Friday, July 6, 2012

An Anniversary Dessert: Floating Island

July 5, 2012 marked our 10 year anniversary. Wow. I didn't know what our first ten years together would hold.

We've lived in eight different living quarters as of this writing. Never knew my husband would go to the seminary. Never dreamed I'd become a pastor's wife. Never knew I'd become so obsessed with health and nutrition and real food. Never thought I'd get as excited about gardening, and chickens, and homesteading as I do. Never knew I could love my children so much. But I couldn't imagine a better way to spend the past ten years than growing and changing with my best friend. It's been a great journey, and I look forward to the future.

To commemorate this anniversary, I was inspired by the movie "Julie & Julia", which we watched earlier this week. In the movie, she talked about making a floating island, so I looked it up in my Julia Child cookbook called "Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: Essential Techniques and Recipes from a Lifetime of Cooking". And made it. With a few slight modifications, of course. You see, I just can't help myself. I am not sure if I'm capable of following recipes exactly. Especially when they contain any amount of white sugar.

Here it is (with my adaptations in parentheses).

Floating Island
Serves 6-8
  • Butter a 4-quart straight-sided baking dish and dust with confectioners' sugar. (Okay, I probably should've dusted with the conf. sugar, but didn't. Especially since the meringue didn't come out of the dish very well...) Set rack in lower-middle level of oven and preheat to 250 degrees Farenhait.
  • Beat 2/3 cup egg whites (which took me only 6 or 7 eggs to get there, she said 12) into soft peaks and continue beating to stiff, shining peaks while adding 1.5 cups sugar by big spoonfuls. (I added what was left of the honey in my jar... it was probably about 3/4 c. at most... it tasted sweet enough to me, so I didn't add any more.)
  • Turn this meringue into the baking dish. Bake 30-40 minutes, (took me more like 45) until the meringue has risen 3-4 inches and a skewer plunged down into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool--it will sink down.
  • To serve, pour 2 cups of creme anglaise (see recipe below) into a round serving dish. Unmold the meringue onto a baking sheet, cut into 6-8 big chunks, and arrange over the sauce. (Since we were going to be eating it right away and I am not a stickler for presentation, I pour the sauce into bowls, as in the picture, and place a piece of meringue upon the sauce.)
  • Boil 1 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup water to the caramel stage and when cooled slightly into a heavy syrup, weave decorative strands of caramel over the meringue, using the tines of a fork. (I didn't do this at all, but opted to sprinkle some nutmeg on top. It was already waaaay too sweet for me.)
Creme Anglaise--Classic Custard Sauce
For about 2 cups.
  • Whisk 6 egg yolks in a 2-quart stainless-steel saucepan, adding 1/2 cup sugar by spoonfuls. (I used one huge spoonful of honey that was probably not quite 1/2 cup. Pretty sure I could've gotten by with 1/4 cup or less.) Continue whisking for 2-3 minutes, until the yolks are thick and pale yellow and "form the ribbon".
  • By dribbles at first, stir in the 1.5 cups hot milk. Set over moderate heat, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden spoon, reaching all over the bottom of the pan as the custard gradually heats and thickens--do not let it come near the boil If it seems to be getting too hot, lift pan up, then continue as the sauce thickens. You are almost there when surface bubbles begin to disappear and you may see a whiff of steam arise. When is it done? It coats the spoon in a light, creamy layer.
  • Beat in the optional 3 Tbls. butter (uh, duh, of course I added this), 1 Tbls. pure vanilla extract, and the optional 2 Tbls. dark rum, cognac, or other liqueur (I didn't have this, so didn't add). That's it!
It's funny because in the movie, after both Julia and her husband Paul eat this dessert, as well as after Julie and her husband Eric eat it, it shows all four of them popping Tums before going to bed.

It is a rather rich dessert, but I don't think it needs to be. I think honey is somewhat sweeter than white sugar, but I think you could probably get by with less sugar than called for in Julia's recipe, as I attempted to do here.

All in all, a tasty treat for a celebratory meal. (By the way, we had hamburgers with homemade english muffins as buns, homemade potato salad, and stir fried zucchini and onions from our garden.)

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