I adapted this recipe to make a tall dessert, or merengón, as Adriana’s mother calls it (which is Spanish for ‘big meringue’). I wastaught this recipe ages ago, literally, and what do you know, Dorie’s proportions in the book, our FFWD challenge today, are exactly the same as mine, which is a very old heritage recipe. Go figure. I only omitted the teaspoon of vanilla extract because, well, you know, we’re making a pool of dulce de leche and caramel, we have enough vanilla flavor for now.
I have to admit I barely read the instructions and just made it the way I always do. I caramelize a large tube pan, beat the meringue and bake it in a water bath for the specified time, leaving it in the turned off oven to cool down, like I do with my cheesecakes. It shrinks, and then goes into the fridge till the next day, where it shrinks even more, like a souffle. But the texture after that is smooth and airy, just perfect; the knife cuts effortlessly into it, it doesn’t move, the island, it just stays tall.
While this is nothing more than baked meringue, the proportions are not your usual, if you take those of italian meringue, or swiss, my favorite, the one I use for things like the dulce de leche mille feuille, the amount of sugar per white is much smaller. It holds firm peaks but there’s a shiny quality missing, not glossy like an expensive magazine cover but more like door paint, my doors at least; yet the floating island will float in your mouth, almost a whisper of a bite dissolving before you know. Except we do have all the double caramel gooeyness dripping from the spoon, so sticky, so achingly sweet it doesn’t even bother me, because I want to lick the plate if I may.
You can make this one or two days before you plan to serve it, or even three, just like a cheesecake or a flan. And what to serve it with? Crème anglaise or zabaglione are the usual choices, because of the leftover egg yolks really. But a light chocolate sauce with fresh berries goes great too. Or even lemon curd.
Floating Island with dulce de leche
Yield 10 servings
You can serve this dessert in a pool of crème anglaise or sabayon too, and add some fresh berries such as raspberries or strawberries.
- 9 egg whites, room tº
- ¾ cup sugar
- Large pinch of salt
- 1 ½ cups sugar, for caramel
- 1 cup dulce de leche
Preheat oven to 250ºF / 115ºC.
To caramelize the pan:
- Put the 1 ½ cups sugar in the pan and set it over medium heat over a stove burner.
- It will slowly start to melt. You will be moving the sugar around with a wooden spoon or heat proof spatula a few times to prevent it from burning in one spot.
- Rotate the pan frequently, so the flame hits different parts and melts the sugar as evenly as possible. If it’s going too slow increase the flame, but be careful not to burn it.
- When you stir the sugar with a spoon, be VERY CAREFUL with putting your hand over the funnel, since the flame below will try to escape through it. Keep on rotating the pan and mixing the sugar when you see it’s burning in only one spot. It will eventually start to turn a golden color. If necessary lower the flame so it dissolves the sugar completely. It will look like you have a golden see full of ice floating, but it will eventually all melt.
- Again, being very careful, take one or two kitchen cloths, wrap them around the pan, which will be extremely hot, and swirl the caramel so it coats the walls of the tube pan. Spoon caramel so it coats the tube too.
- The caramel will start to harden, so do it fairly quickly.
To make the meringue:
- Put the room temperature whites in the bowl of an electric mixer, add the salt and start whipping at medium speed for about 1 minute.
- Gradually add the ¾ cup sugar, and beat on high until glossy, firm peaks form. The meringue should not droop. This will take a few minutes, maybe 3 or 4.
- With a spatula transfer the mix to the caramel lined pan. The caramel will start to crack when you add the meringue, it’s ok. Push gently with the spoon if you see there are empty spaces with no mixture. Spread as evenly as you can.
- Put in a baking oven pan with at least 1-inch sides. Put in the oven, and then slowly add very hot tap water to the pan.
- Bake for 40 minutes and check. It should have risen above the rim of the pan and be quite firm to the touch. Turn off the oven and leave inside with the door closed.
- After an hour, transfer to a wire rack. Let it cool for half an hour more, cover with plastic wrap and chill for 8 hours or overnight.
- To unmold, uncover the pan, put it directly over a low flame, moving it around so the bottom warms a bit and the caramel barely starts to melt.
- Using a large platter, flip it carefully. Warm the caramel again by putting the pan on the flame. Add some of it to the top of the floating island, careful not to add too much.
- Heat the dulce de leche with 4 Tbs water. You want a honey-like consistency.
- Add some to the top of the dessert and mix the rest with the remaninig caramel. Put in a jar to serve.