This week’s Tuesday With Dorie selection is Floating Islands, chosen by Shari of Whisk: a food blog. Thanks, Shari! You can visit her blog for the recipe.
If you’re a Barefoot Contessa fan like me, this probably isn’t the first you’ve heard of Floating Islands (also known as Ile Flottante) - delicate clouds of meringue floating in a sea of custard with a drizzle of caramel over top. In Barefoot in Paris and an episode of her show, Ina Garten features this amazing French dessert. I made Ina’s version of Floating Islands a few years ago and, for its laborious preparation, it was well worth the effort. Click here for Ina’s recipe.
I was also lucky enough to eat Ile Flottante when I was in Paris in the spring of 2006 – and I was hooked. Below is a photo of Ile Flottante from some amazing little Parisian bakery whose name I have long forgotten – it was in the Montmartre district, if it helps.
As you may have guessed, I was very excited to try Dorie’s version of Ile Flottante.
Dorie’s recipe differed greatly from Ina Garten’s, and, for me at least, was much less successful. Dorie’s meringue uses less sugar than Ina (1/4 as much), and contains no cream of tartar. Whether it was the low sugar or the fact that the page facing this recipe talks about how many people have ruined their meringue by over-beating and I was a bit nervous about meeting the same fate, I believe my meringue was too soft. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until after I had already cooked the meringues.
The cooking process was also very different – Ina Garten’s version involves baking the meringues at a low temperature in the oven, whereas Dorie’s requires poaching the meringues in milk. I much preferred Ina’s version. It tasted like real meringue, whereas Dorie’s method yielded meringues that tasted like cooked egg whites. Again, it may be because the meringues were too soft in the first place - but I think it's because of the low amount of sugar in the recipe.
I also had issues with the crème anglaise, which was weird, because I’ve made it several times before and never had any issues – must have been an off night. The crème anglaise was below the target temperature (180F) but still scrambled. I used a strainer and was able to get about half a cup of custard out of the batch. Maybe my candy thermometer was off?
I used some leftover caramel syrup from my last Daring Baker’s challenge – you definitely don’t want to make this recipe without the caramel as it adds a ton of flavour.
All in all, I’m sad to say I won’t be making Dorie’s version of this recipe again. Maybe it was me; maybe it was the recipe, but either way, I’ll be sticking to my tried-and-true Ina Garten recipe.