Thursday, June 12, 2008

Île Flottante: Slow-baked Meringues with Crème Anglaise and Bittersweet Chocolate

I have to confess: I was putting off making this dish for months now, and I'm not quite sure why. You may have seen it pop up in my "Up Next" section three or four times, excited to see it, and then get ka-blammed when I did monkfish and oxtail or some sort of organ-related dish instead. Sorry 'bout that. I'm not normally a tease, but I kept losing my mojo about this dish. It's one of the only desserts that absolutely intimidated me, and again, I have no clue why. It's weird, because when you look at all the separate elements of it, it's really not all that difficult. There was just something about the dish as a whole that made me nervous and uneasy about making it, so I procrastinated.

Boy, was that ever a stupid thing to do.

Why? Because this is the best dessert I have ever made, bar none. I highly recommend you go out and buy the book, or check it out from your library, and make this dish. Immediately. I am totally being the boss of you right now. Seriously, turn off your computer, get yer arse to the grocery store, and go make this. Oh wait. Maybe you should finish reading this post first. Yeah. But when you're done, call in sick to work, blow off any other commitments you've made and make this dessert. You won't be sorry. And, you can share it with the ones you love, or eat all six of them yourself. That's up to you. Who am I to judge?

Let's get started. Step one? Mint oil.

Pretty, pretty mint leaves my friend, Linda, grew in her garden and she graciously let me have since the deer have eaten all of my mint (and parsley - what's up with that, DEER? Bad breath problems? Feeling gassy from all the hostas of mine YOU ATE WITHOUT ASKING??).

I blanched and ice-bathed the mint leaves, mixed them with some canola oil and blended them in the blender.

I let the purée rest in the fridge overnight, then wrapped it in a cheesecloth and let the mint oil drip out over the next hour or so:

I put the mint oil in a small eye-dropper bottle since I knew I'd want to make smaller dots, rather than the somewhat sloppily executed oil rings I'd done in the past. I stored the bottle of oil in the fridge until it was time to plate the dish.

Up next? Meringues.

I think this may have been the step that intimidated me the most, and I still don't know why because it was really easy. I've made meringues before, but for some reason, I thought this particular method would set me up for the glorious failure I know you all love so much. But TOO BAD FOR YOU, it did not.

To prep, I preheated my oven to 250 degrees and sprayed some non-stick spray into six foil cupcake liners. I combined egg whites and sugar in my metal Kitchen Aid mixing bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, whisking it until the mixture was warm and the sugar had dissolved. I put the mixing bowl on the mixer stand, and used the whip attachment to beat the egg whites and sugar until they formed soft peaks.

I reserved a half cup of the meringue to use later in the mousse, but put the rest into a pastry bag (you could use a ziploc bag with the tip cut off, if you don't have or don't want to buy a pastry bag or the tips) and piped it into the foil cups. The cups were in a baking dish, which I then poured hot water into so that it'd go halfway up the sides of the foil cups. I covered the baking dish with a sheet of aluminum foil and baked them for about 20 minutes.

When they were done, I removed the meringues (still in their foil cups) and put them in the fridge for about an hour to cool and firm up.

While the meringues were in the fridge, I made the chocolate mousse. I put the chopped bittersweet chocolate into a mixing bowl. I brought some cream up to a simmer, and then poured it over the chocolate, letting it melt the chocolate. After a minute or two of just letting the cream work its magic, I stirred the mixture until it was smooth and all the chocolate was melted.

Then, I whisked some cream until it had reached the stiff-peak point, and folded that and the reserved meringue into the chocolate mixture. Zee mousse, she is ready.

Now, on to my favorite part of the process -- digging out the center of the meringes and filling them with the chocolate mousse:

Not exactly the most precisely perfect execution, but for a first-timer who had expectations of meringues and mousse flying all over the kitchen, I was pleased. These lovelies remained in the fridge until I was ready to plate. I also saved the leftover mousse (and there was a decent amount left over) to eat later.

Next, I made crème anglaise, which you can see here. I didn't photograph it this time.

Last, but not least, I made the chocolate tuiles. I was also sort of intimidated by this step, although when it came down to actually making it, it was really easy and I felt like a doofus for being hesitant about it.

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees, and in a mixing bowl, creamed some butter and powdered sugar:

I sifted together the flour and cocoa powder, mixed half that in, then an egg white, then the remaining cocoa/flour mixture, and ended up with this (it was making a slappity-slapper sound, which told me it was time to turn off the mixer):

Using an offset spatula and a 2.25" circular stencil I cut out of a plastic 3-ring binder divider, I made little cookie-type things on a Silpat. I then put the Silpat on a baking sheet and baked them for 7 minutes when the tuiles were set.

