Meringue clouds with custard

Meringue clouds with custard

Farofias

By
From
Lisbon
Serves
6–8, depending on meringue size
Photographer
Steven Joyce

Farófias are little cloud-like meringues, briefly poached in hot milk, then served with custard and cinnamon. They are similar to the French dessert, Îles flottantes, but have such a long Portuguese history that no one is quite sure whether the two are related. I learned to make these at the Cooking Lisbon school, where they proved to be deceptively light and dangerously easy to eat.

Cinnamon has been widely used in Portuguese sweets since at least the 1500s, when part of modern-day Sri Lanka came under their control, then known as Portuguese Ceylon.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
750ml whole milk
1 cinnamon stick
1 unwaxed lemon, cut into 5–6cm long julienne strips, plus a few drops of its juice
4 eggs, at room temperature
pinch salt
200g caster sugar
1 tablespoons cornflour
dash cold milk, (optional)
ground cinnamon, to serve (optional)

Method

  1. Place a large, wide pan over a low heat, and add the milk, along with the cinnamon stick and long strips of lemon rind. Slowly bring the milk to the boil.
  2. Meanwhile, separate the whites from the egg yolks very carefully, not allowing any yolk to get into the whites. Set the yolks aside. Whisk the egg whites with a few drops of lemon juice and the salt in a spotlessly clean bowl until they form firm peaks, then add a tablespoon of the sugar, whisk again, then add another tablespoon. Repeat with a third tablespoon of sugar. The whites need to be really firm, otherwise they will lose their shape during cooking.
  3. Once the milk is boiling, reduce the heat to low and remove the cinnamon stick and strips of lemon rind. Skim off any skin that has formed on the surface.
  4. Use 2 large metal spoons to shape the meringues into large quenelles (you can dip the spoons in hot water first, if you wish, to make it easier to shape the mixture): hold one spoon in each hand and take a spoonful of the egg white mixture with one spoon. Use the other spoon to gently shape and rotate the meringue, turning it gently until it is sitting on that spoon; repeat a couple of times until the meringue is a fairly smooth oblong, then slide it into the milk. Depending on the size of your pan, repeat once or twice, until you have 2–3 meringues floating in the milk.
  5. Allow the meringues to cook for about 1 minute, then gently turn them over in the milk to cook for a further minute – don’t worry if little bits of the meringue fall off into the milk. Remove the cooked meringues using a slotted spoon and set aside to drain in a large colander, or on a plate.
  6. Remove any more skin which has formed on the milk and repeat the process until all the meringue mix has been used up. Remove the milk from the heat.
  7. To make the custard, mix together the cornflour and remaining sugar in a heavy bowl, then add the egg yolks and beat until smooth. Add a ladleful of the hot milk, whisk thoroughly, and repeat a couple of times, whisking continuously. (Using a heavy bowl will stop the bowl moving as you whisk with one hand and pour with the other.)
  8. Pass the rest of the hot milk through a sieve into a clean pan and gradually pour in the egg yolk mixture, whisking continuously. Place the pan over a medium heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. As soon as the custard begins to thicken (after 5–10 minutes), remove the pan from the heat, but continue to stir for 5 minutes or so. It should be a pouring consistency – if the custard seems too thick, add a little cold milk.
  9. Lift the drained meringues from the colander or plate, leaving any liquid behind, and place in serving bowls. Spoon over some of the custard, and dust with cinnamon, if you like.
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