Posts Tagged ‘floating island


Floating island, a dessert for meringue lovers

This is something that doesn’t show up on dessert menus much in the U.S., so when I do see it, I order it. Floating island is a French dessert, a ball of meringue (the “island”) floating on creme anglaise (custard). Side note: the English like pouring custard or cream over many of their desserts, a practice that I wish were more widespread.

This recipe is a creative take on the traditional floating island from pastry chef Anthony Chavez of 2941 via Washingtonian magazine. When I’ve made meringue for pavlovas–meringue nests filled with cream and fruit–they’ve always deflated pretty quickly. After listening to NPR’s “The Splendid Table,” I learned that fats are the enemy of meringues, so be sure to use a metal bowl when whipping the egg whites. Plastic bowls tend to absorb more fats.

Photo via Washingtonian magazine.

Floating Island With Mandarin Jus and Caramelized Popcorn

a la Anthony Chavez of 2941

Serves 6

2 satsuma mandarin oranges
½ cup mandarin-orange juice
¼ cup Champagne
½ vanilla bean, seeded (discard the pod)
1⁄3 cup egg whites
3 tablespoons sugar plus 2 cups sugar for popcorn
14 tablespoons butter
1 bag microwave popcorn

Peel and remove the pith from the mandarin oranges, then cut them into segments. Set aside.

Make the mandarin-orange jus:

In a medium bowl, combine the mandarin-orange juice, Champagne, vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Chill in the refrigerator.

Make the meringues:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and 2 tablespoons of sugar and whip until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Pipe it into dome-shaped flexible molds.

Place the meringues into the oven and bake for 1 minute or until firm. Remove from the oven and cool.

Pop the popcorn in the microwave and set in a large, heatproof bowl.

In a large pot set over low heat, caramelize the 2 cups of sugar. Add the butter and whisk until combined. Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir until well combined.

Turn the caramel-coated popcorn onto a sheet pan and let cool. When the popcorn is cool, chop it into small pieces.

Unmold the baked meringues and sprinkle the popcorn on top of each meringue.

Assemble the floating islands:

Place each meringue in a bowl and garnish with the mandarin segments and mandarin jus.


A (really long) word on British desserts


OK, so British food gets a bad rap. British desserts, on the other hand–well, I challenge you to leave empty-handed from the dessert case at Sainsbury’s, Tesco or Marks & Spencer. There are simply too many temptations for dessert-lovers like us.

The array of individually-sized UK goodies like trifles, puddings, fools, etc. will make your head spin. Then there’s the French influence: floating islands (merengue floating in a “sea” of vanilla custard), mousses, creme brulees, pot de cremes, etc.

What I particularly like about desserts you find in the UK are:

(1) the names. Believe it or not, there’s a dessert called spotted dick (a delicious suet-based concoction with currants, not an STD. It’s usually served with hot custard)

(2) the use of real whipped cream, butter, custard and anything that will clot your veins/make me reach for my bottle of lactase. I mean, they actually sell a product called “clotted cream” (you can also find it here at Dean & Deluca) that’s a super heavy cream for spreading on scones and such.

Around the holidays, there’s an entirely new crop of desserts you can only get for a limited time. Like Christmas puddings, which are liquor-infused, heavy fruitcakes (not those bricks like the ones from Safeway) usually eaten with melted brandy butter or custard. Or flute-shaped butter cookies called brandy snaps that are meant to be filled with whipped cream. British cannolis, anyone? BTW just to clarify, what we call dessert the British call “pudding.” But they also refer to specific desserts as puddings: toffee puddings, Christmas pudding, etc.–spongy, heavy cake-like confections. So yeah, it gets confusing.

Here are a few of my personal attempts at making British desserts. The bottom photo is a pseudo-trifle I made for July 4th last year. Making an American flag out of fruit was out of the question, so it got the French flag treatment (sorry, America). It was layers of custard, sponge cake, fruit and whipped cream. You’re supposed to put it in a glass bowl to show off the layers, but I didn’t have one handy. Also, I opted not to include liquor or jello in it.

The thing in the wine glass is something I learned from Nigella Lawson’s Food Network show: Amaretto Syllabub. It’s easy–you just whip together Amaretto liquor, whipped cream, sugar & lemon juice. Then layer it in a glass with shaved chocolate flakes and crumbled cookies. Recipe here:,,FOOD_9936_77083,00.html. Nigella, my taste buds thank you but my cholesterol doesn’t.

Anyway, the next time you decide to rag on the British culinary tradition, just think of all the spotted dick we’d be missing out on.