Floating Islands

I’m teaching an egg class since my hens are laying like crazy, and they’ve been eating their greens.  The yolks are beautifully yellow.  I really love simple food, but floating islands aren’t that simple.  Hope you’ll forgive me — they aren’t difficult either, just involve several steps.  The results are simply worth it!!!!

POACHING LIQUID: Pour 3 cups of milk into a pot with 1 vanilla bean and 1 cinnamon stick and heat just until boiling.  Then turn off the heat.  Just until boiling means until little bubbles form around the rim of the pot.

MERINGUE: Whip (starting low, and then increasing speed) 4 large egg whites and 1/2 cup sugar, adding sugar until all is incorporated. This is for the meringues, or the “islands”.  Whip until still peaks form.

Be sure all traces of oil are removed from the bowl and beaters before beating, or your whites won’t rise as they should.  Whites whip up better if the eggs are at room temperature.  Be careful when cracking and separating your eggs too as any bit of yolk will deflate the whites.

Now, reheat the milk mixture until barely simmering.  Add large mounds of whites and poach for 2 minutes on each side.  Turn carefully, or you may have many little islands . . .

Then remove to plate until all are poached. You can refrigerate if you want . . .

CUSTARD: Beat together with fork 8 egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar.

Strain the poaching milk to remove bits of cooked meringue. Let cool a bit.

And add half and half or cream until you reach 3 1/2 cups.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the milk/cream mixture.  I split the bean with a sharp knife before I added it to the poaching liquid so now it’s nice and softened, then I used the sharp tip to scoop out the seeds.

Temper the eggs by adding several spoonfuls of the warm poaching milk.  You don’t want cooked yolks, so don’t rush this.

Pour poaching milk into a double boiler with about an inch of liquid in the bottom. Turn the heat to medium high.

Gradually pour tempered egg mixture into poaching milk.  Stir for about 10-20 minutes, until the “custard” thickens and coats the back of a spoon, and the drops roll off the spoon in groups instead of singly, but don’t cook this too long — it’s supposed to be a thin custard sauce. I strain it again into a bowl.

ASSEMBLY:  This is my favorite part!

Pour cooled custard (room temp or refrigerated is the preferred serving temp) into bowls.  Place an island on top.

If you want, you can melt 1/4 cup sugar over medium high heat just until it melts, and then quickly drizzle the cooked sugar over the top.

This dessert is sublime — the creamy custard sauce, and light, airy meringues topped by the crunchy sugar . . .

This recipe makes a fair amount of custard sauce.  If you want, you can add milk or cream and sugar to taste, and churn it into ice cream, or drizzle it over pavlova instead of whipped cream . . .



3 cups milk

1 vanilla bean

1 cinnamon stick


4 large egg whites

1/2 cup sugar


8 egg yolks

half and half or cream

1/2 cup sugar


1/4 cup sugar



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