This is one of the most celebrated desserts in France - a true classic and one I cherish from my childhood. Maman Blanc used to make this for the family on special occasions. My brothers, sisters and I were amazed by the ‘fluffy clouds’ floating in the ‘vanilla sea’. I recall never-ending lunches with adults talking about politics and other serious subjects, whilst us kids sat and longed for îles flottantes to arrive. Later, when I had children of my own – my lovely Olivier and Sebastien - we visited Maman in France often and oh did their faces light up as the îles flottantes approached the table, just as mine had. Needless to say, this is a great favourite of ours and I am certain will be passed down the Blanc family for many years to come.
The beauty of this dessert is in all the different tastes and textures – the rich and silky crème anglaise, topped by clouds of fluffy poached meringue, and at the last moment the warm caramel is poured. It is amazing how you will find it on the menu at home, in small brasseries and in Michelin star restaurants alike. And what joy – no longer having to whisk all those egg whites by hand like Maman used to do. Your Kenwood Chef, and its wonderfully engineered whisk, will do it quickly and beautifully, and with total precision, leaving you more time to enjoy the results with your family and friends.
Pour the milk into a large shallow saucepan, add the vanilla syrup (or vanilla extract) and heat gently to a bare simmer to infuse.
Meanwhile, using your Kenwood Chef mixer on medium speed with the whisk attached, whisk the egg whites with the lemon juice1 to soft peaks, then slowly add the sugar, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the meringue holds firm peaks.
To poach the meringues - Using a large spoon dipped in hot water, scoop large dollops of meringue and place in the vanilla milk. (Alternatively you can shape smooth quenelles of meringue between two spoons dipped in hot water). Poach the meringues in the shimmering milk2 for 4 to 5 minutes on each side3. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a tray lined with non-stick baking paper to drain. Strain and reserve the poaching milk to make the crème anglaise.
In a medium pan, bring the vanilla milk to a gentle simmer over a medium heat with 2 tsp of the sugar added4. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and remaining sugar together until well mixed. Pour the hot milk onto the eggs, whisking constantly, and then pour back into the same saucepan5. Place over a medium-low heat and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the custard begins to thicken and coats the back of your spoon6. Immediately strain into a large bowl set over ice to stop the cooking. Leave the custard to cool, stirring occasionally. For an extra luxurious touch, finish the crème anglaise with a splash of Kirsch.
To assemble, pour the crème anglaise into individual wide serving bowls and arrange the poached meringues on top. Leave in the fridge while you make the caramel.
Place the water into a small saucepan, add the sugar and leave for a few minutes to allow the water to be absorbed, then dissolve over a low heat7. Increase the heat to medium and cook the sugar syrup to a rich caramel8. Immediately remove from the heat and dip the base of the pan in cold water for 8–10 seconds to arrest the cooking.
To serve, trickle the caramel decoratively over the meringues and serve at once.
Flavour the crème anglaise with grated lemon zest, or grated orange zest and a splash of Grand Marnier, or melted chocolate.
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