When they were done, I put the Silpat on a cooling rack to bring the tuiles to room temperature:

Man, was I happy those tuiles worked -- I fully expected to burn them, break them, drop them, or just have them not be what they were supposed to be... but they were excellent.

Time to plate.

I made a small pool of crème anglaise, then placed one of the meringues in the center. I had to gently remove each merinuge from its foil cup wrapper and allow the goop to drip off before inverting it onto the dish. I bypassyed the step of using a round cutter to make it more of a cylinder instead of the shape of the cupcake liner I made them in. I'd gotten this far and was pleased with the results, I didn't want to risk the meringues imploding or falling apart during that step. Because you know that totally would have happened, and I am sick and tired of sucking at desserts, so I kept on going with what I knew I could do for a first-timer.

So, crème anglaise, inverted semi-trapezoidal meringue, tuile on top, on top of that some chocolate shavings with drizzled mint oil and a tiny sprinkle of fleur de sel, and drops of mint oil around the meringue:

What's that sound you just heard? Every pastry chef across America falling off their chairs onto the floor in astonishment that I did not screw this up. Not trying to be all self-congratulatory here, but that is soooo not ugly!! It's actually kind of pretty and appetizing! And, even more importantly, it tasted absolutely delicious. I'm a fan of dark chocolate and mint together, but all of this in one dessert was beyond my wildest expectations. It was creamy and cool and fluffy and smooth, and just out of this freakin' world. The chocolate and the mint alone were delightful, but the vanilla of the crème anglaise, and the lightness of the meringues... and the different textures of crunch and smooth.... oh, I wish I could make one for every one of you out there, but alas, I think you should make it yourself. It's so well worth the effort, I promise.

Look at that mousse in the center! Woo-hooo!!!!!! This recipe makes six servings, but leaves enough leftover mousse to enjoy the next day for breakfast... I mean, dessert after lunch. Or, lunch. You know, whatever floats your boat.

I finished these in the afternoon and had planned to serve them to my friends later that night. So, I plated one, photographed and ate it, but when I was downloading the photos, I realized that I forgot to add the tuile, so that meant I had to assemble YET ANOTHER ONE at THAT VERY MOMENT, photograph it, then eat it, leaving only four meringues left for my friends. Oh darn. Sucks to be them and have to share, I suppose. *Snerk* I did, however, serve them the leftover mousse because I felt a little bit guilty. See, I'm human, despite what some people think. And in honor of my humanitarian effort around mousse sharing, and because I made the best dessert of my life, today, I officially crown myself Successfully Awesome Dessert Maker of The Month For Someone Who Usually Sucks At It And By The Way I Also Rock At Sharing.

Even though I live in Maryland, I need to see if I can get the Mayor of New York City to issue a proclamation in my honor. Anyone know how to get in touch with him? It's official business, I swear.


Up Next: "Yabba Dabba Do" -- Roasted Rib Steak with Golden Chanterelles, Pommes Anna, and Bordelaise Sauce

Eggs from Smith Meadows Farm

Domino sugar and powdered sugar

Organic Valley heavy cream and whole milk

Vanilla bean from the TPSS Co-op

365 organic unsalted butter and canola oil

King Arthur flour

Ghirardelli unsweetened cocoa powder

Mint from Linda's garden (thanks!)

Guerande fleur de sel

Noi Sirius Bittersweet chocolate

Music to Cook By: Boston; Boston. When I was in elementary school, we were allowed to bring in a record to play in music class so that we could learn about different kinds of music the other kids liked. In fourth grade, I brought in an ELO double album (I was obsessed with the song "Sweet Talkin' Woman" and also I was a geek who loved ELO) and one of the boys in my class brought in this Boston album. I've been hooked ever since. There's something about the song "Foreplay/Long Time" that I just love. That whole intro feels like Tom Scholz was a former symphonic director who escaped the loony bin and began attacking a synthesizer. Later on in the song, the hand claps, harmonizing vocals, lead guitar... all of it still to this day makes me wish I was in a band wailing on a drum kit or wielding a mike like nobody's business. And it was a great album to have on in the kitchen while I made a dessert that I am officially adding to the permanent repertoire.

Read My Previous Post: French Laundry at Home Extra: Q&A with Michael Ruhlman


Txgrrl said...

I just officially decided that this will be the dessert I make for my birthday next month. I don't care if my husband doesn't like eggs nor if my brother in-law doesn't like, well, anything.

I am SO HUNGRY right now. Awesome job and congrats on being winning the SADOTMFSWUSAIABTWIARAW award.

Joseph Bayot said...

Wow every picture made my mouth water.

The final product is absolutely gorgeous. Congratulations!

I just made some mint oil using the French Laundry recipe as well. It was the first "Herb of the Week" from a CSA I just joined and TFL recipe was the first thing I thought of. It was interesting and fun to make but I'm not exactly sure what else to do with it haha.

