I like a very vanillary custard, so use an actual vanilla bean, split, with the little black seeds gritting up the yellow smoothness of the sauce, but a good vanilla extract would be a fine substitute.
Total Timeunder 30 minutes
Make Ahead RecipeYes
One Pot MealYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Five Ingredients or LessYes
Taste and Texturecreamy, sweet
Type of Dishdessert sauce
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1 vanilla bean
- 5 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
Pour the cream and milk into a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape out some of the seeds with the tip of a sharp knife into the cream and milk in the pan. I often just hold the vanilla pod over the pan, cut it down the middle almost to the end, with a pair of kitchen scissors and then use the scissors to gouge out some of the seeds into the pan. Drop in the deseeded bean, too.
Bring the contents of the pan almost to the boil, then remove from the heat and let it infuse for about 20 minutes.
Whisk the yolks and sugar together and then pour the infused vanilla cream over them and stir. Wash out the pan (just water and a wipe with a kitchen towel’s fine) and pour the uncooked custard back into it.
Meanwhile, fill the sink with cold water. I haven’t the patience to cook custard for ages over a low flame, so I use a medium, even a relatively high flame, but keep a basin nearby filled with cold water so if the custard looks as if it might split, I can dash over and plunge my pan into the water, whisk like mad and avert catastrophe. And knowing the water’s there makes you feel safer and therefore braver.
Put the custard on medium to low (or medium to high if you’re like me), heat and stir until it thickens. As for how much it should thicken, well that rather depends on how you like your custard. When it’s the consistency you like, stop. And if at any time while it’s cooking – and I reckon it should take around 8 minutes, longer if you’re timid – it starts to bubble, whip it off the stove and whisk with a little hand whisk, only plunging the pan into the cold water if you actually think it needs to stop cooking NOW or rather – A FEW SECONDS AGO.
Remove bean bits, pour into a pitcher and if, like me, you cannot abide a skin and shudder at the very mention of one, then take a piece of plastic wrap and press it down right against the surface of the custard, to cover and then drape it down over the pitcher.
2004 Nigella Lawson