Ile Flottante or Floating Island with vanilla sauce is one of these french desserts you can make to look spectacular without spending hours in the kitchen.
Delicious poached meringue pillows, floating on homemade vanilla sauce, decorated with crispy caramel, sounds fancy and tastes spectacular.
This french classic brings back childhood memories for me. We drove one or two times, every year in our little Golf car to visit family spread across France.
Driving through small villages, one more beautiful than the other. The highlight of these trips was to stop and take a stroll through the village center. We children admired the decorative windows of every boulangerie, charcuterie and patisserie.
We would pick up salads and sandwiches for a picnic by the lake or sit on the terrace of a bistro and just watch the world go by. The menus usually offered a two or three course option which always included a choice of desserts for us kids to choose from.
As kids, one would think, we would go for an ice cream or perhaps a mousse au chocolat. But no, my sister and I, always ordered ile flottante.. We just couldn't resist the creamy, rich and fluffy dessert topped with caramel.
How to make Ile Flottante with Vanilla Sauce
Okay, let's get to it now. The ingredients of Ile Flottante with vanilla sauce are milk, eggs, vanilla and sugar, easy enough. The one thing I want to highlight is that the creme anglaise needs to be prepared right from scratch. If you read my blog you know that I like to share base recipes in my Chef's Pantry and will always advise against using ready made products.
Making vanilla sauce does not take long. This should be the first thing you tackle in this recipe as you want the sauce to be really cold when you plate up the finished dessert.
How to make caramel
It is the same with the caramel, make your own. Don't worry about trying to make fancy caramel crisps or even sugar work if you are intimidated, it might take a few attempts to get them right. Whatever you do, don't buy caramel sauce, you are insulting the french...hahaha
Caramel is all about controlling the temperature, if you take the sugar too far it starts burning and will be too bitter to use. Bring the sugar slowly to caramelize and watch the bubbles form.
Look for the moment your sugar turns into a deep golden color, remove from the heat immediately and let it sit for a few minutes. Cool before using it for your sugar work.
I am sure you can make them prettier than mine.
How to poach the egg whites
The oeuf a la neige are made by whipping the egg whites with sugar. Don't forget to do the test by holding the bowl with the whipped egg whites over your head. If you have done them correctly they should stay in the bowl without the slightest movement.
If you have under whipped them, well, then...consider the eggs to be a good hair mask and continue whisking. In my recipe I poach the finished egg white clouds in milk because thats the traditional way to do it. If you prefer not to waste the milk, you can steam or even poach them in water.
They look fragile and soft but you can prepare all in advance and just assemble when you are ready for dessert. The meringues might reduce sightly in size when kept in the fridge however the shape and texture will stay as fluffy as when you made them.
I served my Ile Flottante with vanilla sauce to Damien for the first time and he loved them as much as I did when I was his age.
Bon Appetit bien sur!
Ile Flottante with homemade vanilla sauce
- 200 gram sugar
- 1 vanilla bean
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon starch
- 1 litre milk full fat
- 1 pinch of salt
For the Vanilla Sauce
- Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the vanilla mark.
- Separate the eggs and keep the egg whites on the side. Mix the egg yolks with the starch and 2 tablespoon of milk.
- Bring 500ml of milk together with 50g sugar and the vanilla to a boiling point. Then pour slowly over the egg yolks and whisk well.
- Add the egg yolk/milk mixture back in the pot on medium heat, while whisking constantly, bring it again to boiling point. The vanilla sauce should have thickened by now, immediately remove from the stove and strain the sauce through a fine sieve. Put in the refrigerator to chill.
For the Caramel
- Bring 50g sugar slowly to a melt in a heavy pan or pot. When the caramel turns deep golden in color, remove from the heat and set aside for a few minutes.
- Use a fork or spoon and swirl the caramel on a sheet of baking paper or a silicon mat. Let it cool and then remove carefully without breaking your sugar work.
For the Meringues
- Combine the egg whites with 100g sugar and a pinch of salt. Use a whisk or electric mixer to slowly beat the whites until they are stiff.
- Bring the remaining milk to a simmer. With a large spoon form quenelles (curved shape like an egg) from the meringue mixture and place on top of the hot milk.
- Turn the meringues after 2 to 3 minutes and leave on top of the hot milk for another 2 to 3 minutes. Don't let the milk boil during the poaching step.
- Remove the meringues and allow to cool before serving.
- In a serving bowl, pour the vanilla sauce on the bottom and place the meringue on the top. Decorate with the caramel work and voila! Your Ile Flottante is ready to serve.