Yield: 6 cups (1.5 liters)
Crème anglaise is one of the most delicious and versatile of the dessert sauces. Although traditionally flavored with vanilla, it can also become an adaptable medium for a variety of flavor combinations. It is excellent when served with fruit tarts and pastries that are not too sweet. It is also the base for French-style ice cream.
Traditional crème anglaise is made with a vanilla bean, sugar, milk, and egg yolks. The amounts of each can be changed to taste. The recipe that follows contains less sugar and more vanilla than older recipes, which tend to be sweeter and less extravagant with the vanilla. Acceptable crème anglaise can be made with vanilla extract, but it will never have the depth of flavor that the cream has when infused with vanilla beans. The recipe that follows uses twelve egg yolks per quart of milk, which produces a fairly rich cream. Acceptable crème anglaise can be made with as few as eight yolks per quart. Richer versions also exist, using as many as sixteen yolks per quart and replacing half of the milk with heavy cream.
2 vanilla beans
1 quart (1 liter) milk
6 ounces (175 grams) granulated sugar
12 egg yolks
1. Cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise and add them to the milk in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring the milk to a simmer.
2. While the milk is heating, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until the sugar dissolves and the yolks are pale yellow.
3. As the milk approaches a simmer, remove the 4 vanilla bean halves and scrape the inside of each one with a paring knife to release the tiny seeds. Return the seeds to the milk.
4. When the milk simmers, pour half of it over the egg yolk/sugar mixture, gently whisking.
5. Add the egg yolk/sugar/milk mixture to the saucepan and stir it over medium heat with a wooden spatula or spoon. Stir constantly, being careful to reach around and into the corners, where the cream is most liable to curdle.
6. Do not let the cream boil. Check the consistency of the cream by holding the spatula up sideways and making a streak along the back of the spatula with your finger. When the streak remains without the cream running down and obscuring it, the cream is ready.
7. Immediately remove the cream from the heat. Continue stirring it for 1 or 2 minutes, or the heat retained in the bottom of the saucepan may cause the crème anglaise to curdle.
8. Strain the cream through a strainer. Do not use a chinois, or the specks of vanilla will be strained out.
9. Stir the cream over a bowl of ice to cool it quickly and prevent a skin from forming.
a. Simmer the split vanilla beans in milk.
b. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale.
c. Scrape the little seeds out of the pods into the milk-and whisk half the milk into the egg yolk mixture.
d. Put the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and stir over medium heat.
e. Stir until the crème anglaise thickens and a line made on the back of the spoon with a finger stays in place.
Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making
By James Peterson
John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1998
Hardback, $ 44.95
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created December 2001