Floating Islands; or the dessert the French got wrong

The second I (Babs) realised how complicated this recipe was I knew I was doing the technical  challenge. I’ve only eaten floating islands once in my life and I remembered not liking them very much, so I may be slightly (and by that I mean that I am completely) biased against them. My main issue is poaching meringue, it remains quite eggy. In a way that  baked or swiss or italian are not. I tried a recipe I found on BBC Food


by Michel Roux Jr. knowing that if there’s going to be a good, and trustworthy recipe this would be it. Like I said, poaching meringue simply isn’t for me, so for our Tuesday night feast, I decided to make my own version.

I remain shocked that the meringue floated. You could have bowled me over with some spun sugar!

I made Lemon and Basil Creme Anglaise (which I’ve renamed Creme Irlandes) with Italian Meringue.

Ingredients Creme Irlandes

6 egg yolks

1 lemon

120g sugar

1 pt whole milk

3 sprigs of basil

1. Mix the egg yolks, sugar and the juice of the lemon in a bowl.

2. Put the basil (washed) in the milk.

3. Heat the milk and basil to simmering, for 4-5 minutes.

4. Pour the milk mixture slowly into the egg mixture making sure to whisk the whole time. Then put back into the saucepan. Keep it over a medium heat and keep stirring. In about 6-7 minutes it will become thicker and coat the back of the spoon. I think it took a little longer than Creme Anglaise because of the lemon, but it may have been my dodgy oven. The most important thing is that you keep an eye on the mixture and keep stirring.

5. Strain the creme Irlandes, throwing away the basil and leave it to cool. I found it thickened even more as it cooled.

Ingredients Italian Meringue

6 egg whites

340g (12oz) Sugar

1 cup water or enough to cover the sugar in a saucepan

tsp lemon juice

You need a sugar thermometer for this recipe. Ours went missing, I spent ages looking for it, luckily thanks to QI I knew if I started repeating the word, I’d have an easier time finding it. It worked!

You will also need an electric whisk, a mixer or incredibly strong arms and lots of stamina. I strongly advise the mixer, I don’t own one but it takes over 10 minutes of whisking with the electric whisk and it would be handy to just leave the mixer at it.

1. Put sugar in a saucepan with enough water to cover.

2. Bring the sugar mixture to the boil to 245F. Keep an eye on this mix but you can get on with the egg whites as it will take a few minutes for it to reach 245F.

3. Whip the egg whites to soft peaks, do this on a low setting, it helps to loosen the protein strands apparently.

3. When sugar (it’s now syrup) has reached 245F, (or 240F if you’re impatient but certainly don’t go over) add the syrup very slowly to the egg whites whisking the whole time. The hot syrup cooks the egg whites and you should keep mixing until the mixture/bowl is cooled completely.

To serve you put the Creme Irlandes into a bowl, top with the meringue. You can (and probably should) do spun sugar but I figured the caramel was now in the meringue rather than on top.



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