Thursday, January 7, 2010

Oeufs a la Neige Or My Childhood in a Pot

this thing was the top of my Most-Wanted list as a child. for some reason my mother made it so rarely, and she even had some kind of saying along the lines of 'less is more' to shut me up when i got too insistent asking for it. the word-for-word translation from romanian is 'bird's milk', which i don't find too appetizing, so in keeping with the french denomination, let's call it snow eggs. imagine the lightest, fluffiest marshmallow ever. and then imagine that coated with a fragrant vanilla custard, or rather something like melted icecream.

4 1/2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean
6 eggs
7 tb sugar
1/8 ts cream of tartar
1 vanilla sugar, optional
1 ts cornstarch, optional

the cornstarch is optional, and i don't always use it. i've seen it done with a lot of it, to make a thick sauce, but that doesn't have my name on it; also, my mother's recipe instructs to poach the meringue in the milk, but in doing so i always, always burn the milk. it's like i'm cursed or something: no matter how carefully i watch it, it always ended up sticking to the pot.

heat the milk with the split vanilla bean to infuse. separate the eggs. beat the yolks with 4 tb sugar and cornstarch if using. temper them by slowly pouring a ladle of hot milk, stirring constanly.pour this back in the milk and keep stirring until thickened. set aside to cool.

heat 2 inches of water in your widest pan. beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt and cream of tartar until soft peaks form then start adding the remaining 3 tb sugar and the vanilla sugar. beat until you have a stiff luscious meringue. then using a spoon place blobs in the hot water to poach, 1 minute on each side. do not crowd the pan, as they will puff a bit.

remove to a colander and let drain. then put them in a serving bowl - or individual serving bowls and pour the thickened milk mixture on top, taking care to cover them completely. chill for several hours, ideally overnight.

it is like biting into a perfumed cloud. it's the kind of dessert that's a sure hit with kids, but their parents will enjoy too. and i think it's fancy enough to entertain. and it's the perfect make-the-day-before thing.
i like to serve it with a dusting of cacao mixed with a bit of powdered sugar, or vanilla sugar.


  1. Oh, yum! These sound so good! I make something similar: Snow pudding with custard sauce.. it reminds me of it. Thanks for visiting my blog and the suggestion about segmenting the clementines! Any alcohol will cook off when it's heated to a certain temperature, so be assured there's no brandy left in the marmalade... I cooked it to 220 degrees!

  2. thanks karen! i'll be sure to try your pudding!

  3. I adore what we call "Floating Islands." Bruce often puts ginger in the creme anglaise, a lovely treat. (Creme anglaise is a beverage, after all.) Do you know the scene in the Hepburn/Tracy movie "Desk Set," the one where he shows up uninvited in her apartment after work and they share dinner. After fried chicken, she blurts out the line, "Oh, I think there are some floating islands in the fridge for dessert. Go check." As if one would just have them lying around for a spur-of-the-moment dinner.

  4. aha! i've seen that twice and wondered what the floating islands were!

  5. Dear Dana,

    This morning I decided to pay you (and your blog) a visit :)) I don't usually read culinary blogs because I'm on a permanent diet (or at least, I should be!)...However, I discovered here my "madeleine"...I have always had this reminiscence of something sweet and delicate, a dessert I once ate at kindergarten. I didn't know the name, I barely reminded the taste, but I have never forgotten the feeling...I know that I have once asked my mother what kind of dessert could it have been...And she said "lapte de pasare"...I have nevere tried it since and never found a recipe...until now :) So, thank you...even though I doubt I would ever prepare it...Still, it's nice to know it wasn't only my imagination.... :))

  6. deh,which of us shouldn't be on a diet?! i for one have never been able to diet. i simply can't ban food. i try to portion things, to have small servings. it didn't work for this dessert though, this was a major pig-out!!!
    and here's the thing: unless you make it, your daughter won't taste it, cause i have yet to see it on a restaurant menu. and it's like you say: you never forget it. so try it, it's much easier poaching them in water, you don't have to worry about burning it :))
    thanks for the visit!

  7. this is a fantastic recipe that went up on my to do list. congrats! :)


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