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Blackberry Floating Islands

A spoonful of this ethereal dessert may make you think you're eating clouds.

  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups half-and-half or light cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2-1/2 cups fresh blackberries, raspberries, and/or blueberries
  • 4 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

Let egg yolks stand at room temperature 30 minutes (cover and chill egg whites until needed).

For custard, in medium bowl whisk together egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. In medium heavy saucepan heat half-and-half until tiny bubbles just begin to break at edge of pan. Gradually whisk about 1 cup of warm half-and-half into yolk mixture. Gradually whisk yolk mixture back into remaining half-and-half in saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat back of spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove custard from heat; strain through sieve into bowl. Stir in vanilla and lemon peel. Place bowl in larger bowl filled with ice water; stir about 5 minutes or until cool. Cover surface with plastic wrap; chill 2 to 24 hours.

For the meringues, let egg whites stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 300°F. Position rack in middle of oven. Line baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In medium bowl stir together remaining 1/2 cup sugar and ginger. In large mixing bowl beat egg whites with electric mixer on medium speed about 2 minutes or until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add sugar mixture, about 2 tablespoons at a time, beating on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form (tips stand straight) and sugar dissolves. Divide egg white mixture into eight round mounds on prepared baking sheet. Shape mounds by pulling some peaks of meringue up with back of spoon. Bake meringues about 15 minutes or until set and very lightly browned.

To serve, spoon custard into eight shallow serving bowls. Scatter berries over custards. Using large spatula, carefully transfer one meringue to each serving bowl. Sprinkle with almonds. Serve immediately or chill, uncovered, up to 1 hour. Makes 8 servings.