A collection of Hungarian recipes and home cooking

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Floating Islands Dessert / Eggs in Snow / Madártej

This heavenly family dessert is living a bit of a renaissance these days in Hungary even appearing on the dessert list of some posh restaurants.  Made with milk eggs sugar and vanilla, it is a chilled  crème anglaise with a fluffy meringue top.  Similar dishes are known in other countries with some interesting names. In France it is called île flottante (floating island) or sometimes œufs à la neige (“eggs in snow”), Germans call it similarly Schnee-Eier (snow egg), and in Austria it is Kanarimilch, which somewhat explains the equally curious Hungarian name “Madártej” – literally meaning “bird’s milk”.  The dish itself is not terribly difficult to make but involves some trickery, once you get it right you’ll always will.

Ingredients (for 4 portions):
for the crème anglaise

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 120 gram (4 oz / cup)  caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod, or 2 tsp vanilla essence or use vanilla infused sugar
  • 800 ml (3.4 cups) of milk

for the meringue:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar (icing or caster)
  • 1 litre of water (4.2 cups)  – for poaching the meringues

How to make:

We start with the meringues

  1. Separate the (4) eggs for the meringue.
  2. Whisk the egg whites until they’re holding firm peaks but are not stiff. Carefully add in the sugar, spoonful after spoonful, still beating until  it holds shape in firm peaks.
  3. In a large pan bring the poaching water to simmering point, reduce the heat
  4. With a tablespoon take out shapely dumplings from the beaten egg whites and carefully place them in the warm just simmering water, I usually fit 3-4 in a pan together. Cover with a lid while poaching.
  5. Poach the meringues for about half a minute then carefully turn them over to cook the other side for another half a minute or untill cooked through, depends on the size of the dumplings.  The meringues will puff up during cooking.
  6. Carefully remove one by one with a slotted spoon and place on a plate, set aside. Repeat the process until all the egg white dumplings are cooked.

The crème anglaise

  1. You will need a non-stick milk pan and a larger (non-plastic) bowl, these will need to be washed up and reused during the process unless you are using new ones each time.
  2. In your milk pan warm the milk slowly with the halved vanilla pod, let it sit and cool down to a just warm temperature
  3. In a larger (non-plastic) bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar together untill well combined and fluffy
  4. Take out the vanilla pods from the milk and set aside
  5. Pour the warm vanilla milk onto the sugary egg yolks, whisking continuously.
  6. Transfer this custard mix to a clean milk pan.
  7. Rinse the bowl used for mixing, to be used again or just use another one.
  8. On a low to medium heat warm the eggy vanilla milk back up, while stirring continuously, watch carefully as it should not start to simmer or boil because the egg yolks would solidify into little scrambled egg pieces.  Saw a few recipes suggesting that the cooking temperature should be 85C (185F).
  9. Once the mixture thickens, take off the heat and slowly transfer into your cold bowl, keep stirring until it cools down significantly.  Speed up the cooling process by carefully placing the bowl into cold water in the sink. Leaving the mixture to stand while hot can result in curdling too.  Mine did first time round, I left it beautifully smooth to cool and came back to shock horror lumps – so keep stirring until at least lukewarm, then add back the halved vanilla pod, when all cooled down enough place it in the refrigerator and chill completely, best to make this the day before to leave a good few hours and more to chill.
  10. Serve with the meringues sitting on the thick vanilla sauce.

TIPS:

  • Sprinkle with lightly toasted blanched almond slivers for a nice taste and texture
  • Russle up a quick caramel sauce and drizzle across the meringues just before serving. (100g icing sugar, 2 tablespoons of water, on a medium heat combine and stir till light brown, remove from heat, let it cool slightly, serve)
  • This recipe leaves you with a few extra egg whites – these could be used for some kind of a pavlova dessert later or if you had enough of sweets for a few days – could make a healthy egg white omelette for breakfast the next morning.

 

6 thoughts on “Floating Islands Dessert / Eggs in Snow / Madártej

    1. Hello Erzsebet, you are right tidbits is the American version but titbits is used in British English, it means tasty piece of food, nothing else :-) You are not the first to comment on this I can see why it may seem strange if not used over there!
      Update: Website has now been renamed to tidbits, it seemed to be the preference of the majority.

  1. Hi Eva,
    As a child, I adored the “Madártej” my grandmother whipped up, yet I never had the inclination to try to make some myself. Until… I had a daughter who inspired me to recreate my grandmother’s recipes. This is how I found your blog. I came to love your recipes; they are full of heart and soul like good home cooking as opposed to the coldness and rigidity of a cookbook. I love it that you share your “trickeries” :)
    Anyway, I got some beautiful pastured eggs, raw milk of Jersey cows, and Madagascar vanilla and finally mustered the courage to try my luck with “Bird’s Milk”.
    A couple questions, though:
    – What should I use to scoop the meringue? An ice cream scoop? How big? Or would just a good old table spoon do?
    – Do I need to slit the vanilla pod open, scrape out the seeds and whisk into the creme Anglaise or should I just half the pod and use it as is without scraping the seeds?
    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Noemi, Thank you for the kind words! So nice that you are making your grandmother’s recipe for your daughter now.
      For the meringue, just a normal tablespoon is needed to take out more or less oval shaped dumplings. Maybe the word scoop is not best fitting there, I updated the recipe, good to hear a feedback!
      I used the scraped out seeds here but find that prefer the look without them, seems more authentic to what I remember, though the vanilla seeds taste the best and equally good to use them. Now I would just have the halved pod for infusion without scraping the seeds out and maybe top it up with a few drops of good vanilla extracts if still needed a little flavour boost.
      Hope it turns out well!

  2. Hi Eva, It turned out better (and less complicated) than I had expected! The meringues, well, I’ll have to practice some more. I overcooked the first batch and they came out rubbery but the rest tasted good even though they didn’t expand much and looked nothing like your “shapely dumplings”. They were more like amorphous clouds. Ha!
    But the Crème Anglaise! It was a velvety, luscious, vanilla-scented Heaven! I stuck to your recipe, except I made it in a bain-marie. After the meringue disaster, I couldn’t risk clumping up the custard, too.
    Many thanks for the recipe! It was definitely worth the effort and will be added to the repertoire.

    1. Oh, sounds like more difficult part the vanilla cream was perfect, it must have been lovely on it’s own – shapely meringues for next time! :-)

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