Ile Flottante

Total Time:
2 hr 40 min
Prep:
20 min
Inactive:
2 hr
Cook:
20 min

Yield:
12 servings
Level:
Intermediate

Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 cup water, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups (5 ounces) sliced almonds
  • 8 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Creme Anglaise, recipe follows
  • Creme Anglaise:
  • 4 extra-large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 3/4 cups scalded milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Cognac
  • Seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean, optional
Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the caramel, heat 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Cook over medium heat until the syrup turns a warm caramel color. Don't stir, just swirl it in the pan. Off the heat, add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla; be careful, the syrup will bubble violently. Stir and cook over high heat until the caramel reaches 230 degrees F (thread stage) on a candy thermometer. Set aside.

For the praline, combine the almonds with 1/4 cup of the caramel and spread them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the almonds are lightly browned. Allow to cool at room temperature and then break up in pieces.

Lower the oven to 250 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

For the meringues, beat the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment on medium speed until frothy. Turn the mixer on high speed and add the remaining 1 cup of sugar. Beat until the egg whites are very stiff and glossy. Whisk in the remaining teaspoon of vanilla. With dessert spoons place 12 mounds of meringue on the parchment paper and bake for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

For serving, pour creme anglaise on the bottom of individual plates. Place a meringue on top of each serving, drizzle with caramel sauce, sprinkle with praline, and serve.

To make a day or two ahead, leave the caramel and praline at room temperature and refrigerate the creme anglaise. Bake the meringues before guests arrive and assemble the desserts just before serving.

Creme Anglaise:

Beat the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, or until very thick. Reduce to low speed, and add the cornstarch.

With the mixer still on low, slowly pour the hot milk into the eggs. Pour the custard mixture into a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until thickened. The custard will coat the spoon like heavy cream. Don't cook it above 180 degrees F or the eggs will scramble!

Pour the sauce through a fine strainer, add the vanilla extract, Cognac, and vanilla seeds, if using, and chill.

Yield: 2 cups


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    I have always been afraid to make Ile Flottante b/c of the caramel. First time I did this, the sugar hardened too much and I had to throw it out. But I gave it another try...actually following Julia Child's recipe suggestion and it turned out perfect. Everything else was pretty easy but very time consuming. The classic children's dessert, this recipe is wonderfully sweet and a perfect ending to a French meal. Ina's recipe here is wonderful, as is the whole cookbook Barefoot In Paris. We had beef bourguignon, brioche bread, a big beautiful bottle of French red wine and this classic dessert. Perfection!!
    Very nice presentation! My kids loved it but my husband and I found it too sweet. I would cut way back on the sugar!
    A KEEPER of a recipe. Loved the ALMOND PRALINE! The creme anglaise tastes like ice cream. The caramel gave me trouble. I was able to mix some of the caramel with the almonds to make the praline. But, the caramel hardened and so I could not pour it over the meringue. Actually, I prefer NOT to pour the caramel over the meringue. The presentation is so beautiful. You can see my photos on my 9/18/11 blog post, Baking is my Zen.
     

     
    What I've learned about the caramel: Take it off the stove BEFORE the time indicated (about 10 degrees before. It is still cooking when you take it off the stove. But, as I mentioned, I prefer not to drizzle the caramel over the meringue.
     
    For the people struggling with the Caramel getting grainy (or sugary as some put it, that's because of crystallization. You must be sure not to stir it (or agitate it too much once it comes to a boil. Stir only until the sugar melts. Then brush down the sides of the pot with a wet pastry brush to wash away any sugar crystals clinging to the side of the pot. Also, when you add the second 1/2 cup of water to make the sauce, only stir until it's incorporated. Do not stir while you're bringing it up to 230 degrees. When in doubt with cooking sugar, don't stir, just tilt the pan and swirl it a bit. Good luck!
    I've made this many times, and it always generates rave reviews. You can be creative with your choice of liquor at the end, allowing for different flavor combinations. This is always a hit.
    i made this dessert after tonights dinner & it was sooooo delicious. we all fell in love and i know i will be making these for YEARS to come. delicious delicious declicious. the only tricky part is the caramel. mine turned out great but i saw some of the other reviews had problems. however, the secret is to turn your fire low & be very patient & keep a constant eye on it. It will take about 10 minutes- but keep an eye on it the entire time! dont leave for one second. once it turns brown, take it off the fire & then proceed with the recipe.
    Very, very delicious . . .However, I can't get the caramel sauce right. I use a candy thermometer, but my sauce doesn't stay a liquid and the almonds never really get brown in the oven, just sugary.. which again is due to the caramel sauce. Can someone please give me some hints? Approx how long should it take for the initial liquid to turn golden and then how long before 230? I appreciate anyone's advice!
    i noticed on the show she used amaretto not cognac. May change the flavor a bit.
    This version of floating islands is very manageable(ex: baking meringue instead of poaching). The custard, however, was extremely sweet (and I usually have quite the sweet tooth). I also used both recommended measurements of vanilla and cognac at the end. I'd cut down on both next time.
    Very elegant presentation and light, but really sweet!
    This is so comforting and delicious! Try not to drink the sauce! It's heavenly. The combination of airy meringue, creamy sauce and crunchy prailine is just perfect. We loved it!
    I've used this recipe many times and it is always perfect.
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