Ile Flottante “Tropical”

I often find myself daydreaming about coconut trees and white sand beaches so when the thought of Ile Flottante came up I couldn’t resist giving it a tropical facelift. I’m usually not a fan of microwave ovens but I’ll do an exception today. I’ll show you a great way to make perfect egg white “islands” in a snap. They’ll remind you of fluffy marshmallows. And on top (or rather bottom) of the Tahitian vanilla crème anglaise on which to float those islands I added a passionfruit and banana espuma, because no waves are complete without a little foam. Some coconut flakes sprinkled on top and a caramel tree to add to the landscape and you’ve got the next best thing to a one way ticket to Bora-Bora.

There is some confusion about the name of this classic dessert. 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. I say, call it whatever you feel like.

This dessert is perfect to serve in a glass at a dinner party because not only it looks pretty sleek, but all the components can be prepared ahead of time and assembled at the last moment. You could finish it at the table and make a little show a la “Top Chef” in front of your guests. You NEED to get yourself a iSi Gourmet Whip!

Have fun!

  • Ile Flottante “Tropical”

    • Serves 4
    • For the egg whites “islands”:
    • 5 large egg whites
    • pinch of salt
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1/2 finely grated lemon or lime zest
    • For the crème anglaise:
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1 Tahitian vanilla bean
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 4 large egg yolks
    • For the banana-passionfruit espuma:
    • 1/3 cup passionfruit juice (no seeds)
    • 1/2 cup banana purée (in food processor)
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/2 cup cold heavy cream
    • For the caramel and finish:
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 1 tablespoon water
    • shredded coconut
    • For the egg whites “islands”:
    • Place the egg whites in the clean bowl of a KitchenAid and start whipping on medium high until foamy. Add the pinch of salt and keep whipping to soft peaks. Slowly add the sugar and the grated zests and keep whipping until firm and glossy.
    • Fill ramequins with the egg white mixture and smooth the top with a spatula. Place the ramequins in a microwave oven and “nuke” them for 30 seconds on high.
    • Unmold the egg whites (they will have the texture of light marshmallows at this point) and use a pastry ring or cookie cutters to make evenly shaped cylinders. Reserve on the side.
    • For the crème anglaise:
    • Combine the milk, the cream and the Tahitian vanilla bean (split in half and scrapped) in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.
    • Meanwhile combine the sugar and egg yolks in a bowl and whisk for 30 seconds. Add a little of the hot milk mixture to the egg yolks mixture while whisking continuously. Return the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan with the rest of the milk mixture and cook on medium heat while stirring with a spatula. Do not boil or it will curdle! The crème anglaise is ready when it thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat, cool and refrigerate.
    • For the banana-passionfruit espuma:
    • Combine the passionfruit juice, the banana purée, the sugar and the cream until smooth. Strain if necessary. Fill a iSi Gourmet Whip with the mixture and charge with two N02 cartridges, shaking it between charges. Keep cold.
    • For the caramel and finish:
    • Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and place over medium heat until you obtain a light amber caramel. Pour the caramel onto a tray lined a silpat and let it cool until pliable but not so much that it hardens (be careful, don’t burn yourself). Detach little clumps of caramel and pull them to create attractive shapes.
    • Pipe some banana-passionfruit espuma at the bottom of balloon glasses, top with some cold crème anglaise, top with egg white “islands” and garnish with grated coconut, passionfruit juice, lime zest and caramel strips.

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  • Kyle-Carpet Cleaning Fargo ND

    The pics look so good, I want to try it now!

  • Chris Chang

    Wow! This looks amazing, Chef! I am definitely going to try out the egg white islands, what a cool idea :) And oh how I wish I was on a tropical island…

    Oh in terms of the caramel, I’ve never tried pulling it before. Haha I’m too scared so I just let it harden.  Do you wear gloves or just poke at it with your fingers until it’s cool enough to handle?

  • Anonymous

    “You NEED to get yourself a iSi Gourmet Whip!”  I do, I do!  How did you know?  One of the coolest devices ever.

    Such a pretty dessert, and reading the recipe I’ll bet it tastes wonderful.  A lot of stuff going on in this recipe, but when you break it down it’s a fairly easy recipe.  Nuking the egg whites is an awesome trick – I’ll definitely be giving that a try.  Thanks for another great post.

  • Gloriadelpilar_1994

    look really nice!

  • Part Time House Wife

    Wow!! I want that now!!! Great pics! Buzzed ya

  • Part Time House Wife

    Wow!! I want that! Great Pictures!!! Buzzed ya

  • Asha

    i am simply going to say.. “I want”!!! :)))

  • Tya @Note etc.

