French Fridays with Dorie.
“Floating Island” is the English name for the French dessert “île flottante” or “œufs à la neige” . It uses a French custard dessert sauce called “crème anglaise” which when you translate it means “English creme”. Oh those crazy French. In my family Floating Islands was a storied dessert. One which we were told my grandmother would prepare for my mother and her sister when they were little girls by using the traditional preparation of poaching spoonfuls of meringue in a sweetened milk before floating them on a base of custard sauce.
My mom never, ever made it for us.
When I was of the age my mother was enjoying her Floating Islands we were heavily into the 1970’s health food scene and such sugary sweet desserts were not something we would enjoy.
“How would you like a piece of fruit for dessert or one of these carob chip cookies that taste like sawdust?”
Eventually we would relax the rigid house no-sugar rules but my mother still never rushed to make us Floating Island but it has remaind on my to-do list through the years having seen it made umpteen times on cooking shows. When it showed up on our French Fridays with Dorie radar I knew I was not going to let this one pass even if I have to post it on a Saturday. I wasn’t really looking forward to the messy milk poaching so when I read the recipe and saw Dorie’s method for cooking the meringue was to do so in one piece in a pan and cut later I was quite relived. Atta girl Dorie!
Because creme anglaise is essentially an uncooked ice cream custard I decided to serve it up in traditional ice cream dishes with a drizzle of caramel sauce topping. I suppose in a pinch you could do what I’ve seen Ina do and just use melted vanilla ice cream but I find that this makes for a way too sweet sauce and if there is one thing this dessert doesn’t need it is extra sweetness. In fact, I’ve toned down the sugar content from Dorie’s version and still found it too sweet.
The final preparation is very easy making it a winner for entertaining and a nice one to find a nice way to make it your own. (See recipe below for ideas.) I added a splash of bourbon the the creme anglaise (because nothing says Trevor like bourbon) and topped with a drizzle of caramel sauce. I would think a nice fruit liquor or run would work nicely as well. A last minute addition to these were some sliced nectarines to swim in the dish but they were gone much too fast for me to grab a photo. Quelle domage.
Floating Island (“île flottante”)
Once you get the basics of this dessert down I would encourage you to adapt it and make it your own. Creme Anglaise is essentially unfrozen ice cream custard, something I got down to a science thanks to my devotion to David Lebovitz. For this dessert, however, I would suggest using a tad less sugar than seems right for an ice cream. For me a splash of bourbon is all I need to make any recipe “my own”. A highly recommended addition that ties in nicely with the caramel sauce if you top with that…even if it is not all that French.