Kids’ Corner: Floating island dessert (also known as "œufs à la neige" – "eggs in snow")


Just like today, little boys and girls during the First Empire loved sweets and desserts of all types. But one well-known dish in particular was very popular: “oeufs à la neige” (literally “eggs in snow”), little 'floating islands' of whipped egg-white, sweetened and poached in a custard-like crème anglaise. Delicious!
During the 19th century, eggs were far more frequently used in cooking than they are today, mainly because they were versatile, easy to find and cheap to buy. Cookery books written during the period are full of recipes for eggs. There were savoury recipes (like omelettes or fried eggs) and sweet dishes (including cakes and custards). Very few kitchens at the time had ovens, so most recipes could be done using a saucepan and the stove. The recipe for our “eggs in snow” was thus perfect: the cook would make a creamy crème anglaise custard with egg yolks and milk before thickening it in the saucepan. The whipped sweetened egg-whites which had already been poached were then placed on top of this custard before being served. Today this dessert is often eaten with lots of caramel drizzled over the top!

Period Recipe

A famous cook from the period, Monsieur Viard, left this recipe for us to try (we have rewritten it a little bit to make it easier to understand): - Break ten eggs.- Separate the yolk for the egg-white.- Whip the egg-whites until they form stiff peaks. Then add two spoons of powdered sugar and a little bit of orange blossom water.- Pour half a litre of milk and 250g of sugar into a saucepan.- Once your milk has started to bubble, take a tablespoon of your egg white mix and drop it into the milk. This will poach your egg whites.- When all your little mountains of egg white have been poached, remove them. Remove half of the milk mixture from the saucepan, and add your egg yolks to the casserole, mixing it slowly with a wooden spoon.- Once the milk and the egg yolks are properly mixed, that's your crème anglaise custard.- Remove the saucepan from the heat.- To finish off, place your little egg mountains on a plate and dribble some crème anglaise over them.Today, we actually do the opposite: we put the custard in a bowl and we place the mountains-like eggs on top.

Type of Recipe