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Oeufs à la Neige ©

March 8, 2013

For those who like a challenge…….and then I promise to return to easier recipes!

A wonderful combination of  Crème Anglaise, Soft Meringue and Crunchy Caramel!

There is some confusion about the name. In French cuisine, the terms œufs à la neige (“eggs in snow”) and île flottante(floating island) are sometimes used interchangeably; the latter is the source of the English name. The difference between the two dishes is that île flottante sometimes contains islands made of “alternate layers of alcohol-soaked dessert biscuits and jam.”

This recipe is one of those glorious French inventions. My mother- in- law is an excellent cook, a talent most French people acquire down the generations, as it is part of their culture. In the good old days, they really knew their recipes and this was one she used to make often. Occasionally I would ask her how she had made something and the reply always came, “Oh it is nothing. ” A quick explanation would follow and the rest was up to me. Well here is one of those recipes where if things go right it really is nothing , but if they don’t oh dearie me……so I call it the perfect exam recipe, as it will soon show up your capabilities as a cook.

I used to give cooking lessons in my kitchen, to a wonderful group of friends and every six months I would choose some challenging dishes for my students to show their progress. I would write the names of the recipes on little pieces of paper and they would pick them out of the bowl. A nice smile would come over their faces as each one opened them up. They knew each time what was required of them and they then had the satisfaction of carrying out what ever piece of theory we had learnt. Even today when I pick up a recipe book, I will read something and think to myself, well it says that, but I will make it the way I have been taught, knowing the pit falls and safety nets.

Now in this recipe, the pit falls, as I call them, firstly are not to “scramble” your custard. Your custard has 4 egg yolks in it and  the trick is to add a little thickening agent, flour or corn flour, some times arrow root, to your custard. This helps in it not becoming scrambled. As you are heating your custard in a saucepan straight over the heat, unless you are very patient, it easily gets too hot and in no time separates out. This unfortunately, unlike mayonnaise is irreversible, at which point all you can do is start over, using a totally clean saucepan and fresh ingredients. Keep your heat low and stir continuously, especially around the corners of your saucepan, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon.This can take up to 15 minutes.

The second challenge is to poach your spoonfuls of meringue on simmering sweetened water sufficiently, so that they do not shrink when you place them on your Crème Anglaise. The trick is to pass a skewer through the meringue, once the cooking time is up and they are  only ready, if the skewer comes out hot, when you test it on the back of your hand.

Thirdly the lovely process of making caramel! Here I would like your full attention. Firstly all the sugar crystals, need to have dissolved, BEFORE the water boils. This is achieved by stirring continuously and using a brush to push into your water any crystals that might have remained on the sides of your saucepan. If the sugar has not dissolved before it boils, remove from the heat and stir until the water is clear. Once it begins boiling, you then ‘STOP’ stirring and remove your spoon. You must then watch over it! Soon it will begin to change color. You neither want it so pale that it tastes of nothing nor black, when it will be bitter and give off smoke. You just want to lift it off the heat when it is a nice deep rich brown. Remember, it has become very hot and will go on darkening and cooking from its own heat. To stop this process, you can place your saucepan in a heat-proof bowl of iced water. Leave it no longer than a minute and then pour it over your meringues. ALWAYS WHEN BOILING SUGAR HAVE A LID NEXT TO YOU, INCASE IT CATCHES FIRE!  NEVER LEAVE BOILING SUGAR UNATTENDED!!!!( See Fire Safety Notes under “Viewpoint,” in Index.)

The custard and meringue can be made ahead of time, but the last focus point is that you need to pour the caramel over, before serving, half an hour at the most, if done several hours before it becomes soft!

Despite the challenge, you will really enjoy creating this recipe, just choose a calm and un-rushed day!

This can also be served in individual glasses and you can spin the caramel on the top! It looks stunning!

 

 

 

Oeufs à la Neige ©

Oeufs à la Neige ©

Oeufs à la Neige ©

A challenge!

 

 

6 persons

 

 

Preparation Time: 1/2 hour

 

 

Ingredients

 

Crème Anglaise

4 yolks of egg

135 g caster sugar

300 ml milk

1-2 tsp Vanilla Sugar

1/2 tsp corn flour

 

Meringue Islands

4 egg whites

100 g sugar

 

Caramel

100 g caster sugar

100 ml water

 

Method

Crème Anglais

1. To make your Crème Anglaise/ Custard, separate your eggs into two large mixing bowls. Add to your yolks, sugar and vanilla sugar  and work well together with a whisk.

2. Place two vanilla pods in a sauce pan, add your milk and heat, but not to boiling! Heat to just when it begins to give off steam. If you add instead the inner part of the vanilla pod, you do get a speckled effect. The choice is yours.

3. From a hight of approximately 20 cm pour your warmed milk onto your egg yolks. The hight helps to slightly cool the milk before hitting the eggs, so there is less chance of your eggs curdling. Mix well and add your corn flour diluted first with a tablespoon of milk, so it doesn’t go lumpy.

4. Pass through a sieve into your saucepan and place over a low heat until it thickens and just coats the back of a spoon. It will become like a thick cream. This process requires patience and can take up to 15 minutes. You need to constantly stir and resist the temptation to turn the heat up, when in a hurry! That is how I scrambled my first attempt!

