Ina First Fridays: ÎleFlottante (Floating Island)

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.

Île Flottante
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.


  1. Lovely! It's a dessert I really like but have never made myself. I'm with you on fruit though - why? This is such perfection. Egg whites poached in milk, then the yolks and the milk going to make the custard: simple and lovely.

  2. Se ve riquìsimo Barbara tiene un aspecto magnìfico,en Chile le llamamos Leche Nevada la tengo publicada,abrazos,abrazos.

  3. Exquisite! This is such a fabulous dessert. I've made îles flottantes only once...



  4. I have always wanted to attempt this dessert, but I always get cold feet. Yours looks beautiful, especially with the caramel.

  5. I've flipped past that recipe many times in the cookbook but have never made it. Yours looks wonderful!

  6. I love isle flotante and this look stuning!

  7. This looks like such a difficult recipe, but with gorgeous results :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  8. This is kind of the dessert I would enjoy too. It looks lovely!

  9. Lovely Barbara..I have never made them either..Your mom must have been quite the cook:)

  10. Beautiful, Barbara! I once had to make these for work…I worked for a museum house and we had to decorate the dining room table with REAL FOOD! So cool that your mom made them. Happy (Ina) Friday!

  11. It seems that this dessert would be as light as air with very few calories:D My type of dessert.

  12. Such an elegant dessert, Barbara! As Monique said, your mother must have been a wonderful cook and even better than you have he original recipe.

  13. I want to make this...I saw this dessert a while ago, but never had a chance to make it...Barbara, thanks for the recipe...it looks so delicate and elegant.
    Have a great weekend :D

  14. That looks really good Barbara. It would be a nice break from all the salted caramel chocolate brownies I ate. :-) The nice thing about Ina's desserts is their elegance and simplicity. At least she makes it look easy. See you next month!

  15. My mother made that sometimes and it was wonderful. Maybe I'll have to make it for the grandkids when they're here...

  16. This is such a beautiful dessert. Thanks for sharing.
    Linda@ Tumbleweed Contessa

  17. I love this dessert and haven't had it in years. It is one of Ina's recipes that I haven't tried. This was one of my mother's favorites and she loved to make it for special occasions. It brings back lovely memories.

  18. I've never made this, but it looks amazing, and I know if Ina's involved, it must be fantastic!

  19. Wow, I've never heard of this until now! It looks really yummy, would love to give it a try somehow. How exactly does one poach meringue in milk? I'm so curious!

  20. Skip the caramel?! Not on your life. Mmmmm...

  21. Exquisite!! I have to try making an Ileflottante .

  22. I agree with you 100 percent. It's such an elegant dessert and it' too bad you don 't see it on the menu more often. Yours looks very lovely.
    Mireya @myhealthyeatinghabits

  23. Hi Barbara,

    So delicious and have never actually made Ile flottante - I always enjoy making meringues and would like to try this sometime.
    Happy weekend

  24. Wow - that looks like a heavenly cloud!

  25. never heard of these but they do look delicious

  26. I love just about anything by Ina. This one looks dreamy! Thanks for a beautiful introduction! :) ela

  27. this is totally fancy, barbara--i'm super impressed! never seen it and certainly never eaten it, but i'll be on the lookout!

  28. These are just gorgeous. Such an elegant dessert. I'm having a dinner party tonight and I wish I had these to serve them! I make pavlova which is similar, but I like the way yours look. Yum.



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