Orange Floating Islands

Orange Floating Islands

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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 Serves 4.
Although you'll find similar desserts in many countries, Chuck Williams thinks that the French can take credit for the origin of floating islands. If you've never made them before, you'll be surprised by how relatively simple the directions are and pleased by the fact that they can be made hours ahead of serving. Poaching the meringues can be a little tricky, however. Poach only a couple of them at a time to start with, until you get the hang of it, and be careful not to cook them too long. This recipe will make more meringues than you need; serve only the best ones.


For the custard:

  • 1 orange
  • 2 cups milk
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

For the meringues:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Unsweetened cocoa for sprinkling
  • Ground cinnamon for sprinkling


To make the custard, grate enough zest from the orange to measure 1 Tbs.

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk until small bubbles appear along the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat. In a bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk until light, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the cream and orange zest. Then gradually whisk in the hot milk until well blended.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon, about 5 minutes. Do not overcook. To test, draw a finger across the back of the spoon; it should leave a path. Immediately transfer the custard to a shallow serving bowl, let cool a little, then cover and refrigerate.

To make the meringues, in a large sauté pan or deep fry pan, pour in water to a depth of 1 inch and bring to a bare simmer over medium-low heat. Meanwhile, in a large, clean, dry bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Using a balloon whisk, beat until stiff peaks begin to form. While continuing to whisk, gradually add about half of the sugar, a little at a time, until the whites are glossy and stand in peaks. Using a large spoon, fold in the remaining sugar, a little at a time. The meringue should remain glossy and stand in peaks.

Cover the bottom of a baking pan with paper towels. Using a serving spoon and forming one at a time, scoop up oval mounds of meringue and float them in the simmering water. Poach, turning once, about 45 seconds per side. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meringues to the prepared pan to drain. Repeat with the remaining meringue. Transfer to a plate, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

To serve, spoon the custard into shallow dessert bowls or deep dessert plates and float 2 or 3 meringues on each custard. Sprinkle each meringue with a little cocoa and cinnamon and serve.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Chuck Williams Collection, Simple French Cooking, by Chuck Williams (Time-Life Books, 1996).
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