Floating Islands with Coffee Custard

This desert island dessert from Michel Lemoine features soft poached quenelles of meringue drizzled with caramel and wallowing in rich custard sauce
By Michel Lemoine
Floating Islands with Coffee Custard
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4-6
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Effort: hard


  • 1.25 litres full-fat milk
  • 2 vanilla pods, split lengthways

For the meringue

  • 8 egg whites
  • 275 g caster sugar

For the coffee custard

  • 2 tbsp ground coffee
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 75 g caster sugar

To decorate

  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 50 g toasted flaked almonds


1. Heat the milk in a wide, deep sauté pan or saucepan and carefully bring to simmering point. Scrape the tiny vanilla seeds into the milk and whisk to disperse them, then add the split vanilla pods too. When the mixture is about to boil, adjust the heat so that it simmers very gently.

2. To make the meringue: use electric beaters to whisk the egg whites and sugar together in a large bowl until the mixture forms shiny, firm peaks.

3. With a large metal spoon, carefully scoop out 4 or 6 large chunks of meringue and add them to the simmering milk. Poach for 4-5 minutes on each side, or until slightly firm, taking care not to damage the meringue when turning it over.

4. Place a tea towel over a baking tray. Carefully lift the poached meringue on to the tray and set aside to drain.

5. To make the coffee custard: whisk the ground coffee into the milk in which you poached the meringue. Bring the liquid back to the boil.

6 In a heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until white and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the hot milk mixture, then pour the mixture back into the pan and stir over a low heat until it begins to thicken - this will take approximately 15 minutes.

7 Strain the custard through a sieve into a bowl and continue to stir for 2 minutes to help stop the cooking process. Leave to cool, then cover and chill in the fridge.

8. A short time before you plan to serve it, pour the coffee custard into a large serving bowl and, with a fish slice, carefully place the poached meringues on top so that they look like floating desert islands.

9. To make the caramel: place 50ml water in a small, heavy based, stainless steel pan. Scatter over the caster sugar and place the pan over a medium heat (do not stir it) and leave until the sugar dissolves. When the mixture is clear, bring it to simmering point and allow to bubble until it turns a golden brown caramel colour. Meanwhile, prepare a basin of cold water.

10. As soon as the mixture has reached the right colour, remove the pan from the heat and dip the base in the cold water to stop further cooking. Quickly pour a fine, decorative stream of caramel over the poached meringues. Finish with the flaked almonds and serve.

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