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Strawberry & Vanilla Floating Islands

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It had been a while since I had the night off to bake something just for us. No book recipe to test, no challenge, no order or request. Just for us. In moments like this I tend to gravitate towards childhood memories and desserts I learned to make with my mother and grandmother. Simple desserts made so often that I bake them from memories with only the guidelines they used to whisper as I was standing on the little step stool next to the kitchen counter. It always amazes me how clearly I can still hear my grandmother’s voice every time I make Floating Islands for example.

Many years after her passing, Mamie Paulette is still here as I separate the eggs and mix them with sugar to make those lovely clouds of meringues. Everytime I cut through a vanilla bean I respectfully scrape every bean to the last one "pour ne pas gaspiller" (not to waste) and put the pods in small jars of sugar to flavor it. Whenever we would make creme brulees, we would have floating islands or "iles flottantes" a few days later. Again, "pour ne pas gaspiller". I seem to faithfully carry on the tradition. I measure my egg whites, double their weight in sugar (which you can use as a guideline to increase or decrease the number of servings) and make a Swiss meringue. Stirring as she would to, still fascinated at the magic a couple of ingredients can create once baked…

Making Floating Islands

After the vanilla bean mousse for the Daring Bakers challenge and the creme brulee tartelettes I had enough egg whites for a batch of macarons and some floating islands. The same week, juicy strawberry were on sale at the market and between my mother in law and us, I somehow ended up with about 5 pounds of them. I tried my best to use them but work got in the way and I decided to turn most of them into a coulis and freeze it in ice cube trays. That way I can easily portion out what I need for ice creams, sorbets, buttercreams, mousses later on. Some was used for the Floating Islands instead of the creme anglaise (vanilla custard sauce) they are traditionally served with. I hope mamie won’t scream "sacre bleu" since we are severe creme anglaise addicts in the family. I think she would have approved of the variation.

She would either bake the meringue in a baking dish in a water bath and scoop out portions for each of us or divide it in between several glasses and ramekins and bake invidual ones. I liked the latter best as my role once the meringues were baked was to invert them into the pool of sauce and I loved watching how they would just slide on down the glass and float around in the plates. I did the same thing here and decided to skip the traditional decoration of caramel sauce or caramel strands as I wanted to add a little touch of color to the glasses and used finely chopped pistachios instead. There was just not enough time in the day to let me play with caramel which I tend to get carried away with anyway…

The end result was just perfect after a full day at the office. The soft and delicate vanilla scented meringue contrasting with the energizing and fragrant strawberry coulis. Enough to make you want to put on your pajamas to take the dogs for a walk…

Strawberry & Vanilla Floating Islands

Strawberry & Vanilla Floating Islands Recipe:

Serves 4

For the strawberry coulis:
16 oz (500gr) strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
1/4 cup (60ml) lemon juice

In a medium saucepan, bring the strawberries with the sugar and lemon juice to a simmer over medium low heat. Cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and puree the mixture in a blender or food processor. Divide evenly between 4 dishes or glasses.

For the floating islands:
2 egg whites (60gr)
1/2 cup+1.5 tablespoons (120gr) sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeded

Coat 4 ramekins of your choice with cooking spray, place them in a deep baking dish set on a baking tray, set aside.
Preheat the oven to 250F.
Place the egg whites, sugar and the seeds from the vanilla bean in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water and cook until the mixture registers 140F on a candy thermoter, whisking constantly. Remove from the heat and whip the mixture with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until double in volume and cool to the touch. Pipe or spoon the meringue into the ramekins and fill the baking dish with hot water almost 3/4 of the way up. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the meringues are slightly dry to the touch. Using tongs, remove the ramekins from the baking dish and set aside to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, invert them and let the meringue slide right off over the strawberry coulis.
Decorate with cut strawberries and chopped pistachios is desired.

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Note: If you liked the White Chocolate and Lemon Souffles from last week, you can find 3 more recipes I made for Desserts Magazine. Bittersweet Chocolate Souffles, White Chocolate Souffles and Chesnut Milk Chocolate Tapioca Souffles. It’s all about chocolate this month!

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Comments


Bron February 2, 2009 um 8:14 am

So pretty and fresh!


Lisa is Bossy February 2, 2009 um 8:15 am

OMG I have had Île Flottante on my list of "something I want to make" for months now! Seems like more often I have extra yolks instead of whites though. Perhaps I’ll just have to dig in and make them and end up with…. more yolks, as usual!


Rosa's Yummy Yums February 2, 2009 um 8:50 am

A nice personal take on that classic recipe! What a delightful dessert!

cheers,

Rosa


Rachel@fairycakeheaven February 2, 2009 um 9:03 am

ooo I’ve never had these but they look so delicate and light and perfect for sitting outside in the sun after dinner! YUM!


pigpigscorner February 2, 2009 um 9:38 am

These are gorgeous! Lovely colours and presentation.


Navita (Gupta) Hakim February 2, 2009 um 9:58 am

i am drooling…have a couple of days old egg whites in the fridge…guess i can try these.. 🙂


pleasurepalate February 2, 2009 um 11:04 am

That looks so refreshing and what beautiful colors. 🙂


Christy February 2, 2009 um 11:18 am

Easy, light and best of all, delicious!! That’s going to be perfect for the hot, scorching summer that we are having here in Melbourne!! I’ve just looked through the chocolate edition of dessert magazine, and I’m so so tempted to make one of your souffles!!


Culinary Wannabe February 2, 2009 um 11:58 am

Such beautiful colors and completely elegant looking!


Cannelle Et Vanille February 2, 2009 um 12:29 pm

I love how we were both thinking about our grandparents this weekend. I love floating islands, fresh, light and this one has spectacular color!


Patricia Scarpin February 2, 2009 um 12:33 pm

That is a dessert I have never tried, Helen – and after buying an ice cream maker I have been having lots of extra egg whites. Great idea, sweetie!


Darius T. Williams February 2, 2009 um 12:53 pm

Looks amazing…love this! I bet it was delicious.


LizNoVeggieGirl February 2, 2009 um 1:28 pm

Stunning!!


toontz February 2, 2009 um 1:38 pm

Simply perfect!


Unknown February 2, 2009 um 1:47 pm

what a nice twist on a classic dessert!! It looks so pretty and for sure delicious!!


sweetalmond February 2, 2009 um 1:50 pm

ooops! helen, that was my husband account :)) I guess I was too excited after seeing this wonderful creation!


Nina Timm February 2, 2009 um 1:53 pm

You are such a true artist….I love your writing style, recipes and photos…all so unique!!!


Sara February 2, 2009 um 2:18 pm

This looks so delicious! I have a weakness for anything that contains meringue.


Anonymous February 2, 2009 um 2:19 pm

This is something I would like to try making!


Rachel February 2, 2009 um 2:38 pm

very mesmerizing pictures…..


Kasey February 2, 2009 um 2:56 pm

oh, yum!
xxoo


Char February 2, 2009 um 3:41 pm

so fresh and lovely


Jen February 2, 2009 um 3:42 pm

I love the name 'floating islands' especially when they are on a sea of strawberry sauce. I’m not usually a huge fan of meringue but I think I’d like to give this a try.


Botacook February 2, 2009 um 4:11 pm

Whaouh, c’est magnifique et très appétissant, fruité et léger, comme j’aime 🙂


Chris Wright February 2, 2009 um 4:11 pm

That is cute!

But your image links are the width of the page. I must have clicked on the image four times by accident. That’s a bit annoying.


Anonymous February 2, 2009 um 4:35 pm

This looks sophisticated, but it is simple, sounds super yummy and looks so good! Oh my…Also I love the name!


Netts Nook February 2, 2009 um 5:02 pm

I love they are so cute can’t wait to try thanks for sharing.


Anonymous February 2, 2009 um 5:04 pm

These are just so bright and cheerful! I loved your description of baking with your grandmother. Wonderful memories!


Hilda February 2, 2009 um 5:20 pm

These are lovely, especially with strawberry coulis. I am curious about the method of cooking the meringue as I was taught to poach it which never results in perfect shapes. Is that a method you ever use or have used and simply don’t use anymore? Is there any real difference between the two in the consistency of the meringues?


Helene February 2, 2009 um 5:32 pm

Hilda: poaching the meringues, generally in milk, is used for "Oeufs a la neige" also called "Caramelitas" while baking in a bain-marie is used for Iles Flottantes.

Chris W: tried to fix that since it does not happen with the middle picture but I can’t. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Thank you everyone!


Anonymous February 2, 2009 um 5:39 pm

It' so great that you were able to find time to bake for yourselves! That is one floating island I want to be on!


cindy* February 2, 2009 um 5:50 pm

lovely. thanks for sharing that memory. and congrats on the little break from everything!


The Cutting Edge of Ordinary February 2, 2009 um 5:52 pm

You’re photos are so gorgeous! Strawberries are my fave, I could gooble that right up!


Anonymous February 2, 2009 um 6:09 pm

Seems so light and refreshing! Absolute delight!

