Îles Flottantes


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The French Market

The French Market

By Joanne Harris and Fran Warde

Published 2005

  • About

These ‘floating islands’ have been popular for hundreds of years, and make a spectacular, and only slightly fiddly dessert to prepare. Don’t stress too much over the meringues; if the traditional method seems daunting, then cook them in the oven instead at 110°C/gas ½ for 5-8 minutes. It’s just as good and will remove any anxiety at the cooker!


For the custard

  • 600 ml milk
  • 100 g unrefined sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • 5 egg yolks

For the meringues

  • 3 egg whites
  • 90 g unrefined caster sugar

To finish

  • toasted flaked almonds
  • 75 g unrefined sugar


To make the custard, warm the milk and sugar in a saucepan. Cut the vanilla pod in half, scrape out the seeds and stir them into the milk. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl, and when the milk is almost boiling, pour it into the egg yolks and whisk. Fill a pan big enough to hold the bowl with hot water to a depth of 5 cm. Whisk the custard frequently in this bain-marie over a low heat until it thickens (this will take about 10 minutes). When the custard is made, pour it into one large serving dish or 6 in dividual ones, then cover the custard with cling film – touching the surface – to avoid a skin forming. Place to one side.

For the meringue, half fill a wide low-sided pan with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Using an electric whisk, beat the egg whites until stiff, then add the sugar and whisk in until smooth and shiny. Shape the mixture into ‘islands’, using two dessertspoons, and place in the simmering water. Cook in batches of 3 or 4 at a time, for 30 seconds on one side, then turn and cook for a further 30 seconds on the other. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a clean kitchen cloth to remove excess water. Repeat until all the meringue mixture is used – this should make 12 islands.

Take the cling film off the custard. Place the meringue islands on the custard and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Put the sugar into a small non-stick pan and cook over a gentle heat until dissolved and just turned golden-caramel, then drizzle over the meringues.

Traditionally this dish is served cold, but it is also rather delicious warm.