Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Floating Islands...

Don't worry this is not going to become a cooking blog. I just wanted to share this story.

My spouse and I were watching an old Tracy/Hepburn film called "Desk Set", which I was pretty terrible honestly, not the least because nobody involved with the film knew how an actual computer worked.

But when the leads get wet in the rain and Katharine invites Spencer in, she produces Floating Islands out of her kitchen. (Well, actually, she asks Spencer to get it.) 

We were intrigued -- what was this dessert -- and while their impromptu supper descended into men beating chests and Katharine brilliantly looking completely disgusted, I googled.

I ended up with this recipe, and two hours later, I had Floating Islands, sans caramel sauce.

This month I am doing Flora's Creative Revolution Challenge and this fit in perfectly as a response to the prompt of Food Art. The interesting thing about this challenge is that it is in no particular order, I get to choose. This opens me up to all the potential possibilities.

I had problems with this recipe, derived from a Julia Child's one. I could not get the sugar to caramelize for love or money. And I even started over and tried it again.

with failed globs of hard sugar that is meant to be caramel
The island, which is soft (not crunchy) meringue, also took some fast fixing. The amount of egg white was one and two-thirds cups or "about 12 eggs". I rolled with the 12 eggs, not thinking to measure. Oops.

My egg whites foamed but no peaks. I put in the required amount of sugar (it said granulated and I used the finer Baker's sugar which is what I use to make meringue) and beat and beat and no peaks at all, let alone shiny stiff ones. Fortunately, I've made Pavlova for many years and so kept adding sugar and beating and beating until I got meringue ready waves.

Honestly, it was the best meringue I have EVER made and I am kind of bummed I didn't measure it because you know I won't be able to reproduce it...
The meringue fresh out of the oven ...

The creme anglaise involved a lot of hand beating and I probably didn't beat it enough. It also had this line: 

"You must be careful not to overheat it and scramble the yolks, but you must have the courage to heat it enough so that it thickens."

There was a moment when I realized it was starting to feel like scrambled eggs and I quickly took it off the heat. However it turned out deliciously, especially with the "optional" butter and rum.

Would I make again? Absolutely. I will have to see Julia's original recipe to check on the caramel sauce, and, of course, remember to measure.

 And yes, I own the same china pattern as the nuns from Call the Midwife...

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What I Learned This Summer

emily p. freeman runs this link-up once a quarter. And of course I don't keep track of new things I learn like she tells us to, so here's my best go at it.

1. Life is too short. It just is. If you have lost an immediate family member, you know this. It has been causing shifts in my thinking.

2. My feet remember the uneven paths of my childhood. It sounds like the first line of a novel. But it's true. There isn't a sidewalk for a block and half from my childhood home to the local shopping center. My feet knew the way.

3. If you neglect an orchid, it will bloom profusely by itself. Bonus: you will also ruin your assistant rector's sermon as he used a metaphor about carefully tending orchids. Don't worry, he saw the picture of the orchids on Facebook and worked his way around it. I got this last year for my birthday. It got soaked in the monsoonal rains we had this winter, the roots rotting -- and all I did for it was empty out the water from its container. Once.

4. Taking part in a creative challenge where I get to choose when to do a particular prompt seriously opens me up to all the possibilities: shall I do the shape collecting today or food art? (Answer: food art. I now know how to make creme anglaise from scratch, but the caramel sauce eluded me. I'm blaming the instructions, 'cause I know how to burn sugar...)

5. Chocolate wine. It tastes like chocolate liqueur. And that's not a bad thing.

6. There are flesh-eating sea bugs in Australia. (The link is not for the squeamish.)

What did you learn this summer?