Jolene


Anonymous February 2, 2009 um 6:09 pm

Seems so light and refreshing! Absolute delight!

Jolene


Anonymous February 2, 2009 um 6:20 pm

Those sound so good! Mmm, strawberries…I have to wait for spring to buy strawberries here. I love the little islands!


That Girl February 2, 2009 um 6:41 pm

It’s funny, I was just thinking about making some floating islands last night! But for me they are such a light summery food, I decided to hold off till it’s a bit warmer.


Karynefoodaddict February 2, 2009 um 6:48 pm

moi qui adore les iles flottantes!! et maintenant, strawberry fields are forever…
désolée je suis dans ma phase "beatles addict"!!!


Anonymous February 2, 2009 um 6:54 pm

What to do with egg whites… when working pastry I often had dozens of quart containers of whites. Coconut macarons, meringues, and financier… and then when it got really bad the staff egg-white omelette.

These floating meringues look lovely … vanilla meringue and strawberry sounds delicious.


Laura February 2, 2009 um 7:45 pm

Floating Islands are one of my absolute favorites! If ever I go to an old school french place this is always the dessert I go for. nice idea about the strawberry, and such a cute idea to put them in glasses!


Anonymous February 2, 2009 um 7:45 pm

Those look darling! Great presentation.


Cookie baker Lynn February 2, 2009 um 8:02 pm

So beautiful! The memories are as delightful as the dessert.

Strawberries in season? Alas, not here.


Unknown February 2, 2009 um 9:19 pm

these look too pretty to eat. mmmm! Those glasses look divine. I bet a red wine would taste divine in those glasses as well…although probably not mixed with the strawberry delight.


Leonor de Sousa Bastos February 2, 2009 um 9:43 pm

Absolutely amazing!!


shez February 2, 2009 um 9:50 pm

these look fantastic! i much prefer the idea of serving the islands with a tart strawberry coullis than the usual creme anglaise 🙂


Cindy February 2, 2009 um 9:53 pm

thank you for sharing your beautiful story and dessert. it’s probably me, but the light looks like it’s brightening for you as the days go by.


Anonymous February 2, 2009 um 10:06 pm

Beautiful dessert and story! My Italian grandmother also taught me never to waste!


Clumbsy Cookie February 2, 2009 um 10:29 pm

Vanilla and strawberry just screams childhood to me! And it’s a very light dessert the way you made it too, without the creme anglaise!


Cherie February 3, 2009 um 12:24 am

This looks so fresh and tasty. Too bad I have to wait until the summer for tasty starwberries. Around here they taste like rubber this time of year.


Katy February 3, 2009 um 1:22 am

how gorgeous! those are just stunning. and i love that you made *all* the daring bakers tuile recipes! i’m incredibly impressed.


Joyce February 3, 2009 um 1:22 am

Helen- You float my boat!! This looks great. The photos are amazing. How long will it take for me to take pics like this? I’m wondering if I need a different lens or something. On top of it now you have writing on your pic! You rock!!
Thanks my friend! xoxo


Anonymous February 3, 2009 um 5:21 am

This looks so fresh! I loved reading about your grandmother. I have learned along the years we have known each other how much she means to you. She’s watching and she is probably screaming "sacre bleu" that she can’t have any of it!


Melissa February 3, 2009 um 5:33 am

Stunning! And what a sweet tribute to your grandmother’s memory.


Cakebrain February 3, 2009 um 6:17 am

Floating Islands are the first the first dessert I had when I arrived in France and they left a definite pleasant memory! Yours look absolutely gorgeous!


ChichaJo February 3, 2009 um 10:28 am

We just had some strawberries last night…with just a dollop or yogurt though, nothing like these pretty things! Lovely! And a lovely story about your grandmother as well 🙂


Mishi February 3, 2009 um 2:50 pm

Hi! I just found your blog through shibooya, and I wanted to say hello. Your photos are absolutely delicious, and I’m having a hard time tearing my eyes away!


Anonymous February 3, 2009 um 3:00 pm

Your dessert is so beautiful — comme toujours. As I was reading about your grandmother, who told you never to waste anything, I was reminded of a scene that was repeated over and over again when Baking with Julia was being filmed in Julia Child’s kitchen. A chef would beat something up in the mixer and then scrape the batter into the pan and put down the mixer bowl. As soon as it would hit the counter, Julia would pick up the bowl and a spatula and scoop up the teensy bit of batter that remained. She’d put it into the baking pan and then she’d all but wag her finger at the chef and say, "You shouldn’t waste anything!"


Hayley February 3, 2009 um 3:30 pm

What a simple and lovely presentation. I’ve never had a meringue, but I imagine I would love yours.


