Christmastime calls for a show-stopping dessert or two! And one of my favorite holiday recipes is Ile Flottante Recipe with Spun Sugar, otherwise known as "Floating Island".
What Is a Floating Island Dessert?
- A floating island is essentially a light and fluffy meringue, floating in a "sea" of vanilla-scented creme Anglaise, topped with a spun sugar garnish.
- It's a festive holiday dessert because it looks so magical and pretty, especially when served in footed glass bowls that allow you to see through it and appreciate the floating island effect.
- You can also make all the components of this dessert ahead of time and all you have to do the day of is assemble and serve! My kind of holiday dessert!
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How To Serve a Floating Island
- A floating island is also typically topped with toasted almonds and some kind of caramel.
- It could be a caramel drizzle or caramelized almonds, or in this case a beautiful caramel spun-sugar garnish.
- Don't be intimidated by it, it's actually super simple to do and looks so festive too!
Step#1: Make the Spun Sugar Garnishes
- The spun sugar can be made up to 3 days ahead, which is great because it's the messiest part of this dessert (but also the most fun!) so it pays to get it out of the way first.
- Before you begin, get your spun sugar station set up first.
Setting Up the Spinning Station:
- Place a heat-safe Pyrex bowl over a sheet of parchment paper. This will protect your countertops as the spun sugar does have a tendency to get messy!
- Then on top of the bowl, create a hashtag pattern of wooden spoons. This will create the best surface for your spun sugar to rest upon and form. And not to worry, you can soak them in hot soapy water afterward to get any spun sugar you didn't use, off!
Melting the Sugar
- Spun sugar is super easy to do because there is only one ingredient, sugar.
- Just add it to a pot and then allow it to melt and turn amber brown.
- Do not walk away from it! Melting sugar needs to be watched carefully because it does burn quickly if you are not careful.
How to Know When The Caramel is Ready to be Spun?
- Once the caramel starts to drip and create golden threads, when held up, it's ready to spin!
- This starts to happen as the caramel cools down a bit.
- So if you are not seeing the threads, turn off the heat and give it a minute to rest and then check it again.
Spinning the Sugar
To create the spun sugar, dip the whisk in the caramel and run it over the spoons, going back and forth until the threads start to form, collecting on the spoons, and dripping down into the bowl.
As you work across the wooden spoons it will gather and spin, looking like angel hair. It's pretty mesmerizing and really fun to do!
Once it looks like you have enough to create 6 small garnishes, collect a small mass, and gently shape it into a round ball. Try not to handle them too much or they will stick together and lose their delicate design.
Storing the Spun Sugar Garnishes
- Place the garnishes in a freezer-safe container and place them in the freezer up to 3 days before serving.
- Do not store in the refrigerator! They will melt. (I speak from experience! They literally just disintegrated and disappeared!)
- But they will store perfectly in the freezer!
Step#2: Make the Creme Anglaise
The Creme Anglaise is the delicious vanilla custard that forms the base of the ile flottante. It can be made up to 2 days in advance. It's best to store it in a Pyrex pitcher that way it's really easy to pour out into the bowls once it's time to serve.
Creme Anglaise is also really fantastic when served with Flourless Chocolate Cake. This would also be a wonderful holiday dessert idea too!
Step#3: Make the Meringue
There are a lot of different ways to make the meringue for an ile flottante, but for me, I go the easy route!
What's the Easiest Way to Make Floating Island Meringue?
- There are purists who say the meringues should be poached, others who claim they are best steamed.
- But frankly, both sound like too much work during the holiday season and I'd rather spend my energy on the spun sugar garnish because they really are what makes this dessert so impressive and fancy.
- So I bake the meringues and they come out great! I use a 4-ounce ramekin, and be sure to spray it well with a baking spray first.
How to Store the Meringues
Allow the meringues to cool completely, then place them in the fridge, intact in their ramekins, uncovered for up to 8 hours. You don't want to store them any longer than that, or their texture starts to break down.
