Crème Anglaise (French for English Cream) is a stove-top egg custard. Eggs cook rather quickly, and this sauce cooks quick too. You must remember to continuously stir it, and be prepared to stop the cooking immediately when the sauce is ready. The recipe calls for an ice bath, and it is the most important part in my opinion.
There are a couple rules that I regularly ignore when making this recipe. They are related, and while you may choose to follow conventional wisdom, hear me out.
Most recipes say to avoid aluminum pots, as they will discolor your custard. This is true if you stir them over heat for a long time. But I prefer aluminum pots, as they conduct heat better than stainless. Stainless tends to scorch milk, burn the sides of the pan, and heat unevenly. Also, ever kitchen I ever worked in only offered aluminum, so I had to make it work.
Recipes also say to cook Crème Anglaise slowly, and that boiling it will give a bitter taste. In my experience, this is nonsense.
I have always enjoyed success with this recipe, but I will caution you to be patient. It is not easy, and in fact, I have often used this recipes to weed out job applicants. Get yourself enough ingredients to make it a few times, in case you flub it. And for goodness sake, do not make it for the first time in front of people.
When you’ve successfully completed it, you can run it through an ice cream machine, follow my recipe for Trifle, or use it to sauce another dessert.
3-4 cups of ice
4 cups half-and-half
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
- Fill a large bowl with ice and set another large bowl on top of the ice. Have a fine strainer nearby. Set this all aside, but nearby, until custard is cooked.
- Bring the half-and-half and vanilla bean to a boil in a large saucepan. In a small bowl whisk together sugar and egg yolks. At the boil, temper 1/2 cup of hot half-and-half into the yolks and whisk quickly to combine. Pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and over high heat whisk immediately and vigorously until the mixture begins to resemble thick cream, about 1-2 minutes. Strain immediately into the bowl sitting on ice, and stir until cool. Refrigerate until completely cool.