Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie: Floating Islands

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.


Pamela February 10, 2009 at 8:36:00 AM EST  

The pictures are very pretty. I skipped this week because the recipe didn't sound appealing to me. The way you described Ina's recipe does appeal to me though. Go figure.

vibi February 10, 2009 at 10:24:00 AM EST  

Bravo Kait! Well done!

Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 10:55:00 AM EST  

I completely agree that the caramel was a must with this recipe. I LOVE the look of that giant shard of caramel from the Parisian bakery.

Teanna February 10, 2009 at 12:15:00 PM EST  

I'll have to try Ina's recipe! That looks so delicious!

chocolatechic February 10, 2009 at 1:24:00 PM EST  

Looks wonderful.

matty February 10, 2009 at 4:08:00 PM EST  

I'm liking the new layout... Oh yeah, nice job on the cooking too :P

Anonymous February 10, 2009 at 4:53:00 PM EST  

Your floating islands look gorgeous. Too bad Dorie's recipe wasn't a success for you. I'll have to try Ina's.

Isabelle February 10, 2009 at 6:32:00 PM EST  

superbes photos kaitlin :)

Shari@Whisk: a food blog February 10, 2009 at 8:19:00 PM EST  

I'm so envious of your Parisian experience. So glad you tried this one, but too bad you didn't like it. Thanks for trying it, though.

MaryBeth February 10, 2009 at 11:33:00 PM EST  

I have seen the episode when Ina makes these, yours looks just as good as hers did. Great Job

n.o.e February 11, 2009 at 8:24:00 AM EST  

HOW COOL! A bona fide taste test - from someone who knows and loves the dessert (bonus points for having a photo of it from Paris!!) Very interesting comparison, and I'm glad Ina's recipe is a reliable one for you. Now I regret leaving off the caramel.

Anonymous February 11, 2009 at 2:50:00 PM EST  

A comparison when most of had never even heard of the dish. I am very impressed.

Kaitlin February 11, 2009 at 4:09:00 PM EST  

bakingwithboys - I hope you're not *too* impressed! I came to know the dessert by a fluke. When I visited that bakery in Paris, I just pointed at the yummiest looking thing I saw. I didn't even know what it was called! Then I saw Ina Garten make it and I knew I had to give it a shot myself.

Liz February 11, 2009 at 6:47:00 PM EST  

Bummer that this batch of islands was disappointing! I skipped this week but was very curious because I'd never made (or tasted, or heard of) floating islands before. Now you've made me want to try them--but using Ina's recipe instead!

Jess February 12, 2009 at 10:01:00 AM EST  

I'm tempted to try Ina's version too - I actually compared the two recipes before embarking on Dorie's recipe and noticed the difference. Seems like it would be more "meringuey." Ina's creme brulee recipe (from Barefoot in Paris) is also my go-to version - definitely worth a try.

TeaLady February 12, 2009 at 5:44:00 PM EST  

They look like they came out just perfect.

Judy February 12, 2009 at 8:48:00 PM EST  

I'll have to try Ina's recipe now. 180 degrees is too high for creme anglaise -- it will scramble at that temperature; 165-170 is a better range. It is such a pretty dessert, too.

LyB February 16, 2009 at 3:07:00 PM EST  

I know what you mean. I'll be sticking to my usual crème anglaise. Your islands look great though! :)

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