Prep time: 10 minutes
About this recipe
The recipe that links to the life lesson of ‘No man is an île flottante’ couldn’t be anything else really. Just as therapy involves bringing two people to the room, this recipe brings together both mine and my client’s stories. The island is the anchor in both this sweet dish and in the sweet stories my client’s dad would tell him about their special place of Chocolate Island each night before bed. Their connection meant that my client wasn’t an island. He was safe and secure, and anchored in that relationship with his dad. Chocolate Island might have been imaginary, but their affectional bond couldn’t have been more real.
In terms of my story, the orange blossom in the crème anglaise is family fragrant of the island of my heritage. But it’s also a nod to Terry’s Chocolate Orange. Because in my version, Chocolate Island would be chockfull of my favourite corner shop treats – there would be no Willy Wonka style 70% cocoa solids chocolate fountain. We were a family of Dairy Milkers, and Caramel and Crunchie were my favourites. In the same way that stories are recreated, so are recipes. So instead of the caramel drizzle that is traditional to this dessert, here it flavours the island itself. Caramel extract is gorgeous stuff – it gives a sheen to the meringue that makes it look like a caramel Christmas bauble, especially as it’s adorned with golden honeycomb shards. Smashing a Crunchie bar is not an activity that should only remain in the realms of childhood – it’s much too playfully pleasurable. I love this recipe nearly as much as I enjoyed that trip to Chocolate Island with my client.
For the meringues:
- 2 large egg whites
- 140g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salted caramel extract
- Milk for poaching – roughly 1.4 litres (so 2 pints) of whatever you have in the fridge
For the crème anglaise:
- 400ml whole milk
- 4 large egg yolks
- 2.5 tablespoons caster sugar
- 1.5 teaspoons orange blossom water
- One Crunchie bar, crushed
- Pour your poaching milk into a large, shallow pan – around 25cm with a depth of 8cm works well. The milk needs to come about halfway up the side of the pan. Bring the milk to the boil and reduce the heat so that it slowly simmers – there will be very few bubbles blipping on the surface.
- Meanwhile, make the meringue. Put the egg whites into a clean bowl (it mustn’t have any grease marks others they won’t whip properly). Using an electric mixer on low speed, whisk for 30 seconds – this creates small bubbles first that will help strengthen the meringues.
- Then, crank up the speed and start to add the sugar one tablespoon at a time, making sure each sugar addition is fully incorporated before adding the next.
- With the final spoonful of sugar, add the lemon juice too. Keep whisking and stop when the meringue mix has stiff, shiny white peaks.
- By hand, using a large spoon, fold in the teaspoon of caramel extract. Keep going until the marbling has disappeared and the meringue becomes a metallic, light bamboo colour.
- You’ll make four meringue islands so with a very large spoon, scoop a mound of a quarter of the meringue and, using your finger or a second spoon to help you, gently give the mixture a little push off the spoon to ‘set sail’ on to the simmering milk.
- Poach the meringues for 5 minutes on each side – take care when you turn them over, as they are delicate. As the meringues poach, make sure they each have room around them otherwise the heat will build up, and it needs to remain gentle – that’s why you need a large pan.
- Carefully lift each meringue out of the poaching milk and place on to a plate/baking tray lined with kitchen paper to absorb any excess milk. Set aside.
- Now for the crème anglaise. Gently heat the milk in a saucepan until just below boiling point, and steaming. Remove from the hob.
- Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until well-combined, then add a little of the heated milk and keep the whisk moving. Once that first bit of milk has been incorporated, gradually add the rest, and keep whisking all the while.
- Give the saucepan used to heat the milk a little rinse. Pour the mixed eggs, sugar and milk into the cleaned pan, and place over a medium-low heat. Stir continuously and carefully around the whole pot with a wooden spoon, and look out for when the custard starts to steam – that’s the sign that thickening is imminent. Remove from the heat at this point.
- Use the spoon test to see if the crème anglaise is ready – you should be able to draw your finger down the custard clinging to the back of the wooden spoon, and that little path you create should remain, and not custard-close back up. It should be the consistency of double cream. Stir in the orange blossom water.
- Place some greaseproof paper or clingfilm directly on the surface of the crème anglaise, as this will prevent a skin forming. Once cool, refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
- To serve, pour a pool of chilled crème anglaise into a bowl and carefully atop with a cooled meringue (a fish slice is most helpful for this). Sprinkle with crumbs of crushed Crunchie – I like a full honeycomb avalanche on my island.
And don’t waste the poaching milk – it takes on a delicious candy caramel flavour, which although isn’t right for the crème anglaise in this dish, is really lovely for milkshakes and coffees.