Friday, October 5, 2012

French Snow Eggs

Concluding my exploration of The Bonne Femme Cookbook, by Wini Moranville, I decided to make the classic French dessert: "Floating Islands" or "Iles Flottantes." I've seen recipes for this in numerous cookbooks, which I investigated; and, it was brought to my attention that this recipe is not for Floating Islands, rather "French Snow Eggs" ("Oeufs a la Neige"). While both dishes are similar, meringue served on a sea of creme anglaise, Floating Islands consists of single round flat baked meringues, where Snow Eggs consists of several smaller meringues that are poached. I was intimidated by the thought of poaching meringue, but it was really very easy. In this recipe, I made Wini's "Creme Anglaise" (to serve as the sea), her "Chocolate Sauce Tout de Suite" (to dollop in the center of the sea) and her "Caramel Sauce a la Tricheuse" (cheater's caramel sauce, to drizzle over the "eggs"). The sauces were easy to make and my kids have enjoyed the leftovers over ice cream!

Overall, I wasn't blown away by the cloud-like meringues, which were bland, textureless, and basically just a conduit to eat three different sauces. I think I might prefer them baked, as in floating islands...guess what I'm doing tomorrow! I've included all four recipes below, and I think it's fun to make everything at least once. However, it's safe to say that my "Snow Egg" days are over. Thanks Wini, it's been fun!

French Snow Eggs (Oeufs a la Neige)

Serves 4

6 large very fresh egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 recipe Creme Anglaise (see below)
1/2 cup Caramel Sauce a la Tricheuse (see below)
1/2 cup Chocolate Sauce Tour de Suite (see below)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt on high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar while continuing to beat to stiff peaks. Fill a large skillet halfway with water; heat to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Using two spoons, scoop up a mound of meringue, using the two spoons to make a small oval shape. (Doesn't have to be perfect.) Gently scoot the meringue into the simmering water. Let them cook for 1 minute, then using a slotted spoon, turn them and cook until delicately firm but not sticky, about 1 more minute.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meringues to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Continue until you have 12 meringues (or "eggs). To serve: Divide the chilled creme anglaise evenly in each of 4 serving bowls. Dollop a tablespoon of chocolate sauce in the center of each bowl. Arrange 3 meringues in each bowl, and thinly drizzle with the caramel sauce. Serve.

Creme Anglaise

Makes 1 cup

1 cup half-and-half
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt

Place the half-and-half in a medium-size saucepan. If using the vanilla bean, half, split it lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the saucepan, then drop in the pod. Heat over medium heat just until steaming. Remove from the heat and let steep for 15 minutes.

In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt until thick and lemon colored. Slowly whisk the warm half-and-half into the egg mixture. Return the custard to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla extract (if you didn't use a bean). Strain the sauce into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Caramel Sauce a la Tricheuse

Makes 1 1/2 cups

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, cream, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring to combine the ingredients as they heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook at an active simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Let cool to a warm temperature to serve. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers for up to 2 weeks; re-heat gently to a pourable consistency to serve.

Chocolate Sauce Tout de Suite

Makes 1 1/4 cups

2/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon butter

Sift the cocoa into a heatproof mixing bowl. In a heavy saucepan, stir together the cream and brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the corn syrup and bring to a full boil. Slowly pour the cream mixture into the mixing bowl with the cocoa, whisking as you pour. Then, whisk in the butter until the butter is melted and the sauce is perfectly smooth. Serve warm. Cover and refrigerate any leftover sauce for up to 1 week; reheat in the microwave to use.

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