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Classic Crème Anglaise

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Crème Anglaise, also called custard sauce, is the foundation for a variety of magnificent creams: ice cream, pastry cream, soufflé, and Bavarian cream. It is easy to make but requires attention.

When you add sugar to yolks, combine immediately; otherwise, the sugar will set the yolk and some of its ability to thicken will be reduced.

The track the sauce leaves on a wooden spoon is a helpful indication that it is ready. If you cook it until it is visibly thicker, you will curdle it.

If your vanilla bean is brittle, preventing easy removal of seeds, allow it to steep in the hot milk for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it is soft. Then slit it in half vertically, scrape out the seeds, and proceed as directed.

In place of the vanilla bean, you can flavor with vanilla extract after the crème anglaise has cooled.

You may also perfume it after making it with coffee, liqueur, liquor, or melted chocolate. Before making the crème anglaise, you can infuse the milk with fresh mint, ground nuts, or tea leaves as though you were making tea to flavor it.

CostInexpensive

Total Timeunder 30 minutes

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

Dietary Considerationgluten-free, halal, kosher, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Taste and Texturecreamy, rich, sweet

Type of Dishdessert sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (8 ounces) milk
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • One candy thermometer
  • One 1½-quart mixing bowl
  • One 1½-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan

Instructions

  1. Ingredient Preparations: Rest a sieve on top of a 1-quart mixing bowl to strain the crème anglaise after cooking.

  2. Pour the milk and half the sugar into a 1½-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan (the addition of some sugar raises the temperature of the milk faster and prevents the milk from scorching the pan). Split the vanilla bean in half with a small paring knife, scrape the seeds out, and place them in the milk.

  3. Making and Storing the Crème Anglaise: Place the egg yolks in a 1-quart mixing bowl and whisk just to combine; whisk in remaining sugar.

  4. Place the saucepan over medium heat, and bring the milk just to a boil. Turn off heat; then pour about half the milk into the egg-sugar mixture, whisking continuously until they are combined. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan; whisk to combine; then return to medium-low heat.

  5. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon, remembering to reach the entire bottom surface of the pan. (This is a delicate moment, so do not rush the heating or the yolks may curdle.)

  6. Cook until the candy thermometer registers 165 to 170°F (about 45 seconds). If you are not using a thermometer, look for steam, meaning the mixture is approaching the correct temperature. Do not allow the mixture to boil, or it will curdle. The custard should be thick enough to nap the spoon and leave a clear path when your finger is drawn down its center. Remove it from the heat, and quickly pour it through the sieve.

  7. Set it aside for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then cover and refrigerate it. It will thicken slightly as it cools.

  8. Serve within 2 to 3 days.

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