Called the mother sauce of the bakery, Crème Anglaise is a versatile and tasty custard. Once you master this sauce, you can make ice cream, Bavarian cream, and many other Crème Anglaise-based treats.
Use Your Bean
Vanilla beans come from orchids that are mostly grown in Tahiti and Madagascar and are very expensive. How vanilla got its reputation as being ordinary I'll never know...it is sublime, You will need about a half bean for this recipe. The best way to prepare the vanilla bean is to cut it in half, wrap the unused half in plastic wrap, and stick it in the freezer. Using your paring knife, slice the half that you are using lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Then, you will put the whole thing (pod, seeds, and all) into the milk you are using. Don't even try to use vanilla extract for this crème, it won't work.
A Mother of a Sauce
In the cooking world, there are five mother sauces, but in the bakery there is but one. Once you know how to make this sauce you can make any crème you need. The process of making Crème Anglaise will be repeated for most custards including flan, pot de crème, crème brûlée, and most decent puddings including my personal favorite: butterscotch pudding. Chocolate added to Crème Anglaise makes a great alternative layer to chocolate mousse in a parfait.
Watch Your Temper
Tempering is all-important in this process. It takes timing, patience, and a slow, smooth touch. Tempering is when you slowly introduce a hot liquid to a cool liquid to raise the temperature of the cool liquid without it cooking too quickly. Why do this at all? Well, let's say you need to add a hot liquid to eggs. Do it too fast and you end up with scrambled eggs. Nice at breakfast, but maybe not so nice piped into an éclair. Tempering is also the name for a chocolate process, but we are not going there today. When the following recipe says "Temper the milk into the yolk mixture" you should slowly add the hot milk to the yolks while beating the yolks with your whisk. Let's get to it.
The Crème Anglaise Recipe
You will need:
- 16 ounces of whole milk
- 1/2 of a vanilla bean
- 2 ounces of sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and put the seeds and the pod into a saucepan with the milk. Scald the milk.
- Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a heatproof bowl.
- Temper the milk into the yolks.
- Pour the milk/yolk mixture back into the saucepan.
- Cook on low heat, stirring constantly until it gets to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. If the mixture coats the back of the spoon (nappé stage) then you are good to go.
- Strain the mixture into a bowl and place the bowl into another bowl filled with ice.
- Cool the mixture to 40 degrees Fahrenheit as quickly as possible.
- Cover the Crème Anglaise with plastic wrap. Make sure the plastic wrap actually touches the surface of the crème or a film could develop.
This keeps for up to three days in the refrigerator. Try this on your favorite flourless cake, Tiramisu, or any other dessert you like.
Cooking Tips and Tricks
Some bakers use a Bain Marie to heat the crème to nappé stage. Although this is not necessary, it does reduce the risk of the crème burning.