Light dollop of fluffy meringue floating on creamy durian soup.
I never had the classic French dessert ile flottante (floating islands) until a visit to Luxembourg last year when I was invited to dinner by French Chef William Mahi. William's ile flottante was so good that I unbashedly had a second helping and would've had a third if I didn't control myself. I've been wanting to make this dessert ever since but was intimidated by its "Frenchness". Now that I've done it, I must tell you: it's darn easy to make!
Durians have just come into season here in KK, about 2 months late this year. Prices are ridiculous, ranging from RM15/USD5 to RM30/USD10 per kg. Since most of the durian's weight is in the shells and seeds, each seed of durian can work out to RM7/USD2.30 to RM10/3.30! But durian lovers are willing to pay for this most loved and hated fruit, even if it means going hungry until the next paycheck. We were at the durian stalls yesterday and as usual, groups of people were milling around the durian trucks choosing and bargaining for the King Of Fruits. While durians are best eaten with family and friends, we saw a lady seated alone, eyes half-closed, durian seed and fingers to her mouth. That's when I realized that the pleasure of eating durians is almost sensual. No other fruit has that effect.
I've adapted the ile flottante recipe from here, reduced the sugar, omitted the salt and replaced the vanilla with durian. I increased quite a bit of the milk because I like the creme to be thinner--the creme is eaten with a spoon like a soup. I tried scalding the meringue puffs in hot milk and then baking them in a cool oven for 15 minutes as per the recipe but found that they tended to break off in the hot milk so what I did was just baked the puffs straightaway. It worked fine. The meringue puffs should not be browned or crusty as in pavlova meringues. They should be tender, easy to cut with a spoon and meltingly soft in the mouth.
For such a simple, elegant and delicious dessert, the creme must be light, to go with the delicate frothy 'islands'. It has to be smooth too and the ingredients must be the best and at their freshest. That means only the best vanilla beans will work for this dessert. The durian creme can be overly rich so I think the coconut milk can be replaced by ordinary milk since the durian overpowers it anyway. This is a simple but delicious dessert to serve after a heavy meal, especially for people who are watching their intake of wheat and other starch-based carbs.
For the whole month of October, I will be using the Nick Munro moulds for RSP's Jellyrific! challenge to raise funds for the Breast Cancer Welfare Association Of Malaysia. Do make comments on my posts as I'm giving away an Oympus VG-110 camera. If you purchase one of the moulds (RM290/USD90) or spend RM500/USD160 on RSP products, you can even buy a vote (think charity) for your favorite blog plus stand a chance to win the Olympus Pen Lite E-PL3 camera!
Check here for a durian that grows only on Borneo Island.
Traditionally, ile flottante is served in a deep dish or soup bowl but...
...the Nick Munro jelly mould from Royal Selangor Pewter (RSP)
is just the perfect size for one serving and it looks great too!
Durian Ile Flottante (makes 4 large or 6 small puffs)
2 egg whites (medium sized eggs)
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
25 gm durian flesh* (replaced with 1/2 pure vanilla extract if not using durian)
1 cup coconut or regular milk + 1/2 cup extra
2 tbsp (or more if like) caster sugar
Garnish: sprig of mint, sugar syrup and chopped toasted nuts
*make sure it's not a bitter durian
Freshly grated old coconut is mixed with some water to make coconut milk.
The coconut milk is strained.
Pass the durian flesh through a fine sieve.
Fine durian mash.
1. Press the durian flesh through a sieve to get a fine mash.
2. Heat the coconut milk until just about to boil (bubbles at the side of the pot). Cover and keep warm.
3. Put the egg yolks, 2 tbsp sugar and vanilla/durian flesh into a bowl:
4. Whisk until light (this was not yet light):
5. Add the cornstarch, whisk, and then add the warm milk, mixing well:
4. Put the custard mixture into a small saucepot and cook under low heat, stirring all the time, until sauce is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon and will not merge after a finger is swiped through. Let cool and then chill. When chilled, if the custard tastes too rich and thick, add the extra regular milk to thin it out until it is the consistency of a soup that you'll like.
The Meringue Puffs:
1. Oven at 100 C/200 F. Line an oven tray or Swiss roll tray with aluminium foil.
2. Whisk the egg whites with the cream of tarter for 1 minute, then add the sugar and whisk until stiff peaks stage.
3. Using a large spoon, place dollops of the meringue on the prepared tray. Bake 15 minutes for a dinner spoon-sized meringue, longer for bigger meringues. Switch oven off and leave the meringues in the oven while you prepare the serving bowls.
You can also scald the meringue puffs in hot milk before baking them but this is a tricky step.
To serve, pour the creme through a sieve into a Munro jelly mould. Carefully place a meringue on top and garnish with the mint leaves, chopped nuts and sugar syrup: