Iles Flottantes for Bastille Day
Saturday 14 July marks Bastille Day (le quatorze juillet) or French National Day and commemorates the storming of the Bastille (a fortress-prison) which was seen as a symbol of uprising during that era.
It is a public holiday in France and celebrated with much vigour; fireworks, parades and festivities aplenty. I first saw the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower as a teenager and I remember having mixed feelings about the occasion at the time. On the one hand being impressed with the sights and sounds as rockets and sparkling explosions zoomed out of the tower and lit up the sky and on the other, being completely overwhelmed with the crowds that gathered there. I had come with a group of friends but I had lost sight of them in gazing in awe at the spectacle unfolding in front of my eyes. The only person I could count on was a French guy I barely knew who just kept laughing at the fact that I had lost my friends and “mocked” my sheer panic as to how I was going to get home by myself. I had a Summer placement in EuroDisney at the time and was still unfamiliar with the transport system in Paris. Needless to say, there is a reason why the aforementioned guy was laughing, turns out he was quite happy to be on his own with me and eventually became my boyfriend and now my husband!
The Eiffel Tower illuminated
While living in France, I was fortunate enough to taste some wonderful pâtisserie; I could spend many a morning gazing into the windows of our corner Pâtisserie in awe of their craft. When I travel back to Paris it remains one of my highlights of the trip!
Our local Pâtisserie
I sampled the most exquisite of desserts too but I often found those bringing a smile to my face were and still are the simplest ones. One of my favourite desserts was “Iles Flottantes” or “Floating Islands”. Poached sweet meringues floating in chilled soup of crème anglaise, drizzled with a warm caramel sauce. Can you imagine anything simpler?
I prefer crème anglaise to traditional English custard as it is just as sweet but with a lighter consistency. I’m not a big fan of cream in desserts but a serving of crème anglaise does it for me every time!
I also thought this was very apt as hubbie reminded me of the motto of Paris “Fluctuat nec mergitur” which translates as “It is tossed by the waves, but does not sink”. Let’s hope my Floating Islands don’t sink
My recipe for Iles Flottantes is taken and slightly adapted from my all time favourite Chef, Raymond Blanc with a little help from Rachel Khoo.
Rachel prepares a croquant of praline using almond slivers which is a nice accompaniment to the dish but I wanted to keep it as close as to how I remember it, serving it with dripping caramel sauce.
I’ll let you into a secret …I didn’t use full fat milk either. I used low fat milk and guess what? It turned how absolutely fine! I couldn’t tell the difference!
Try the recipe out for yourself and see what you think!
A sumptuous French classic dessert. If you love the flavour of custard, then this dessert is for you.
Please note, you will need extra preparation time for chilling the Crème Anglaise.
For the Crème Anglaise
- 4 free-range eggs, yolks only
- 80g sugar
- 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out
- 500ml milk
For the Meringue Islands
- 2 free-range eggs, whites only (60g)
- 45g icing sugar, sifted
- couple of drops of lemon juice
- pinch of salt
For the caramel
- 50ml water
- 100g caster sugar
For the Crème Anglaise (You can make this the evening before so that it chills overnight)
- Put the milk in a saucepan add the the vanilla pod and seeds and put on to come to a boil.
- When the milk has come to a boil turn it off and remove the vanilla pod.
- Leave the milk to cool down for about 10 minutes. You still want it warm but not too hot.
- Mix the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl.
- Slowly pour a little of the warm milk onto the egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Gradually whisk in the rest of the milk.
- Pour the mix into a clean pan.
- Place over a very gentle heat and whisk constantly. Ensuring not to let the custard simmer at any point or it will split.
- After about 5 minutes it will start to thicken. Remove from the stove and transfer to 4 dessert bowls and chill in the fridge for at least four hours (or overnight).
For the Meringue Islands
- Put half the 60g of egg whites into a clean bowl.
- Add the sugar, lemon juice and salt and whisk until white.
- Add the rest of the egg whites and continue whisking until the meringue forms stiff peaks.
- Boil a large saucepan of water and set to a simmer
- Using two spoons form eight quinelles of meringue and gently drop each one into the simmering water and cook for a few minutes (turning once) or until they are slightly puffed up and just set.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and place onto a sheet of baking paper until needed.
For the Caramel Sauce (This stage can be made last minute so ensure you place two quinelles onto each dish of chilled crème anglaise before attempting this sauce as it is made rather quickly!)
- Pour the water into a pan, then add the sugar and cook over medium heat, until the sugar has dissolved.
- Once no sugar crystals remain, boil the mixture until caramelised to a dark golden-brown.
- Pour the caramel over the floating meringues and serve immediately.
Ensure when poaching the quinelles, the saucepan is large enough to accommodate 8 puffed up meringues.
Be careful when making the caramel sauce. Ensure you remove the sauce from the heat the second a deep golden- brown colour is achieved.
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So here’s a Toast to my French friends and family: Bonnes fêtes!
I’m raising a glass of the good stuff in YOUR honour
Champagne Toast for Bastille Day
What are your favourite French desserts ? Do let me know in the comments below!
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