Tuesday, February 10, 2009

TWD: Floating Island



This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Floating Island, was chosen by Shari of one of the many great blogs in our club here--Whisk. If you have not yet read her blog, I urge you to--the food, the photos, everything about it is amazing! I will look forward to seeing her photography of her islands--no doubt hers will be a work of art. Mine were a work of 'art' but more the work of a kindergartner, especially the haphazard manner in which the caramel was 'drizzled' (more like "how the caramel came off the fork best I could do before it solidified and formed more spider webs around my counter!)

Ok, story time. I need to share that Floating Island has intrigued me for years...decades even. You see, one day when I was probably 14 or so, my mom told me a great Hepburn-Tracy movie was on TV and so we watched it together...Desk Set. I love this movie...love, love it. Maybe because it took place in a NYC TV company (outside shots are NBC/Rock Center, but the movie called it some fake name like FBC)., or maybe it was the fabulous clothes of 1950's....it involved Christmastime (and one fun scene of a rockin' office Christmas party). Plus, the jobs they had I thought were so neat (reference department for the TV studio). And of course, the great dynamic of Tracy-Hepburn is in full form. It's just a movie as nice and fluffy as meringue we made this week!

So in one scene, Spencer T's character ("Richard Sumner") gets stuck in the rain on the way home in the city, and he's with K.Hepburn ("Bunny Watson"). Sumner can't find a cab and so rather than have to walk the rest of the way, Bunny invites him up to dry his clothes while she made dinner (and being a 1957 movie-that's really what she meant--come up, dry the clothes and I'll fix you something to eat. I know, shocking, huh?!)

ANYWAY, (really this relates back to the dessert!) after she sets up a cozy dinner on a card table, by the fire in her fab NYC apartment, he asks her what's for dessert and she replies "floating island" and he is excited and repeats back, "floating island!!" (side note: his voice in that one line cracks me and my sister up all the time. Something about his tone there is funny...at least to us.) So it was the first and probably only time I have ever heard this dessert mentioned...and ever since then, the countless times I've now seen the movie, I've always wanted to find out what it tastes like.



The photo here shows them eating Floating Island --and then unexpectedly, her friend Peg visits...followed (once again, unexpectedly) by her on-again-off-again boyfriend Mike. It turns into a cute scene where they're trying to explain why they both are sitting there in robes having a dinner for 2.

So a few weeks ago the following conversation between my sister and I occurs:
Lisa: "Maureen, guess what recipe is on the agenda for Tuesdays with Dorie this month!?"
Maureen: "What? I dunno.."
Lisa: "Floating Island."
Maureen: "Floating Island!!" (right on cue, in the S.Tracy voice)

I wanted Mo to come over and try, but the 35+ minutes apart we live combined with the fact that I didn't make it until Sunday meant she missed out this time. But I vow to make it for her next time she comes over! Plus, I might as well get the kinks out of it first!

Funny, though, because now that I have made it myself, I wonder how Bunny Watson made it so darn quickly in the movie..she must have had the components done before, and she just assembled it then and there....because she had no time to be stirring up the creme anglaise, that's for sure...

So, because it reminds me of that movie, Floating Island has always sort of meant to me a classic dessert that went by way of the dodo bird, hats & gloves, double strand pearls and chiffon cake. One of those dishes the wives would whip up after a beef wellington for a house dinner party...as they cooked/baked in pearls, and aprons over party dresses.

So the first step here was the creme anglaise...English Cream for you non-Frenchies. This was easy and yet...not. I whisked the yolks and sugar until they were thick...then poured in the boiling milk as instructed and put it all on the stove, but it just about boiled at 170 or so degrees. I saw the bubble, turned it down to low...stirred...and stirred...and it didn't get past 160 or so, so I gave up after seeing it wanted to curdle...so I took it off the stove at a lower than called for temp, as I THINK 160 is at least the temp to get out any salmonella...(or I certainly HOPE so!)

I read in another cookbook to cook to 165 and strain into a bowl set into a larger bowl of cold water. I hope the less-than-180 degrees would not ruin anything...and I did the cold water for good measure. Here it is, after straining, set in a cold water bowl/bath.




After dinner cleared up, I started the islands...beating the whites...waiting for that nice glossy finish...





And then the simmering part came. Not sure if I had the milk 'simmery' enough at first, but I think I did it right..??



As I was mixing the whites for the islands, it occurred to me that I should have made these last Wednesday, and had a theme night, watching Lost while I enjoyed the floating islands! But then I started making the islands, with the 2-spoon method...and they were coming out all uneven and not so professional looking...so then I decided that no, perhaps "Gilligan's Island" was a better fit for my wacky looking archipelagos!


But hey, islands, nonetheless.

Then came the caramel..which did not take 6-8 minutes, but I think it was because I did not have it turned up enough? Because once I gave it more gas after 10 minutes had gone by and nary an amber look in sight, all of a sudden it went from this



to this


to THIS, in a flash!



It solidified almost immediately....not fun.

(NOTE: the islands were chilling for about an hour before I started the caramel/etc...so there was a time lapse here to let the islands get 'happy' as Emeril would say, in the fridge.)

