Floating island (dessert)
|Place of origin||France|
|Main ingredients||meringue (egg whites, sugar and vanilla extract), crème anglaise (egg yolks, vanilla, milk, sugar)|
A floating island is a dessert of French origin, consisting of meringue floating on crème anglaise (a vanilla custard). The meringues are prepared from whipped egg whites, sugar, and vanilla extract then quickly poached. The crème anglaise is prepared with the egg yolks, vanilla, and hot milk, briefly cooked.
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 sometimes used interchangeably; the latter is the source of the English name. The difference between the two dishes is that île flottante sometimes contains islands made of "alternate layers of alcohol-soaked dessert biscuits and jam."
Floating island consists of a meringue served floating on a milky custard sauce. Some variations use a thicker sauce, served on top of the dumplings, but usually the milk mix is thin, almost liquid, and the dumplings "float" on top.
The egg whites are beaten with sugar and poured into a mould lined with a thin layer of caramel. Alternately, the whites can be shaped with spoons and allowed to cook gently in sweetened milk with vanilla flavoring. A custard is made using milk, sugar, vanilla, and egg yolks; the mix is cooked in a bain-marie for a few minutes, but must remain thin enough to pour. The custard is topped with the egg whites dumplings. The dish is served at room temperature or cold.
Another variant is to make the meringue in a fluted cake tin, where sugar is caramelised in the bottom of the cake tin, then the meringue is added and steamed in a water bath in the oven. This is then placed in a container and the custard is poured into the middle, which makes the "island" float.
In the 1957 film Desk Set, Katharine Hepburn's character Bunny Watson served Richard Sumner (Spencer Tracy) floating island dessert.
In Jack London's story, The Apostate, floating island is a dish that holds a near-mythical ideal to the working class lead character.
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