Maria February 3, 2009 um 3:45 pm

I just want to float away with this in my hand! Lovely dessert!


Tina February 3, 2009 um 4:28 pm

Tartelette – all the photos are amazing and make me want to go home and try to make. I added you to my blogroll since I visit most days anyway.

Tina


Abby February 3, 2009 um 4:54 pm

Simply. Gorgeous.


Aimée February 3, 2009 um 6:01 pm

I need to perfect my floating islands. Thanks for the inspiration- they are truly delightful.


La Cuisine d'Helene February 3, 2009 um 7:42 pm

I never made floating islands. I did not know that they would look this good.


Anonymous February 3, 2009 um 8:14 pm

I just read the article in Desserts Magazine…hmmm that Meyer Lemon souffles sounds incredible! Well done!


Anonymous February 3, 2009 um 9:32 pm

love these, especially in chocolate!


Mike of Mike's Table February 3, 2009 um 10:08 pm

This is a beautiful way to use up "leftovers"–as always, it looks fantastic!


Manggy February 3, 2009 um 10:55 pm

I’m sure she wouldn’t mind the variation. After all, making creme anglaise means using up a bunch of yolks, and that means even more whites, hee hee! Plus, the tartness of the strawberries is a perfect foil for the sweet, light meringue. I’d never seen this cooking method before, though (I kind of thought they were always poached, for some reason). I gotta try that!


Anonymous February 3, 2009 um 11:18 pm

Stunning, Helen!

I’m very jealous of you having strawberries in February! But, I suspect these would be equally as good floating on a sea of rhubarb compote…


Jen Yu February 4, 2009 um 12:40 am

These are sooo cute! Strawberries and meringue are such an awesome combo of tart and sweet. I’ve never had floating islands before – sounds divine… and especially with a sprinkle of pistachios (I think it’s my favorite nut… that or almonds). I had to chuckle that you have access to such lovely strawberries. Not until May over here – and June or July if you want local! Beautifully done.


Helene February 4, 2009 um 5:59 am

Mark: There is a dessert very similar called "snow eggs" in which the meringue is poached in milk. They are also called "caramelitas" in some parts. Iles Flottantes are the only ones that are baked in a water bath. People usually do a simple French meringue but I find that a Swiss one gives the silkiest meringue once baked.


Peabody February 4, 2009 um 7:33 am

Where was this for the Superbowl? The Cardinals could have used this red and white beauty to help them win.


Chelsea February 4, 2009 um 4:17 pm

Beautiful! I’ve been meaning to try floating islands for a while now. I’d love to give my daughter food memories like you have described.


Anonymous February 4, 2009 um 8:39 pm

You always have the most gorgeous pictures! Any tips on photography? I just got a Nikkon D40 and still learning how to use it! (Although, it’s a very easy camera to just jump in and start using!)


Katie February 4, 2009 um 8:48 pm

Sounds divine and lovely and light. Stunning photography too.


lynda February 5, 2009 um 2:42 am

What a great original take on a classic. The white on red is stunning and so appetizing. It makes me want to dig right in! Fabulous!


raining sheep February 5, 2009 um 4:31 am

yummers! Anything with strawberries is just perfect. I love the photos; such juicy contrasts of the red and white…and tee hee, I just finished eating a whole bowl of strawberries and they were good!


Anonymous February 5, 2009 um 4:55 am

I am not kidding when I say I would do anything, ANYTHING, to eat any of your foods. Oh my god.


Diligent Chef February 5, 2009 um 8:11 pm

It looks divine, if I can make it look half as good as the picture I’ll be impressed with myself.


Anonymous February 6, 2009 um 12:18 am

Que c’est joli: ile flottante sur une petite mer rouge!

Sylvie


pastry studio February 6, 2009 um 6:44 pm

Stunning tableaux! I’ve never seen ile flotante look so utterly inviting. Gorgeous.


brando February 15, 2009 um 4:31 am

I just made this for my wife. This was great and really easy. I even used stemless wine glasses, and I got everything really cold before I served it.

I also totally claimed credit for it. Thank you.


Jaime February 21, 2009 um 5:49 am

beautiful plating.


Anonymous March 8, 2011 um 4:51 pm

I made these over a year ago, they did not turn out as pretty, but they were soooooo good 🙂


Unknown April 5, 2011 um 12:46 am

This is so beautiful! I tried making one last night after browsing through a recipe while in a bookstore. It's meringues on hot plum sauce (uses apple juice as the base). It was awful! Must try your recipe when I get hold of egg whites.


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