And...finally...here we have it! An island fit for anyone from Spencer Tracy; Jack&Sawyer, or even Marianne & Ginger! Forgive the messy application of the caramel..I tried to do my best while it started solidifying again! It basically looks like someone scribbled all over my island...but in the meantime all I could see around the counter/sink/etc were these strands of caramel 'cobwebs'....I just gave up after doing one. Dear Husband sat this dessert out, so I have 5 more meringues in one container and a bowl of creme anglaise in the fridge. As for the caramel, I bought the fake store-bought stuff as back up, so that will go on my island tomorrow. I only made six islands...and at that I know I can't possibly have them all, so it's kinda bumming me out wasting it...but wow, is it amazing! (Hey, Mo, you sure you can't swing by this week? We can throw on Desk Set and enjoy!)





And enjoy, I did! Soooooo....gooood. This creme anglaise should be outlawed...it's just that good! Gee, so much for eating better in my 17th week of pregnancy..if I keep it up, I will have a baby with a sweet tooth, and whose first word is "Dorie!"(which is fine by me!)

23 comments:

n.o.e said...

Aww, congrats on the future baker! I think your island looks amazing, and I'm more than impressed by the homemade caramel. The movie tie-in is adorable. Good job all around, and I vote for Mo to come by for a serving.
Nancy

Secret Server said...

Wow, thanks for the interesting movie story. I'm glad your islands and all the components turned out. They look great!

Cathy said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE your post!!! I hope that Mo can come over this week. I should have known that if anyone would know what a floating island was before this week, you would, my friend. So did you make these in pearls, just for fun?

spike. said...

Now I have to see that movie!

karen said...

love your story! and especially love the last line of the post. :)

Flourchild said...

I love old classic movies..nice blog! Your islands look grand.

pinkstripes said...

Your floating island looks perfect. I love your strands of caramel. All I got was dots of caramel. I need to work on my forking techinique.

Jess said...

Desk Set - I haven't seen that movie in years! Who knew there was a Floating Islands reference in it. Yours look fantastic - that caramel drizzle really does the trick.

Lisa magicsprinkles said...

I love your Desk Set story! I need to see if I can find it on AMC or something. Those movies are the best. Your Floating Islands look fab and I'm glad they turned out for you

Audrey said...

I love Desk Set! (well, just about anything with those two in it). I'll have to pay more attention to that scene...and I think your caramel could be on Fantasy Island! (I mean that in a good way...) It looks great!

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

I'm going to have to watch Desk Set just for that line now! Funny how it stuck in your brain all these years! Great post. And now, being pregnant, is the best time to finish up all those remaining islands and creme anglaise! You owe it to "little Dorie"! ;) Thanks for baking along with me this week and sharing such a sweet story.

AmyRuth said...

So cute baby baker in the belly. maybe a new baking group in the wings. he he I love old movies and Desk Set is totally one of my favorites as well. Thank you for sharing that little detail about the floating islands. Yours BTW look delicious and your caramel looks beautiful. I think it is supposed to be crunchy. I loved it too. Thanks for stopping by for a visit.
AmyRuth

Jill said...

I love Desk Set! I remember that scene but not the floating island part...I'll have to watch it again!

Teanna said...

Fantastic post! I can just picture the way "floating island" sounds in that movie! They had such distinct voices in movies back then! And so glad that it lived up to your expectations!

Jennifer said...

I have never seen "Desk Set" but I'll be scouring AMC for it. I love movies like that, one of my favorites is "Charade."

BTW, my caramel looked almost EXACTLY like yours! Except I ended up with some unappealing little blobs!

Lady Baker said...

To any Desk Set fan--or ones curious about it...truly, it's a gem! You won't be disappointed if you are a fan of their movies!

Thanks for all compliments on the islands/caramel--sometimes I really feel out of my league with some of these amazing bakers in TWD, but this week, I have to say I was proud of my creation...now we'll see how I fare with marshmallow frosting on devil's food cake next week! Any time a thermometer is used on simmering liquids, I always get worried that I'll screw it up and get too low or too hight a temp!

Jacque said...

Wow, I'm impressed that you've actually heard of this... you get the gold star, LOL.

Your floating islands would make any movie star happy. Nice job!

Ivette said...

Now that I see how your egg whites were done.. I'm wondering if I was too scared to mess mine up and should have maybe whisked a bit more? They turned out alright.. but I don't think my whites looked as nice as yours. Anyway, I love how your islands turned out!!

Swine said...

Loved the back story, Baker! Loved it.

TeaLady said...

Great islands. Love that movie with S.T. and K.H. they were awesome together. But ya know I missed that part, can't wait to see it again. Great story.

LyB said...

Loved your story! And your islands look perfect. :)

Matt's Kitchen said...

Oh, how I love Tracy and Hepburn, my favorite film of theirs being Adam's Rib. Years ago Cooking Light did a feature on movie inspired recipes. "Desk Set Chicken" was in there along with a brief description of that scene.

One of my favorite parts of having a child (and I know it will be one of yours, too) is introducing him or her to all of your favorite TV shows and movies. My son now loves the Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show...

It's nice to see that things from previous generations can be appreciated by the new ones!

Heather said...

Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!!

You're story is identical to mine! At 40 I have been talking about this dessert for at least 30 years. The other day I was retelling it to a friend, he immediately opened up his phone (gotta love technology) and we pulled up your story-recipe! We laughed for 5 minutes. He forwarded it to me at home and voila! I now have a special dessert for my husband for New Years Eve!
Because of the greatest couple in history, and you, my couple will be laughing and full for 2010!