Monday, June 13, 2011

Floating Islands

Sometimes I feel like spending hours making roses out of meringue. No, really, that's not sarcasm. When one doesn't have a job, one must find ways to fill in the time. For Mother's Day I made a cake for my mum that was "iced" with an entire meringue rose bush. I found this absolutely gorgeous recipe and couldn't resist making it. Unfortunately, I don't have the proper icing tip (mine is too short and stout; must remember to get one very soon), but it still came out beautifully:
I changed the original recipe a bit. It seems like I can't just leave anything well enough alone; I always have to have my two cents. Except for switching up orange for the lemon, I followed the cake recipe verbatim (and wouldn't use it again; it wasn't as fluffy as I thought it'd be), but the filling is orange curd and blackcurrant, instead of lemon and raspberry. It sounds so much fancier than the original! Here's a cross-section:
In the same vein, last night I made iles flottantes on a sea of cardamom-lemon custard with some fresh first-of-the-season organic peaches. I love peaches and I love the way they taste with a little cardamom. Oh hell, I'll say it, I love cardamom with anything. It turned out well!
I only had time to take one picture and it's sideways, unfortunately. After the first picture, the urge to eat it all in one mouthful overtook me and I became powerless against it.
Anyway, it was delicious. Not too sweet, all the textures and flavours worked so well together: the airiness and slight chewiness of the meringue and the firm juiciness of the peaches as well as the smooth creaminess of the custard. I wonder how many batches I can make and eat before GP gets home... My recipe follows, if you're interested. Make the custard first so it can cool; I like it slightly warmer than room temperature. Since the meringues are shaped (as opposed to haphazard blobs), I couldn't poach them as usually done for Iles Flottantes. This way works well, though.

4 cardamom pods
6 egg yolks (or five if you spill some down your front like I did)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup milk (any kind is fine; I used skim but whole would taste better)
zest of one lemon, preferably un-sprayed
a few drops of vanilla extract

In a medium-sized saucepan, whisk together yolks, sugar and salt. Separately, heat milk and cardamom pods. It is important not to boil the milk, otherwise when it is poured into the egg yolks they will seize and you'll be eating sweet scrambled eggs. When bubbles start forming around the edge of the milk, it is ready to pour into the egg yolks. Whisk slowly as you pour and then place over medium-low heat. Stir slowly and constantly, making sure it never comes to a boil. When the custard has thickened, add the lemon zest and vanilla and set aside to cool while you make the meringue.

3 egg whites, room temperature
2/3 cup superfine sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually (one tablespoon at a time) add sugar until entirely incorporated. Plop the meringue into a pastry bag and pipe into roses, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake in oven for 3 minutes; any longer than that and the meringue starts to burn. To get the roses off the parchment, lightly grease a rigid spatula and slide under each flower.

When the meringue has been baked, it's time to assemble the dessert. Slice the peaches and arrange them on one side of the bowl so that they will be visible above the custard. Pour the custard into the bowl, then float the meringue roses on top. Eat it with a small spoon so you can enjoy it as long as possible.