5. Pour into serving dish and place in fridge to cool.

 

Meringue

1. Place large wide saucepan full of water onto boil adding 185 g sugar.

2. Place egg whites in spotlessly clean, dry large mixing bowl. Make sure no egg yolk has fallen in, in which case scoop out using your egg shell half. These are all important points, or your egg whites will not go stiff.

3. Beat until stiff peaks when lifted up by your (switched off )beaters.

4. Add sugar and beat until shiny.

4. Taking a large tablespoon, first dipped in cold water, scoop out a large spoonful of meringue and with the help of a spatula knife drop gently onto your simmering water. Do two to three at a time, as they expand and you don’t want them all running into one another. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, using two tablespoons to turn them over half way through the cooking time.

5. Now test each one by passing a  metal skewer horizontally through the center. If it comes out hot when tested on your hand, they are ready.

6. Remove with a slotted spoon to drain on kitchen paper. They may shrink just a little, but if perfectly cooked, they should hold their shape. Then place carefully on your Crème Anglaise.

Up to this point you can prepare before hand and keep in refrigerator. Two hours before is ideal.

 

Caramel

*This should be prepared and poured over, 1/2 an hour before serving, otherwise the caramel softens on your Crème Anglaise. It is best crunchy!

1. Place water in small saucepan and add sugar.

2. Place over medium heat and stir until “all” the sugar crystals are dissolved. To make sure of this use a pastry brush to remove any crystals from the sides of your saucepan.

3. When the water is clear, “remove your spoon,” and turn up the heat. From the minute it starts boiling,” do not stir.” ****Have saucepan lid next to you in case of Fire and stay with your saucepan! Once the bubbles start to bubble slowly, as your water evaporates, it starts to change color very quickly!****

4. Once your sugar syrup is a nice caramel brown color, this happens in a matter of a few seconds, remove from the heat and place your saucepan in a heat resistant bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process.  After one minute pour over your Crème Anglaise and Meringue Islands.

This is a delicious dessert and well worth the trouble. Make it for your self the first time and then try it out on your guests.

Creamy custard, meringue and crunchy caramel, the perfect combination!

 

 

 

CRÈME ANGLAISE :

Oeufs à la Neige ©

Mix together your egg yolks, sugar and vanilla sugar.

Place wide saucepan of water on to boil, together with 185 g sugar to later simmer your meringue.

Oeufs à la Neige ©

I keep a jar of sugar with vanilla pods in it permanently in the cupboard so that I have vanilla sugar always available.

 

Oeufs à la Neige ©

In a saucepan to which you have added your vanilla pods, add your 500 ml of milk.

 

Oeufs à la Neige ©Add your warmed milk stiring all the time. Add your 1/2 tsp corn flour, diluted in a tablespoon of milk. Sieve back into

clean saucepan and place over low heat . Now patiently stir over a low heat until it thickens. This can take 10-15

minutes.

Oeufs à la Neige ©

This picture shows that when tested with a spoon the custard is not yet thick enough. It must coat the back of the spoon.

The final thickness of your custard is similar to cream, before you beat it.

 

 

MERINGUE ISLANDS :

Oeufs à la Neige ©

Make your meringue, by placing your whites only, (no yolk) in a spotless mixing bowl and beating until stiff peaks.

This means that the egg whites stand up in peaks when lifted with your switched off beater. If your peak is at all floppy

beat some more.Once this is achieved, add sugar and beat until smooth and shiny.

Oeufs à la Neige ©

Using a tablespoon, dipped in cold water and with the help of a pallet knife, gently scoop onto your simmering syrup.

After 3-4 minutes carefully turn over. When cooking time is reached test with metal skewer, passing it gently through the

middle horizontally. It should be hot when placed on your hand. If only warm cook a little longer. If not thoroughly cooked your

meringue will shrink when removed from the water. Place on kitchen paper to drain. Then place on Crème Anglaise.

 

CARAMEL :

Oeufs à la Neige ©

Having melted all your sugar crystals carefully, before the water comes to the boil, you then remove your spoon and let it

boil rapidly over a high heat.

Oeufs à la Neige ©

As your syrup gets hotter, the bubbling will go quieter, a warning that soon it will change color. You want it just a little darker

than this, so that it is more tasty. Place saucepan into iced water to stop the cooking process. After three minutes pour over your dessert. in order for this to be crunchy do half an hour before serving. Any earlier and caramel will soften and not be crunchy.

***Always boil sugar with saucepan lid next to you in case of fire and never leave your boiling sugar unattended!**** See “Fire precautions under ” Viewpoint” in the Index to the right of this post.

Oeufs à la Neige ©

Finally float your meringue on your Crème Anglaise and drizzle with caramel just before serving. If you look closely at

this picture you will see I only just didn’t “Scramble” the custard, because you can see at the edges it is almost separating.

I have included this picture for you to see and if you compare it with the last picture you will see how your custard should

be……perfectly smooth.

Oeufs à la Neige ©

I am also including this picture for you to see what happens to the caramel, if added 2-3 hours before serving. It has

softened. The flavor is still there and some people prefer it this way, but the best is when it is crunchy.

Oeufs à la Neige ©

Now here is how it should be to perfection. Beautifully smooth custard and crunchy caramel!

Oeufs à la Neige ©

Final Result! Delicious!

 

 

 

 

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