Welcome to another Ina First Friday. Desserts are the subject this month and I've chosen an old family favorite. My mother made it for us when we were children and I have her original recipe. The only change I've made over the years is I now bake the meringues, à la Ina, much simpler than poaching them in milk as my mother did. Besides, I love shaping the meringues into peaks which, when baked, are touched with a little color.
Americans don't make this dessert much, unhappily. It was originally a French nursery dessert called île flottante: a single "island" of meringue floating in a "sea" of crème anglaise. Oeufs à la neige is another name used, indicating many small eggs floating rather than one large one. I have enjoyed this dish often when in France (where it is more commonly found on a dessert menu than in the U.S.); they usually serve a large square island floating in the crème anglaise. It makes sense for a restaurant to make portions in a large pan rather than individual "islands". The rare times I have found it on a menu in this country, they try to improve it with the addition of fruit; it doesn't work. Why mess with perfection? This dessert is better the way it was served in the nursery: plain and simple. If you're in a rush, skip the caramel. It's still ambrosial.
From Ina Garten, 2004, Barefoot in Paris. EPISODE:Rehearsal Dinner
Ingredients for the meringues:
2/3 cups sugar, divided
1 cup water, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
8 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Ingredients for the Creme Anglaise:
4 extra-large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 3/4 cups scalded milk
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla)
1 1/2 teaspoons Cognac (I don't add this)
Ingredients for the caramel sauce:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Make the Creme Anglaise:
Beat the egg yolks and 1/3 cup 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, very, very 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 bean paste and Cognac, if using and then chill. Yield: 2 cups
Make the meringues:
Set 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.
Make the Caramel sauce:
Mix 1 and 1/2 cups sugar with 1/2 cup water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir with a wooden spoon and boil over medium heat until it turns a caramel color. Remove from heat and add another 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. It will bubble up, so be careful. Return to the heat and cook until it reaches 230° on a candy thermometer. Set aside until ready to use.
For serving, pour creme anglaise on the bottom of individual plates. Place a meringue on top of each serving, drizzle with caramel sauce.
You all know, I'm not a big bread-baker. But when I do, it's more often than not dinner rolls. I made these last Thanksgiving and never got around to posting the recipe.
They turned out well, although not as picture perfect as the ones on the Sonoma webpage. Honestly, don't you sometimes wonder if they had to bake all afternoon to get those perfectly shaped and evenly browned rolls? I'd love to be behind the scenes on a shoot just to see what they do. Some of you have published cookbooks, what say you?
Oh well, the house was fragrant with that lovely yeast aroma while they were baking and they were lovely and light. The touch of salt, garlic and onion on top was a great idea. I froze a batch too. My old holiday standby has always been my recipe for cloverleaf rolls; time for a change.
Lordy, I do love hot yeast rolls!
Everything Parker House Rolls
From the Williams Sonoma Kitchen
1 1/2 cups milk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter
4 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons Maldon sea salt
1/2 teaspoons dried onion flakes
1/2 teaspoons dried garlic flakes
1 teaspoons white sesame seeds
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and the 8 Tbs. butter. Heat until the butter is melted, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to 105° to 115°F. Add the yeast and stir until dissolved. Let stand for 10 minutes.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the 4 cups flour, the sugar and kosher salt and beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the milk mixture and knead until the dough forms a ball, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the mixer bowl, oil the inside of the bowl and return the dough to the bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Divide the dough in half.
Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. On a lightly floured work surface, roll each piece of dough into a log 12 inches long. Using a bench scraper, divide each log into 12 equal pieces. Using the cupped palm of your hand, roll and shape each piece into a taut ball.
Arrange the dough balls in the prepared baking pan so there are 4 rows of 6. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. In a small bowl, combine the Maldon sea salt, onion flakes, garlic flakes and sesame seeds.
Preheat an oven to 375°F.
Remove the plastic wrap from the pan. Brush the tops of the rolls with the 2 Tbs. melted butter and sprinkle with the sea salt mixture. Bake until the rolls are golden and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a roll registers 190°F, 18 to 20 minutes. Invert the rolls onto a wire rack, then turn them right side up onto another rack. Let cool slightly before serving. Makes 24 rolls.
Everyone I know adores panna cottas. For all their simplicity, I think they're an elegant finale to any meal. And there are so many flavors you can incorporate in both the panna cotta and the fruit. Coconut anything is a family favorite, so it's a natural for me to use as a flavor base here; combined with finding fresh figs in my market, what could be a better combo?
Panna cottas are a cinch to make and they only take a few hours to set in the fridge. This one is so feminine and delicate looking, isn't it? It's got "ladies who lunch" written all over it.
Coconut Panna Cotta with Fresh Figs
From Inspiring the Everyday
1-15 ounce can coconut milk
¼ cup granular sugar
2 inch piece of vanilla bean, scraped or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 ¾ teaspoons powdered gelatin
2 tablespoons cold water
Vanilla Fig Syrup [see recipe below]
Fresh Ripe Figs (retain some for garnishing)
In a small bowl sprinkle gelatin over the water and stir. Set aside to bloom. Heat the coconut milk, sugar and vanilla bean just to a boil. Strain. Add 1/4 cup of the hot milk to the gelatin and stir to dissolve. Then add all the gelatin to the remaining coconut milk.
Fill your dishes and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Vanilla Fig Syrup Recipe
¼ cup granular sugar
4 large ripe figs, halved
2 Tablespoons Grand Marnier liqueur
1 Tablespoon water
1 inch piece vanilla bean, chopped, or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Bring all ingredients to a gentle simmer in a small sauce pan. Simmer until figs have released their flavor and color. Strain and cool.