Oeufs à la neige, or snow eggs, are a classic French dessert of small poached meringues, floating in a custard sauce. Some people call it ile flottante or floating island, but that dessert is, technically, one big meringue floating in custard sauce. Whatever you call is, know it is delicious.
And, quite perfect for an elegant dessert – or even breakfast!
Oeufs a la Neige
pinch of sea salt
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
2 1/2 cups milk
Separate the eggs and set the yolks aside.
Put egg whites into a metal bowl and beat with a large balloon whisk or electric beater until until foamy. Add salt and keep beating until fluffy with firm peaks.
Fold in 1/4 cup of sugar and 1/2 tsp. of vanilla.
Place the milk in a wide pot or sauté pan. Heat to a gentle simmer, carefully watching and preventing scalding.
Use two spoons to form oval-shaped dumplings from the egg whites, scooping the mixture with one spoon and shaping it in that spoon with the other spoon.
Ease the meringue into the simmering milk. Place as many meringues in the milk as will fit without crowding or touching too much in the pan.
Cook, turning over once, until meringues are firm, about 2 minutes each side.
Once the meringues are cooked, lift them out of the milk with a slotted spoon and drain them on a clean kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining egg white mixture.
Once all meringues are cooked, strain the poaching milk through a fine mesh sieve. Add enough more milk to equal 2 cups, if necessary.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until lighter yellow and thick. Keep whisking as you pour the warm milk mixture, which will still be very warm, into the egg yolks. (Constant whisking will keep the yolks from curdling – this is called “tempering”). Transfer this mixture to a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon.
Stir in remaining the remaining teaspoon of vanilla.
Allow the custard to cool to room temperature, transfer to serving bowls and float three meringues atop each custard bowl. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover and chill before serving.