How to Assemble the Ile Flottantes
- Right before serving fill the dishes with the Creme Anglaise.
- Then scoop out the meringue with a spoon, I place them in the custard bottom side up, because I think you get a nice jagged edge that way which looks more natural and "island-like"
Then place the toasted almonds on top. These can also be made in advance and covered and stored at room temperature.
Then all you have to do is add the "crowning glory" of these desserts, the spun sugar garnishes et voila! Fancy holiday dessert is ready to serve!
More Holiday Dessert Recipes!
- Buche de Noel Recipe
- Chocolate Hazelnut Linzer Cookies
- Pecan Bars with Shortbread Crust
- Holiday Bread Pudding
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- 4 Egg whites (reserve egg yolks for the crème anglaise)
- ¼ teaspoon (1.25ml) cream of tartar or 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon (25g) white sugar
- ½ teaspoon (2.5ml) vanilla extract
For Crème Anglaise:
- 2 ⅓ cups (555ml) whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean
- 4 egg yolks
- 4 tablespoon (50g) sugar
- pinch of salt
For Spun Sugar:
- 1 cup (200g) of sugar
- ½ cup (75g) of sliced raw almonds
- Preheat oven to 225F (107C). Spray 4-ounce cup (120ml) oven-safe ramekins with baking spray, distribute with a pastry brush, and place on a baking tray. Set aside.
- Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add cream of tartar and salt. Whip on high until foamy and opaque, slowly add sugar a little bit at a time, whipping continuously in between each addition. Until whites are stiff and can form a peak on their own. Then add in vanilla extract.
- Spoon meringue mixture into prepared ramekins, filling to the top, and level out with a spatula. Bake for 25 mins until meringues have risen and set. Allow to cool and then place uncovered in the fridge until ready to serve (maximum 8 hours)
For Crème Anglaise:
- Combine milk and vanilla seeds and pod. Bring to a simmer and then remove from heat. Remove vanilla pod with tongs and discard.
- Whisk egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl. Slowly mix in the hot crème mixture into the yolk mixture. Return the custard to a cleaned-out saucepan and stir over low heat until mixture thickens (about 5-7 minutes) and reaches 165F(73C).
- Strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, into a 4 cup Pyrex pitcher. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Place on a cookie sheet and toast at 350F (176C) for 5-7 minutes. Allow to cool and keep in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to serve.
For Spun Sugar.
- Place a large sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Allow it to hang over the sides 3-4 inches. Place a large mixing bowl on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Place 4 wooden spoons on top of the bowl, in a cross-hatch pattern. Set aside.
- Place a cup of sugar in a heavy bottom saucepot. Set on a medium-high flame. Sugar will melt then caramelize. Adjust flame while it melts so it doesn’t turn too amber and burn.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool for 2-4 minutes. Once the caramel begins to form threads, meaning if you place a fork in it, and raise it above the pot, long threads start to drip, as opposed to small drops, it’s ready!
- Place a large balloon whisk inside the caramel and wave bath and forth across the wooden spoons. Caramel will begin forming threads and large drips. This is the idea since you will use both for your garnish.
- Once all the caramel has been dripped over the spoons, collect small bunches, thread, and chards and place them in a container, and store them in the freezer until ready to use.
- To assessable desserts. Pour ¼ cup (60ml) of the crème anglaise in a footed dish or shallow bowl, scoop out the meringue, and place on top. It will have gagged edges and that’s part of the charm of the “rugged” island.
- Sprinkle with Toasted Almonds. Place the spun sugar on top! Et voila!
THE GAME PLAN:
- 3 days before make your spun sugar garnishes place in a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer.
- 2 days before make the creme anglaise. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate
- Up to 8 hours before bake the meringues. Allow to cool completely. Leave in the ramekins and refrigerate. (no need to cover)
- The day of toast your almonds. Place in a container, cover and keep at room temperature
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 106Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 131mgSodium: 114mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 2gProtein: 8g