Créme Anglaise (also known as custard) is the basis of a wide range of recipes. It can be enjoyed alone, poured over a slice of warm fruit tart, or chilled and eaten as a summer dessert sauce. Here are our top tips for making perfect Créme Anglaise – and how to enjoy it.
About Créme Anglaise
Créme Anglaise is the pretty French term for English custard. Yes: believe it or not, our stodgy dessert favourite travelled across the ocean and became popular with a more sophisticated audience. In France, Pastry chefs adapted our recipe to a range of delicate uses, from the elegant créme brulee to beautiful ‘blancs en neiges’- créme Anglaise with poached Meringues floating in it.
Step-by-Step Créme Anglaise
Before beginning this recipe, fill the sink with cold water, so it’s ready in case the custard curdles.
You will need:
- 4 egg yolks (choose free-range, organic eggs for a nice, rich colour)
- 50g (2oz) caster sugar
- 275ml (10fl oz) whole milk
- The seeds from one fresh vanilla pod
First, warm the milk. Choose a roomy saucepan for this. Tip in the milk and scrape in the vanilla seeds. Bring very slowly to simmering point, keeping a close eye on the milk for the first tiny bubbles. As soon as you’ve put the pan on the heat, whisk your eggs and sugar in another bowl.
Whisk your eggs and sugar. It’s important to whisk them thoroughly until they become paler in colour. This will take one or two minutes with an electric whisk or a few minutes whisking hard by hand. When the mixture is properly whipped, your whisk will leave a trail on the surface.
Now combine the hot milk and eggs. Put the egg bowl on a tea-towel so that it won’t move around on the worktop. Holding the milk pan in one hand and the whisk in the other, trickle a bit of hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking continually. Once the first few spoonfuls are in, carry on trickling in a steady stream. When the milk is all in, put the empty pan back onto the lowest heat and pour the custard into it.
Keep stirring – this bit is risky! Using a wooden spoon to get into the corners, keep stirring and stirring the mixture as it slowly comes to simmering point in the saucepan. Stir until it is thick enough to coat the back of your spoon when you lift it out. Remove the custard from the heat and put the bottom of the pan into the cold water in the sink to quicken the cooling. Pour the custard into a bowl, cover with clingfilm, and refrigerate until chilled.
Make Créme Brulee
Now you have a batch of perfect Creme Anglaise in front of you, turn it into a dinner-party dessert in just three steps…
First, add optional flavourings to the cream: a splash of calvados, a pinch of ground cardamom seeds, or the seeds from a fresh vanilla pod.
Now, spoon the cream into one or more heatproof ramekins, leaving an inch gap at the top. . Put into the fridge to set overnight. The next day, sprinkle a generous teaspoon of demarara sugar over each one.
Finally, use a chef’s blowtorch, if you have one, to caramelise the sugar – this intense heat will melt it without warming up the cream too much. If you don’t have a blowtorch, refrigerate the creams (with sugar top) for another half an hour while you preheat the grill as high as possible. Put the ramekins underneath until they’re gold and blistering. Allow the sugar to harden before serving.