This old fashioned French dessert is on the rise again! The famous foodista Rachel Khoo is promoting it in her food show ‘Little Paris Kitchen’ on the BBC Food Channel. And, Barack Obama ate some on his last trip to Paris – you can’t get more hype than that! The ile flottante – or ‘floating island’ – is the new star on French menus and I will tell you why.
Following the recipe of Chef Auguste Escoffier dating from the end of 19th century, the floating island used to be made with Savoie biscuits or stale brioche, soaked in liqueur, then separated by apricot marmelade. Decorated with chopped almonds and raisins, it was served cold over a crème anglaise or red fruit purée.
Today, ile flottante is an extremely light dessert, made with sweetened egg whites cooked in the oven and placed over a crème anglaise or custard, lavishly coated with caramel. Dressed up with grilled chopped almonds, pralines, crushed pink sugared almonds or lemon zest, the floating island becomes an extravagant delicacy.
With a modern twist, this classic from French Cuisine is taking on new flavors. The renowned French Chef Anne-Sophie Pic adds lime and pineapple, pink pralines and a peach-verveine infusion. Cyril Lignac, an acclaimed French pastry chef, restyled the original recipe, incorporating a passion fruit purée into the custard, and coating the egg whites with coconut flakes.
As it is economical, it is right in line with the slow food trend. Eggs, sugar, vanilla, milk – the ingredients are simple, easy to find and inexpensive. Yet, the result is delicious and so exciting. Do you want to feel like you are biting into a soft and airy cloud? Try ordering a floating island the next time you are in a French restaurant.
If you want to indulge in this ‘Oh, so French!’ dessert at home, follow these simple tips:
- Don’t mistake the île flottante with Œufs à la neige. The ingredients are the same but the big difference is how you treat the egg whites. In the floating island, they are beaten with sugar until firm then cooked using a mould, in a bain-marie in the oven. The cooking method varies now, as you will see below, thanks to the new accessories.
- Add some lemon zest to the egg whites for a refreshing twist.
- You can cook the egg whites in a preheated oven, using a half-sphere silicon mould for three minutes at 180 degrees for a perfectly shaped island.
- The use of microwave is permitted to cook the island – six seconds at 600 watts.
- Don’t forget to oil your mould before using it. It will make your life easier afterwards, believe me.
- Let it cool down before removing the island from the mould is a secret learned from the pro.
- Serve this dessert chilled!
- To eat it properly, be gentle with this delicate dessert. Take a piece of the island with a spoon, immerse it softly into the custard and enjoy it without any remorse.
Will you succumb to this richly sweet treat? Watching this video might help you just do that!