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Floating Islands

  • Yield: 4 servings


  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • Caramel Sauce


  • In a large nonreactive saucepan, combine 2 1/2 cups of the milk, 1/2 cup of the sugar, and the vanilla over medium heat and whisk to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a gentle boil.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.
  • With a wooden spoon, scoop 2 balls of the meringue into the simmering milk mixture. Poach the balls for 2 to 3 minutes, rolling them over with the spoon and basting them with the milk. When all sides are cooked (they are slightly firm to the touch), lift them out with a slotted spoon and set aside on a platter. Scoop 2 more balls from the remaining meringue and repeat the process. The meringues can be stored for about 1 hour, loosely covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • In a small mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup milk, the egg yolks, and cornstarch and whisk together. Slowly whisk 1/2 cup of the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture, then pour into the warm milk mixture in the saucepan. Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a gentle boil and cook until it thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, pour into a glass bowl, and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down against the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 8 hours.
  • To serve, gently stir the custard and spoon equal amounts into four dessert bowls. Set a meringue ball on top of each and drizzle with the caramel sauce.