Sinking Islands

Lets be honest this was never going to go to plan. Poached meringues? Come on! I had always believed that the challenges in the series increased in difficulty as the weeks past. But if this is week two I’ll be crying, huddled with my cats, before we reach pastry week.

There is nothing to do but confess my dessert sins and hope I never have to poach meringues again.

I kicked things off with a bang. Or more accurately a smoulder. I started with the spun sugar. I followed the recipe to a tee. Got my small saucepan and began heating the sugar. I don’t know much about sugar work or caramel but I thought you had to add water when heating sugar. For insulation or some kind of science reason.  Apparently, Mary isn’t into all that science business because she just goes ahead and says to heat the sugar on its own. Um, nope.


It took all of 30 seconds to go from sugar to smoking rock candy. I spent the next 10 minutes chiseling burnt sugar out of my pan. With those few minutes to reflect on my life decisions I came to the conclusion that Mary isn’t always right. So for round two I threw Mary’s recpie out the window and put some water in with my sugar.

It was looking promising. The mixture was bubbling and changing colour. I was seconds away from delicious sugary threads when I put my fork in and got this.


Before I created the dentists dream you see above I did manage to spin some magic to top my meringues. All was not lost.


Impressive right? It’s totally fine. The sugar was just a garnish, barely even part of the challenge. I planned on nailing the main components and then my sugar “work” would look like modern art atop perfectly pillowy meringue ovals. 

For the islands, I whipped my meringue and stared making the quenelles. This part was almost as hard as the sugar work. I’ve seen it done on tv many times and watched my uncle make quick work of the two spooned plating technique. My attempt felt more like a frazzled baker playing the spoons than anything remotely culinary.

In the end, I settled for deflated football shaped quenelles and put them in the poaching liquid.


After a couple of minutes, the meringues had doubled in size. But the poaching liquid was simmering a little too aggressively. The next minute I had egg white slugs and the air was thick with the sent of cooked egg whites.


Not very appetizing! Fortunately I had enough meringue left over to go through the whole ordeal again.

I put some more footballs in and threw the lid back on. This time I kept the heat low and took the islands out after only a few minutes. I put them on a rack to cool. Which felt pretty much like putting wet tissues on a grill.


At this point, I had run out of clean pots,  reheated the same cup of tea three times and my kitchen had exploded.


I needed a win. Cue the creme anglaise. I strained out all the bits of island from my poaching liquid and slowly whisked it into my egg yolks. Mary Berry had blessed my custard because I didn’t end up with scrambled eggs. It thickened nicely and that was it, the challenge was complete.

I had my work cut out for me arranging the deformed islands and shards of sugar in a remotely tempting way. Not an easy task with the subjects I had created.


Little did I know that those islands and sugar were floating on a sea of gold. Crème anglaise, where have you been all my life? To be honest I think you have been masquerading as ice cream base but now I know what you are you’ll never make it to the freezer again. Seriously, I took one bite of the island and knew the egg-y puff wasn’t for me but as soon as that custard hit my lips I decided the whole fiasco had been worth it! I continued to eat around the meringue until the islands became land locked and my stomach couldn’t take anymore.  So basically the whole thing was a disaster but it was all worth it to discover yet another delightfully way to combine eggs, cream and sugar. Word to the wise, beware poached meringues but embrace the creme anglaise.

6 thoughts on “Sinking Islands

  1. Honestly, I don’t think it was you – this recipe seems super-weird even if perfectly executed. Wouldn’t poached meringues just be kinda slimy? The creme anglaise looks yummy though!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Even if it didn’t go smoothly for you, it’s an extra entertaining read for us ;). Well done in persevering!

    Floating islands is mega old fashioned though isn’t it – no one really eats it anymore, whereas people still happily spoon down custard!


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