form of impurity, but it provides some stability to the otherwise volatile aerated mixture, so I say go for it.
Îles flottantes are like a sweet version of eggs Benedict – where we basically serve an egg in a sauce of itself. The flexibility these dishes afford in using different flavours and ingredients is a big draw for me. It’s like a blank canvas to display our seasonal joys. Here I have used passionfruit and orange because I love the acidity they bring to the party. But you could just as easily use stone fruit or quince.
Egg whites are actually better for this application once they are a little older. For best result, separate the eggs and place them into small sauce bottles some days prior. That way, when it comes to weighing them, it’s easy to squeeze them into the measuring container.
Time: 45 minutes prep + 45 minutes cooking
For the crème anglaise
- 250g egg yolks (about 10 large eggs)
- 200g sugar
- 15g cornflour
- 800ml milk
- 200ml cream
- vanilla bean, split
For the meringue
- 350g egg whites (about 10 large eggs)
- 150g icing sugar
- 10g cornflour
- oil or butter for greasing
- 4 passionfruit
- zest of 2 oranges
- Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they start to turn a creamy white, then sieve the cornflour over the top and fold it through.
- Combine the milk and cream, bring to the boil with the vanilla bean, then strain this over the yolk mixture. Do this in three batches so as not to cook the eggs. Once incorporated, pour this mixture back into a pot and cook very gently over a low heat, stirring constantly. The mix should become the consistency of pouring cream. It will thicken more as it cools.
- Whisk the egg whites on a low speed in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment for a few moments before slowly adding the icing sugar and sieving in the cornflour. Turn the speed up to medium/high then add a pinch of fine salt. Whisk until peaks form and the mixture becomes silky smooth. Be mindful not to over whisk as this will separate the whites.
- Spray the inside of eight coffee/tea cups with oil or butter, then spoon the meringue mix into the cups. Cook in a water bath in a 150ºC oven for 12 minutes.
- Scatter the orange zest onto a plate and microwave it on the defrost setting for three minutes.
- To serve, divide the custard between four serving bowls and scoop the passionfruit over the top. Place two meringues into the custard and then finish by sprinkling the dried orange zest over the meringue.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on November 13, 2021 as "Fancy island".
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