    Zen… major perfect presentation! I love it so much, and that’s looks major delicious, cool!


    latest post:

  • Tasteslikehome

    You can always come down to my neck of the woods for the real thing – the sand, sun and the beach :)

  • Daisy

    OMG this looks fantastic :) So pretty! You’re very talented! Congratulations for being Top 9 on Foodbuzz ~

  • Kiri W.

    This looks absolutely to die for, and the presentation is stunning. I would love to try the banana and passion fruit epuma!

  • Suzi

    New here although I did see your last post which was incredible.  This is  just beautiful as well.  I love the caramel finish with coconut.  Congrats to you on the Top 9.  Have wonderful day.

  • Yue Cheong

    the dessert is very ‘tropical’, love how the picture gives out the details & it’s very colourful :)

  • Tiffany {A Clove of Garlic}

    I, too, dream of coconut trees and white sandy beaches, so this is perfect.  I love your photography — very clean and sharp.  Almost archectural.  I thought it was ice cream at first but now I see the eggs.  Sounds amazing!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Yue. Glad you like it!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Suzi!

  • Anonymous

    haha.. I envy all you living in those climates!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Daisy!

  • Anonymous

    It’s really good and light!

  • Anonymous

    Major thank you! :)

  • zenchef

    Come and get it!! :)

  • Anonymous

    You’ll be surprised how easy it is to “nuke” the eggs and what a cool texture they have. 

  • Anonymous

    That’s how I do it but be careful. Wait until it’s pliable and pull long strings or shapes. 

  • Anonymous

    Thanks, Tiffany. 

  • Amy @ FragrantVanillaCake

    This is so beautiful, and it sounds so delicious!  I love the tropical twist!  Congrats on the Top 9!

  • Nat

    Aw man, what do you know! I’m currently living in Tahiti and love floating islands, but alas, I do not have the equipment required to make this (I’m sure I could manage, though…)  :)

    And Kyle–I’m from Fargo.  How funny!

  • Anonymous

    Do you need your carpet cleaned? I’m helping Kyle out. :)

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Amy!

  • Nat

    Haha!  Can I trade your skills in the kitchen for some authentic Tahitian vanilla beans?

  • Anonymous

    Totally! You can have it all for a single bean of that heavenly goodness. 

  • Nat

    I will honestly send you some if you’d like. I should share my (simple) recipe for “cream soda”–one of my favorite treats here since it’s a million degrees everyday. It’s full of vanilla bean goodness :)

  • Anonymous

    Hmm. Tempting! :) If you send over the beans and recipe I’ll feature it on the blog with credit to you. 

  • Nat

    I’m sending you an email to the address you list under Contact. You’ll hear from me soon! Sorry to take up all the commenting space, but I’m so glad I came across your site! :)

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  • Oui, Chef

    Ile Flottantes were among my most ordered desserts when I lived in Paris, a close 3rd behind profiteroles and baba au rhums.  Ah…the sweet memories.  This one looks gorgeous!

  • Chang Pick Yin

    Considering how you were dreaming of beaches and coconut trees I thought I would see more coconut (cream?) in the recipe, but I love your classy creation as usual. What do people without microwaves do with the egg white islands?

    On another note, I may sound like a broken record but this part of the world is full of coconut trees, palm trees and all the sun you want. 😉

  • Amy @ WANF

    just returning from an amazing trip to a small island off the coast of puerto rico – with white sand beaches and coconut trees – now i’m left daydreaming of those things too.  it’s very sad.  but, in terms of food pics, this is as close as you can get to a white sand beach chock full of coconut trees. beautiful!

  • Colloquial Cook

    Ah bah y a pas de doute, le zenchef a briqué son siphon! Ça brille, ça brille!

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  • Heena (@tiffintales)

    I love reading your posts for inspiration and flavor combinations. You do a marvelous job – thank you! I had a question: I wanted to try this recipe and was wondering if I could use the mango soup of your Mango-Tapioca soup recipe as the base for the espuma instead of the passion fruit-banana combination. Would it foam as well? Also, could I toast the top of the ‘island’ with a blow-torch? Thanks!

  • zenchef

    Hi Heena,

    Thank you for the kind words. I think you could use the mango soup base (minus the tapioca) for this recipe but just make sure the mixture is not to thick for the syphon, or thin it out a little if necessary so it can foam properly. And yes, you could toast the top of the island with a blow torch. With the sugar in there it should caramelize quite well. Let me know how it goes! :)