As you might have heard me say before, I really do not have a green thumb. I love flowers and plants, but I seem to have a hard time keeping them alive. However, against all odds, my herbs are still growing and looking healthy. My chamomile plant has grown about four times the size of when I planted it and the lemon verbena is about two feet tall. I was really afraid the summer heat would dry them out, but that has not been the case. I keep my fingers crossed that they will survive the rest of the summer and fall months.
As you might know, Île flotante is a traditional dessert composed of baked meringue served over crème anglaise. This time, I infused the anglaise with some chamomile leaves and also added extra vanilla bean to the meringue for a very fragrant dessert.
The meringues in the photos were baked in individual ramekins in a water bath, but I also tried to steam some in a bamboo steamer with similar results. I piped these free hand, placed them in the bamboo steamer and steamed them for about 2 minutes. They are topped with spun sugar, which I do not recommend making in humid climates like ours. It only lasted an hour on my counter. By the time I plated the dessert and took all the necessary photos, the sugar had fallen and looked rather sad. If you live in a dry climate though, you will be able to keep it in an airtight container for a couple of days.
Chamomile and Vanilla Bean Creme Anglaise
500 ml half and half
6 egg yolks
100 grams sugar
1 vanilla bean
bunch of chamomile leaves
In a medium saucepan, heat the half and half with half of the sugar, the vanilla bean and the chamomile leaves. Let it steep for 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yolks with the half of the sugar. Bring the liquid back to a boil and strain over the egg yolks while whisking so the yolks do not curdle. Return this mixture to the pan and cook to 84C or until the custard coats the back of the spoon, which will take a minute. Strain the custard through a fine sieve and chill over an ice bath. Refrigerate.
75 grams egg whites
150 grams sugar
1 Tbs vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla bean
Place the egg whites and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Place this bowl over a water bath and whisk until the sugar starts to melt and the egg whites start to turn shiny and white.
Place the bowl in the electric mixer and whip until a stiff meringue forms. Add the vanilla paste. Continue whipping until the bowl feels cool to the touch.
Place the meringue in a piping bag and pipe into ramekins that we have previously coated with cooking spray. Place the ramekins in a deep baking dish and pour hot water in it. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 250F for 25 to 30 minutes.
To test for doneness, touch the meringue. If it feels sticky, it needs more time. It should barely stick to the fingers. Of course, the larger the ramekin, the longer it will take to bake.
Let them cool before trying to unmold them. Run a knife on the sides (although they should be separating from the ramekin) and flip them over onto a plate.
60 grams water
225 grams sugar
1 Tbs glucose
Place the water and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the glucose. Skim any impurities and make sure to brush the sides of the pan with water to avoid any crystallization. Cook the sugar to 310F. Immediately, shock the pan in an ice bath and wait until the bubbles are gone. Wait a couple of minutes for the sugar to cool.
Line your floor with parchment paper. Hold a wooden spoon in one hand and with the other hand, dip two forks in the cooked sugar and run them back and forth over the spoon. Move quickly. The sugar will start to form threads and fall towards the floor. Stop for a minute and gather the spun sugar forming a nest-type. Store this in an airtight container. Keep going and work quickly. If you live in a humid climate like I do, the sugar will start to melt and shrink and lose its volume, so it really should be used right after it is made.