Cherry Ile Flottante with Honey Tuiles

I’m always trying to master new cooking techniques. Like any proper foodie, understanding how a dish works kinda makes my heart beat faster. Oh, the excitement of getting a bechamel sauce just the right consistency or making a smokey babaganoush (and filling the entire flat with smoke) – it’s pure joy!

One of the must-learn dishes that’s been on my list for ages is an île flottante – a floating island. I realised by talking to my English friends that this classic French dessert is pretty much unheard of in Britain. I had to explain to most people what it is: a yummy vanilla custard topped with a fluffy, feather light meringue. Traditionally, it’s all topped off with a few dashes of caramel. It’s amazing. For me vanilla-lover, it’s really the perfect dessert.

The best île flottante is one with home-made custard. Forget the store-bought one, this dessert screams for freshly made custard, with bright-orange egg yolks that bestow it with a healthy yellow colour. Plus, a floating island is a very clever dish: you use the egg yolks for the custard and the remaining egg whites for the meringe. No waste here, non non!

But be warned: making custard is not that easy! In fact, I’d made it before but still managed to burn mine this time and make the egg curdle. Disaster! So, please remember to be super gentle with the heat – don’t rush your custard by making the bain marie boil! Your water needs to constantly be steaming hot, but NOT boiling. Unless you like your custard curdled.. yuck!

Don’t be put off by that though – I look at it as a challenge, a fun one, with a very tasty reward in the end.

Now, the only downside with this dessert is that it’s pretty eggy. That’s not a problem as such, were it not for the fact that after a few spoonfuls you feel quite full, or egged out. So, I came up with the idea of pairing the floating island with some cherry compote – adding a bit of tanginess and freshness to an otherwise extremely sweet and creamy dish.

All that’s missing now is a little crunch on the side for texture: honey tuiles! These wonderfully crunchy, yet chewy, thin biscuits are one of my favourite sides for desserts. Go on, try them they’re absolutely fab! They get their curved shapes by laying them over a rolling pin or thin glass whilst they’re cooling down. Once they’re cold, they slide off and keep their new shape. Lovely. And very simple. And very much wow. ★

July 17, 2011