Monday, 13 January 2014

Ready for challenges? Floating Islands

Have you ever thought about applying for The Great British Bake Off or for MasterChef or any other cooking contest? Have I? Ha ha ha ha ... oh ... would I really be able to pass any of those challenges? Would I be ready for the challenge?
Well, I reckon I would never apply, but ... there would be no harm in checking, whether I can do certain things they have done on these shows. Let's pick something they did on The Great British Bake Off: Floating Islands or as you would say in French îles flottante ...

First of all we need a recipe. Since we just want to do the basic, there is no need to be thinking about adjusting and tweeking. So I simply went for the recipe in Jamie Oliver's book: Cook with Jamie.
First of all, we need spun sugar. For that I prepared some lightly oiled baking parchment and an oiled rolling pin.

In a small pan I put 100 g sugar with 100 ml water to turn into golden caramel. A little bit of patience is necessary and to get the right time. We don't like burned caramel.

Once we got it right, it's time to dip a fork into the caramel and to start the spinning the sugar over the rolling pin. First let the excess drip off and the go ... back and forth, back and forth and ... it might loo like this ...

It can take a while until all the caramel is used up. I did mention, that you don't leave the caramel on the heat, while you do the spinning? Eh, no? Then don't forget to take the caramel away from the heat.
Job done. Next up: the meringue. I decided to go for three egg whites and 150 g sugar. First I whisk the egg whites until stiff. Then I add the sugar and a pinch of salt and continue mixing until the meringue has the right look and feel: glossy and smooth.

Yes, you can't really see that on the picture. Whatever! Now we have to poach the meringue in tablespoon sized portions in milk.
I took a small pot, so 250 ml milk was fine for me. The meringues are poached 30 seconds on each side and then put on ... eh ... I had some excess table napkins.

Ah, that doesn't look too nice, does it.
One more job to do before we can assemble our floating islands: custard. We already have some warm milk. we just need to get rid of some floating meringue pieces in it. Then I can add 200 ml of cream to the pot, the seeds of one vanilla pod and the vanilla pod itself. Time to bring it to the boil and ... then remove it from the heat.
Do you remember that we've got 3 egg yolks left over from before? Whisk those together and then transfer the vanilla milk (without vanilla pod) cream bit by bit to the bowls with the egg yolks, while whisking always in between. Finally bring the mixture back to the pot on the heat and cook it gently while stirring all the time. The custard should thicken at one point and then we are ready.

To the assembling of the floating islands: At first put some custard in the bowl, then carefully place a piece or two of the poached meringues on top of the custard, so that the meringues can float. Finish with some of the spun sugar.

I was pleased with the end result, although it was quite some work to do. Hm, can't quite remember, though, whether I would have scored a good position with those floating islands in the competition.
Whatever, at least I know I can do acceptable floating islands and ... well, I have done it.
Have you ever made floating islands before?

Well, what other challenges would there be? I would like to try some more ...


  1. I think having some classic 'show-off' dishes in your reportoire is always a good thing... wether you enter competitions or not... these look so gorgeous and very classy, well done!

    1. Thank you! Well, then it's time to built a repertoire of 'show-off" dishes.

  2. That looks great. When I used to go to France, îles flottantes had to be on the menu of the first place I ate after crossing the channel. It's a very pleasing dessert. Although they seem to vary a lot in flavour and texture whenever I've eaten them. I have to admit that I can't stand cooking competitions on the tv so I'd never dream of entering.

    1. I have never eaten îles flottantes before, so I can not compare. As to cooking competitions on the tv, I like some, but there is to be variation and an extra edge to it.


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