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Light as air, Rue Franklin’s ile de flottante is timeless sweet

In the ever-changing world of Buffalo fine dining, few places have stood the test of time like Rue Franklin. And on the menu of the French-inspired restaurant, nothing has pleased customers longer than the ile de flottante.

The puff of meringue, floating on a sea of crème anglaise with a lacework of crunchy caramel and toasted almonds, has been on the menu since it became a fine dining restaurant about 35 or 40 years ago, said chef-owner Corey Kley.

The classic French dessert has remained for decades because it makes customers happy, but restaurateurs even happier. “It’s essentially 100 percent utilization of an egg on a plate,” said Kley. “I think that’s why it started. It’s the perfect bistro dessert.”

To make crème anglaise, a cook heats half-and-half with a little vanilla bean and a little sugar. “You heat the half-and-half mixture, dissolve your sugar and temper your egg yolks,” Kley said.

The pot returns to a gentle heat for 30 minutes, until it “just coats the back of a spoon,” he said.

The whites get whipped with a touch of sugar, and a bit of vanilla extract, until they develop firm peaks.

To assemble the desserts, a cook takes a ramekin lined with butter and sugar, and pushes that meringue into the dish. It goes into a water bath, or bain-marie, and into a low oven, at about 275 degrees. It takes about 20 minutes to cook.

“We do them ahead of time,” Kley said. When an order comes in, a cook put sugar in a pan and makes caramel, cooking the sugar for about 90 seconds, until it reaches about 375 degrees. “Then we drizzle that over the top, where it immediately hardens up to form that really nice crunch on a pillow of air.”

Then it’s just some sliced, blanched, toasted almonds over the top. Like all Rue Franklin’s desserts, it sells for $8.50.

“It’s the number one most requested dessert. We have a list of guests who come in who must have it,” Kley said. It’s also the dessert he recommends for groups. “There’s nothing on it that’s offensive to anyone, and it’s fine without nuts, if there’s a nut allergy.

“It’s the perfect balance between lightness and richness, in my opinion,” he continues. “It’s light as air. There is some richness with the crème anglaise. It’s not overly sweet. It’s nutty, and you get some backup nut from the caramel.”

The only thing it doesn’t touch is chocolate, Kley noted. “In my opinion, it’s the perfect party dessert.”

Info: Rue Franklin, 341 Franklin St. (852-4416, ruefranklin.com)

email: agalarneau@buffnews.com

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