Two elements make the floating island dessert: meringues – the island – and a Creme Anglaise, or vanilla cream sauce that acts as the sea.
On stovetop, heat 1.75 cups of milk to boiling, with a vanilla bean.
Beat 4 egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar (over the milk to start and help incorporate the sugar), whisking until the yolks are light colored and form the ribbon.
Slowly pour the milk into the egg mixture (leaving out the vanilla bean) beating all the while, then return the custard to the saucepan and heat over moderate heat. Do not overheat or the custard will break. Cook stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until the custard coats the back of the spoon. Then pour through a fine mesh strainer and chill. [If the custard has broken it will not go through the stainer. Pour back into the pan and beat with an immersion blender being careful not to bring in too much air. Strain and you will have avoided disaster.]
The meringues are another story, and I’ll add this later.
Meringues can be made anytime there are extra egg whites in your kitchen. Four servings, or about two cups of Creme Anglaise, will take four egg yolks so you’ll have four whites just by making this custard sauce. When making something that requires only yolks, I store egg whites in a glass jar in my refrigerator. The jar has a label and you can make marks that show how many white are in the jar, but you can easily estimate how many whites you have when you start to make something like meringues by weight. Recipes with measurement by weight are more accurate in our dry and high altitude environment – and probably yours too.