A floating island is a dessert of French origin, a dessert consisting of meringue floating on crème anglaise
(a vanilla custard sauce). The meringues are prepared from whipped egg whites, sugar and vanilla extract, and then poached. There is some confusion about the name. In French cuisine, the terms œufs à la neige (eggs in snow) and île flottante (floating island) are used interchangeably. The latter is the source of the English name.
I have enjoyed poached, small, two-bite-size floating island/meringues served with crème anglaise, similar as seen on Yummy Chunklet‘s post. Then, I saw and was inspired by this baked bain-marie style version on Martha Stewart‘s shows on PBS TV station, which she saw at her friend’s party and was inspired.
This marshmallow like delicate tasting meringue can certainly be healthy and with fewer calories, if served with just fresh fruit purée sauce! When I was thinking of choosing an impressive looking recipe for my 100th recipe post, I could not resist the beauty of this dessert for one of the milestones of this blog.
Ile Flottante / Floating Island with Caramel
For the meringue
9 large egg whites (280 gr), room temperature
1 tsp cream of tartar
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
150 gr/5 wtoz (1 cup+ 2 Tbsp) caster sugar
—If caster sugar is not available at your neighborhood markets, grind same amount of granulated sugar in a food processor for 3~5 minutes.
Prepare a deep baking pan and boiling water for bain-marie.
For the caramel sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
4 Tbsp water + 6 Tbsp water
- Fill a large bowl with cold water and have it ready.
- Heat sugar and 4 Tbsp water in a small saucepan over high heat, swirling, until sugar dissolves. Raise heat to high. Bring to a boil. Cook, swirling occasionally, until dark amber, 3~5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Carefully stir in remaining water, 2 Tbsp at a time (careful, it sputters), and swirl to combine to thick consistency. Cook until caramel almost reaches its boiling point. Remove from heat. Dip bottom of pan into bowl of cold water to cease cooking.
- Place rack on middle oven shelf and preheat oven to 375F/190C
- Brush a 10 cup bundt pan (8½”/ 22cm Dia x 4″/ 10cm H) with vegetable oil, and invert onto a paper towel to drain excess oil.
- Whisk egg whites, cream of tartar, and ¼ tsp salt with a mixer on medium speed, until soft peaks form. Add caster sugar 1 Tbsp at a time, gradually increasing speed to high. Whisk until stiff, thick, glossy peaks form, occasionally scraping the side of the bowl with silicone spatula (~ 14 minutes on high), add vanilla and whisk for few more seconds.
- Spoon-in meringue to bundt pan, pressing to remove air pockets. Smooth with silicone spatula. Set bundt pan in a deep baking pan, place it in oven. Carefully pour boiling water into deep baking pan to cover bundt pan half way up, 2″/5cm.
Bake (bain-marie) until meringue is puffed and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. VERY carefully transfer deep baking pan with bundt pan still in it and place it on heat-safe counter. Let the bundt pan sit in the hot water for 10 minutes, and then remove and place it on a wire rack to cool completely.
- At this point, make the caramel sauce (recipe on top).
- Gently loosen sides of meringue from the mold, gently shake the mold to assure that the meringue slides, and after placing a serving platter over the mold, invert. The meringue should slip right out.
- Pour cooled caramel sauce over cooled meringue and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- When ready to serve, slice meringue and place it in plates on bed of crème anglaise. Drizzel/decorate with caramel sauce.
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