Our riff on the classic French dessert île flottante features meringue swans swimming in Vanilla Bean Crème Anglaise.
Meringue Swans in Crème Anglaise
Makes 7 to 12
- 4 large egg whites, room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) extra-fine granulated sugar
- Vanilla Buttercream (recipe follows)
- Vanilla Bean Crème Anglaise (recipe follows)
- Preheat oven to 250°. Line several rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form. Add sugar, ¼ cup (50 grams) at a time, beating until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 3 minutes. Spoon mixture into a large pastry bag fitted with a medium round open tip (Wilton #12). Pipe 24 (2½x1½-inch) wings and 12 (2½-inch) head/neck pieces. Twelve wings should be piped with wing tips swooping up, and 12 wings should be piped with wing tips swooping down. (This amount of meringue will allow for piping a generous amount of swan parts for practice and in case of breakage.) Place wings on one prepared pan and head/neck pieces on another prepared pan.
- Bake in lower third of oven until dry and firm and meringue lifts easily off pans without sticking, about 30 minutes. (Baking time will depend on size of swans. Overbaking will result in cracks and browning. Head/neck pieces may need a shorter bake time.) Turn oven off, and leave meringues in oven with door cracked to let cool.
- To assemble swans: Pipe Vanilla Buttercream between two wing tips (one swoop up and one swoop down) to form a “body.” Place swan head/neck pieces into buttercream. Pour chilled Vanilla Bean Crème Anglaise into desired serving dish. Place assembled swans on top of crème anglaise. Serve immediately.
Makes 2½ cups
- ½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups (240 grams) confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon whole milk
- ¼ teaspoon (0.75 grams) salt
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- In a medium bowl, beat butter with a mixer at medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar, milk, salt, and vanilla. Turn mixer to high, and beat until smooth.
Vanilla Bean Crème Anglaise
Makes 2 cups
- ⅓ cup (67 grams) granulated sugar
- 5 large egg yolks
- 2 cups half-and-half
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped and reserved
- ⅛ teaspoon (0.375) fine sea salt
- In a medium heatproof bowl, stir together sugar and yolks until combined. In a medium saucepan, heat half-and-half and vanilla bean and reserved seeds over medium-high heat until just beginning to boil. Remove from heat, and whisk 3 tablespoons into yolk mixture. Gradually add remaining hot cream mixture, whisking constantly.
- Pour mixture back into saucepan, and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until steam begins to appear and mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, 8 to 10 minutes (do not boil). Remove from heat, and stir in salt. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl. Place a sheet plastic wrap directly onto surface to prevent a skin from forming, and refrigerate until very cold.