Monday, July 18, 2011

Oeufs à la Neige (Snow Eggs with Caramel and Crème Anglaise)

This is one of my favorite desserts. It's just poached meringue in custard and caramel. It's simple, bistro food. And each component can be made ahead. Plus it's economical and contains ingredients you would normally have on hand. The egg whites are used to make the meringue and the yolks are used for the custard. There are only three parts to this dessert:
  • Meringue
  • Crème Anglaise
  • Caramel
There is some debate about the difference between "Snow Eggs" (Oeufs à la Neige) and "Floating Islands" (Île Flottante). I haven't been able to get a definitive answer. Here are the possibilities:
  • snow eggs are poached in milk whereas floating islands are baked in a bain-marie
  • snow eggs don't contain caramel whereas floating islands do
  • snow eggs are poached in sweetened milk or water whereas floating islands have hazelnuts in the meringue and it's baked in a mold
  • the name snow eggs refers to the shape of the meringue whereas the name floating islands refers to how the egg whites float in a puddle of crème anglaise
If you know the answer to this naming mystery, let me know.

Making the custard is simple. Just heat the milk and vanilla to boiling (but not boiling over)! While it's heating, whisk the yolks and sugar. Then when the milk has come to a boil, slowly pour it into the egg-sugar mixture while continuing to whisk (but avoid foam, if possible). Then return the mixture to the heat and thicken.

For the meringue, whisk the egg whites until stiff and then add the sugar and whisk until glossy and stiff.

For the caramel, melt the water and sugar and bring it to a golden color. Then, to stop the color from going darker, add about a 1/4 cup of water and keep it warm.

To poach the meringue, bring some water in a large frying pan to a simmer and drop dollops of meringue in. Cook on one side for about 3 minutes, and then flip and cook the other side for 3 minutes. Drain on a dish towel. Then assemble all components (sharing with guests if you must).

Recipe for Oeufs à la Neige (Snow Eggs with Caramel and Crème Anglaise)

Serves 6

Crème Anglaise
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar

French Meringue
4 egg whites
4 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

You can find the recipe for Oeufs à la Neige (Snow Eggs with Caramel and Crème Anglaise) in the book Le Cordon Bleu at Home.

Tasting Notes
It's my favorite dessert. Sweet. Comforting. Light.

• Video (in French): how to poach meringue

More Oeufs à la Neige
• Whisk: Floating Islands
• La Tartine Gourmande: Pisatachio Floating Island for Benoit
• La Tartine Gourmande: Vanilla, Cardamom Snow Eggs
• Joe Pastry: Floating Islands Recipe

Next Time
Crème bavarois (Bavarian cream) in Charlotte aux Poires, Coulis de Framboise (Pear Carlotte with Raspberry Coulis) page 308

::Whisk Whenever::
I'm baking my way through a cooking school curriculum using the Le Cordon Bleu at Home cookbook. The "classes" are based on the Le Cordon Bleu curriculum found online and used as a guideline. Not all the items in the curriculum are in the cookbook, but most are. Where the items are not in the book, I try to find a suitable substitution.

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