Anonymous said...

Well this explains everything. You were listening to classic Boston.All is good in the world.

Sarah said...

Congrats on your delicious and wonderful looking dish :)

Will have to give it a whirl, but I know where you are coming from when I look at that recipe I have the same reservations about the meringue, but you make it look so easy.

amber said...

i'm a sucker for anything that includes chocolate and mint. and now i must rush home tonight, tell my mom that dinner will have to wait, and make this ;)

Victoria said...

This looks truly wonderful. And although it looks painstaking, you make it look do-able. I just might have to make it for my own birthday.

Anonymous said...

Hey Carole! Loving that post - your Silpats have "France" all over them! And I'm French and my Silpats don't say a thing about their origin, go figure!
The chocolate mousse centre sounds just perfect!

Chris Furniss said...

Foreplay/Long Time is one of my favorite songs to play on Rock Band. :) They pretty much have the whole Boston s/t album on there.

Anonymous said...

Until I read the entire post, I "thought" I had made ile flottante before.... :-)
Obviously the French Laundry version leaves the regular "Ile flottante" in a smoke.

I might consider the possibility of one day trying to make it :-)

Gorgeous looking dessert, great job!


Anonymous said...

I was literally drooling when I saw those meringues. That was even before you got to the mousse. Wow, this may be the recipe that convinces me to buy TFLC.

Anonymous said...

How does the overall taste and plating compare to ...say... a sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies and a can of pudding?

Anonymous said...

Wow. Just.... wow.

Coincidentally today I harvested a bunch of mint and was planning on making mint oil, so I very much appreciate your demonstration!

You have every right to be proud of that fabulous dessert. Please send one to me here in California. :)

Anonymous said...

It's beautiful. I'm impressed. I love multi-step desserts. I love ELO. I like Boston. A little. But I love ELO.

Anonymous said...

It's beautiful, just stunning.

Anita (Married... with dinner) said...

So. Freakin. Gorgeous.

Take that, Stephen Durfee!

Anonymous said... a former pastry chef, I am now bowing to your meringue-y aura/power. This is as good as it gets - beautifully done, my dear.

Unknown said...

Damn. I dislike meringue, but I have a bumper crop of chocolate mint to deal with (mint does wonderful in pots, as does parsley, if you can hang them or have a more deer-free area). I might have to give these a try..... man do they look good!

jgunnink said...

Don't bring me down, Bruuuce!

Heather said...

So... I just started reading this blog recently, and I don't comment often on blogs, but I just have to say that you are freakin' awesome and I LOVE YOU AND YOUR BLOG!!! haha... I think I've just about read all of the posts now, have bought the book, check your blog like 20 kajillion times a day to see if there's an update, wow I'm not as obsessed as that sounds but yes... you are awesome, and thank you for all of this. You are so incredibly inspiring! I have really enjoyed reading along with your adventures and look forward to making some of these dishes myself! And of course, this will be the first dessert I make, haha.

Thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful and must have tasted devinely. You've solved the question of what to have for dessert this weekend!

Anonymous said...

I will 'fess up to being a total dork and say, if you get/have a chance to play Guitar Hero, you will find that Boston song on there. It's actually quite an awesome song to play. So keep that in mind if you're ever hanging around with some 16 year old boys playing Guitar Hero!

(And just for the record, I'm not a 16 year old boy but a 26 year old woman... who loves your blog of course. )

Reebs said...

Okay - does that plastic three ring binder trick work for the cornets too...?

Anonymous said...

It looked like you stole the picture out of the book. Beautifully done.

Yabba dabba doo is good, I haven't made it with the prime rib, but once you cook a steak that way you won't go back. I recommend 2-3 Lipitor for each person dining though.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful dish. Given that I'm a meringue freak, this one's on my to-do list for sure!

Carol Blymire said...

Joseph: you could lots of stuff with mint oil -- it might make an interesting mix in a salad dressing over some fresh sumer vegetables... you could use it to brighten up a fish dish. The possibilities are endless.

Chris: You don't know HOW MANY TIMES I've *almost* purchased Rock Band. I am afraid that if I buy it, I'll never leave the house.

Craigkite: Sandra Lee, is that you!!?!????!?! ;)

Robert: THANK YOU!!!!!

Meagan: See above re: Rock Band. Same applies to Guitar Hero. I will become a recluse.

Reebs: I'll have to make a different stencil shape for the cornets. I've bought the molds, so I'm ready to go, but that dish is coming later this summer. :)

Melissa Bach Palladino said...

Carol! I didn't know you lived in CT. I might have to steal into your fridge, if you keep making stuff like this.

