Photograph by Grant Cornett Food Styling by Maggie Ruggiero Prop Styling by Theo Vamvounakis

Chamomile Ile Flottante

Desserts from Issue 1 – Summer 2012 – Float

A “floating island” indeed. This weirdly wonderful French dessert features a buoy of meringue bobbing around a sea of custard.

serves 6

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 ½ cups heavy creams
  • cup sugar
  • 1 cup dried chamomile flowers (look for loose tea)
  • 10 large eggs, separated

Meringue Islands
  • 1 cup egg whites (from above, you will have extra whites)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 1

    Custard: Combine the milk, cream, sugar and chamomile in a medium saucepan and heat to a bare simmer. Turn heat to low and very gently cook 10 minutes.

  • 2

    Meanwhile, separate the egg yolks from whites making sure there are no yolky bits mixed in with the whites. (We like to do them 1 at a time in a small bowl, transferring them to bigger bowls).

  • 3

    Strain the warm chamomile cream through a fine sieve into a bowl. Clean the saucepan. Stir about a half cup of strained chamomile cream into the bowl of yolks to temper the eggs a bit. Then add this mixture and remaining strained cream to the saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it has just started to thicken and lightly coats the back of a spoon, 5 to 10 minutes. (When you run a finger across the back of a spoon, the line should remain clean without the custard running.) Be careful not to let your mixture simmer or you’ll have a curdled mess. Strain again into a bowl and directly cover surface with plastic wrap. Cool completely and chill. (You could do this up to 3 days ahead.)

  • 4

    Meringue: When you are ready to make the islands (up to 3 hours ahead), beat the whites (just 1 cup) using an electric mixer at medium speed until frothy. Increase to medium high, then slowly and gradually add sugar. Let the mixer rip and beat until you have stiff, glossy peaks.

  • 5

    Meanwhile, heat the milk in a medium saucepan to a gentle simmer. Line a tray with paper towels. Using large spoons, form an egg shape with about a half cup meringue and place into the simmering milk. Poach two meringues at a time, flipping half-way through, about 45 seconds per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to your lined tray. Chill them up to 3 hours. Toss out any leftover whites.

  • 6

    Serve custard with a meringue island floating in each bowl.