SMiLes by Meg

Floating Islands

Yesterday was hot. The kind of hot where you either need to be at the beach in close proximity to the ocean or inside in the AC – no other options. And we were having a cookout.

Of course, I wanted to make dessert. Cookouts usually lend themselves to big plates of cookies or cupcakes, but that seemed too heavy for such a hot day. Instead, I wanted to make something along the lines of a pudding with berries. Fortunately, I just got my mom The Farmhouse Cookbook (for Mother’s Day but given to her on her birthday, so I kind of cheated her out of a gift… sorry, Mom!), and they had a recipe for exactly what I was hoping for – plus some meringue for good measure.

I adjusted it a little bit (mostly because I have a really hard time spending $11 on a single vanilla bean), and had to scrap my attempt at the caramel, but more on that later.

First, make the custard. Combine the milk, cream, and vanilla extract in a pan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it boils, remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes.¬†Floating Islands - 1Then, in a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until a pale yellow color. I did this by hand, but I recommend a hand mixer – I was just being stubborn.Floating Islands - 2 Floating Islands - 3Return the milk mixture to a boil, and then whisk it into the yolks gradually.Floating Islands - 4 Floating Islands - 5Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.Floating Islands - 6Pour into a bowl and stir in the kirsch. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.Floating Islands - 7I chilled mine for about 6 hours and it was still pretty liquid when I served it, so you may want to chill it overnight. Although, the original recipe called for vanilla bean and I used extract, which may have had something to do with it, as well as the fact that I put it in a stainless steel bowl, which I ‘m convinced held the heat longer than a melamine bowl would. Anyways, if you adjust any of those things, yours may be more pudding-like.

Now, the caramel procedure in the original recipe seemed kind of strange, but I decided to give it a go. I’ve made a lot of caramel from scratch, and there’s quite a few ways to do it. I screwed this one up and had to use store-bought caramel, but I’ll include this one in case you can get it to work.

First, put the sugar and 3 tablespoons of water in a saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly.Floating Islands - 8 Floating Islands - 9Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil, still stirring, until it turns a deep amber color.Floating Islands - 10

At this point, the recipe says to plunge the bottom of the pan into cold water. I did, but I think I left it in too long, because all of a sudden I had hard caramel at the bottom of my pan. If you just quickly put it in and out, I think you’ll be OK.

Anyways, then add the kirsch and another 3 tablespoons of water. Return to the stovetop and heat over low heat until smooth.Floating Islands - 11Pour into a small pitcher and set aside until use.Floating Islands - 12When I went to use it, it was rock hard. Thus the store-bought variety. However, if you don’t plunge the pan as long, you might be fine.

Moving on to the meringues, I actually think I did this part the best. Probably because I could rely on my stand mixer to do the hard work. Make these right before serving.

Beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment on high speed until white and foamy.Floating Islands - 13 Floating Islands - 14With the mixer running, add half of the sugar and beat until soft peaks form.Floating Islands - 15 Floating Islands - 16Add the remaining sugar and beat until glossy and stiff peaks form.Floating Islands - 17In a large frying pan, bring 2 cups of water to a simmer. Spoon 4 big spoonfuls of meringue onto the top of the water at a time, and poach for 3 minutes.Floating Islands - 18Using a slotted spoon, remove to a baking sheet lined with a clean dish towel. And repeat the process to make enough meringues.Floating Islands - 19To serve, split the custard between 9 or 10 wine glasses and add a handful of berries to each.Floating Islands - 20Spoon a meringue island on top of each. Drizzle with caramel sauce.Floating Islands - 21There’s something about serving dessert¬†in a wine glass that makes it classier. Floating Islands - 22Plus, no one can say no to dessert when it’s already in a single-serve presentation – they’ll feel bad. So you can ensure that there are no leftovers, which I appreciate.

Enjoy!Floating Islands - 23

Floating Islands

Ingredients:

  • 24 ounces mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc.)

Custard

  • 2 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 10 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 9 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons kirsch

Caramel

  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons water, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kirsch

Meringues

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Directions:

Custard

  1. In a saucepan, combine the milk, heavy cream, and vanilla extract and bring to a boil. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow.
  3. Bring the milk mixture back to a boil, then whisk into the egg yolks.
  4. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and coats back of a wooden spoon.
  5. Pour into a clean bowl and stir in kirsch.
  6. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.

Caramel

  1. Heat sugar and 3 tablespoons water in a saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves.
  2. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Boil until mixture turns deep amber.
  3. Remove from heat and quickly plunge bottom of pan into ice water, removing immediately.
  4. Stir in kirsch and remaining 3 tablespoons water.
  5. Return to low heat and stir until smooth.
  6. Pour into small pitcher and set aside until use.

Meringue

  1. Right before serving, whip egg whites on high speed in stand mixture fitted with whisk attachment until white and foamy.
  2. Add half the sugar and beat until soft peaks form.
  3. With mixer running, add remaining sugar. Beat until glossy and stiff peaks form.
  4. Bring 2 cups of water to a simmer in a large frying pan.
  5. Spoon large spoonfuls of egg whites onto the surface of the water, four at a time. Poach for 3 minutes.
  6. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and place on a baking sheet lined with a clean dish towel. Repeat until enough meringues.
  7. To assemble dessert, divide custard between 9 or 10 wine glasses. Add a handful of berries to each glass. Set one meringue on top of each. Drizzle with caramel.

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