Gourmet has a similar recipe (that involves pistachios) and I was pretty impressed with it but I think this one would win in an arm wrestling contest with a big slam.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you made this and loved it. This is such a wonderful dessert. Very pretty as well.
I agree with joey above, Yabba dabba do is delicious. Straight from the mouth to the arteries.

Mary Coleman said...

My mother is one of those people who can cook anything. She would make Iles de Flottante for dessert for company because she loved to make it and loved the applause she would get when she did it.
I can't wait to make this for her..what a wonderful take on a great dessert.

Anonymous said...

Well, well done! It's a beautifully plated dessert, and how can you go wrong with dark chocolate and mint! All those textures must have been so delicious.

Btw, great music pick - I love that album too! :)

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I took my wife to see Sex and the City. After we went into Barnes and Noble and I picked up the French Laundry Cookbook. I perfer the cookbook.

After dinner we both went through it. The braised ox-tails are a definite thing to try in the fall and at somepoint I will do some of the fois gras.

Anonymous said...

Most excellent - I am in transition from Los Angeles to Houston...once unpacked, I will pull out my cookbook and do this recipe in my new home!
Thanks for the inspiration!

Anonymous said...

You see now, if Ina had made this version of ile flottante for that bride-to-be on her ?rehearsal dinner? show, I might have been rooting for at least one of her desserts. The version she made was complete snoozeville. This version is totally yum, and I want to come live with you.

Anonymous said...

living proof here from one of your happiest and spoiled neighbors that it is the best dessert ever!!!!
thank you sooo much
xo hm

Anonymous said...

Hey Carol,
I have to first apologise...for not finding your site sooner!
You have to be one of the bravest folk out there!
I am a huge fan of the FL cookbook, and often attempt the recipes, I don't do a bad job...and have had some great successes.....
Your versions however give me hope that I can do better.
Thank-you for an awesome site, I will continue to read & be inspired!

pdxblogmommy said...

Can I have this after my order of a complete creep?

It just seemed so fitting..sorry.

This looks DIVINE and not in that old Baltimore, John Waters kind of way.

Anonymous said...

I was with you until, "allow the goop to drip off." What goop? From the cooking spray? Shudder!

Anonymous said...

those are amazingly beautiful. wow

Anonymous said...

hi carol! I was inspired to try the iles flottantes this weekend. The chocolate mousse was quite hard rather than moussy/ fluffy. Is it supposed to be soft? Otherwise delicious!! Thanks - kathy

Christian said...

Hi, Carol ... good job ... my only comment is, mint pureed in the blender develops (always) a vegetal taste. That's why pulverizing the mint for a julep doesn't work. Muddle gently -- see if that doesn't help your end product, though it might not be quite so green.

Arundathi said...

congratulations! that looks amazing!

Ann said...

BRAVO, Carol, brav-effing-O! I second the nomination for your award. Well done!

Jakeymon said...

Lovely, just lovely. Good job!

Unknown said...

Wow, that looks amazing. Kudos!

Anonymous said...

What % Cacao did you use?

she's in the kitchen said...

That is STUNNING! It's the kind of recipe I attempt in the middle of February, when I'm sick to death of winter in NH.....thank you for the step by step, and yes, I gotta get that book.

Carol Blymire said...

Anonymous: I should've been more clear about the "goop" -- sorry 'bout that. It's a sugary syrupy goop that seeps out of the meringue while it's in the fridge. It's probably part cooking spray, part sugar. It looks like Karo corn syrup and tasted like it, too. If anyone knows exactly what causes it, feel free to chime in.

The Other Anonymous: I'm not sure why the mousse would've gotten hard. Mine was more like a pudding consistency, rather than being fluffy and whipped full of air. Maybe the meringue you added was under- or over-whipped? Again, I wish I knew more about why some of these dessert elements do the things they do, but sadly, I'm undereducated in that department. I toss to any pastry chefs out there who want to chime in.

Dave: It was a high percentage. I think it was 73% or 80%. I really loved that brand, and would use it again and again.

Anonymous said...

This looks really awesome! Great presentation too.

I just made some tuiles for the first time at the weekend, no where near as good as these though.

I just got the FL cookbook, and am going to have to give this a go.

Love your blog :D

shuna fish lydon said...

I have a confession to make.

When we had this on the menu at TFL I used to eat 2 after service, by myself, no sharing!

For some reason I was in love with this dessert. Even though, on paper, it doesn't sound like a masterpiece.

p.s. SD and I look forward to your visit.

Anonymous said...

This isn't the Ile Flottante I know! :( I Googled for a recipe and came to your blog - a really good idea, to comprehensively review a cookbook like this, but jeez what a terribly fiddly and pretentious recipe. Version I know? Poached meringue, simple vanilla custard, dribble of toffee sauce. And it doesn't take 3 days to make.

My Sweet & Saucy said...

Wow, what a great post! I love the step by step photos and description!