Crème anglaise is a beautifully light and creamy custard sauce infused with vanilla. The vanilla bean-flecked sauce can be poured over any dessert from pound cake to baked apples, or to add an air of elegance to a simple fruit salad. Served warm or cold, crème anglaise upgrades your desserts with extra richness and floral vanilla flavor.
Crème Anglaise: Simple Ingredients, Little Effort
Similar to a vanilla custard, crème anglaise is made from egg yolks, sugar, milk, cream, and vanilla. But compared to a traditional vanilla custard or pudding, crème anglaise is thinner. It’s a velvety, pourable sauce used to accompany other desserts.
Crème anglaise is a relatively easy, make-ahead upgrade to turn any dessert into a special occasion or elegant date-night. With just a little work ahead of time, you have a beautiful, homemade sauce to heighten any ordinary or store-bought dessert.
How to Make Crème Anglaise
Crème anglaise is a light custard that’s thickened solely by egg yolks and heat. Milk and cream are heated just to a simmer over low heat and infused with a vanilla bean. The hot cream is gradually whisked into a mixture of egg yolks and sugar to temper the yolks. The slow addition of hot milk heats the egg yolks gently, preventing them from overcooking and curdling. The custard is returned to the saucepan and cooked over low heat until thickened. You can check the thickness by coating a wooden spoon with the custard. Drag your finger through the custard, and if it leaves a clean path, the custard is done.
How to Keep Crème Anglaise From Curdling
Crème anglaise is delicate and prone to overcooking. Many cooks are afraid that their silky custard will instead turn into a pan of scrambled eggs. But equipped with the right knowledge ahead of time, you have nothing to fear.
- The most important piece of advice is to heat crème anglaise gently. Only use low or medium-low heat for the whole process. Using low heat slows down the process. This does mean it takes you some extra time, but that also means there’s more time for the vanilla to infuse the milk and cream. Over low heat, the egg yolks slowly thicken the cream, making a smoother, creamier custard sauce free of curdled eggs.
- Tempering the egg yolks (whisking small amounts of the hot milk mixture at a time into the yolks) helps prevent the yolks from curdling as well. Tempering slowly raises the temperature of the yolks and prevents them from scrambling.
- While cooking the custard, whisk constantly. The constant movement helps distribute heat evenly and also prevents scorching. For good measure, pour the cooked custard through a fine-mesh strainer for a smooth sauce free of lumps.
Chilling Crème Anglaise
After cooking on the stove, crème anglaise needs time to chill and set properly before serving. The small batch in this recipe may be chilled in the fridge just after cooking. Cover the custard with plastic wrap, wax paper, or buttered parchment, pressed directly onto the surface. This helps prevent a skin from forming. Then, place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill.
If you are making a large portion by doubling or tripling this recipe, you should consider chilling the crème anglaise with an ice bath. Set the covered bowl of custard in a larger bowl filled with ice water and chill for 30 minutes before transferring the custard to the refrigerator to finish setting.
Crème Anglaise Flavor Variations
Once you know how to make crème anglaise, it's easy to change up the flavors. Instead of, or in addition to the vanilla, you can steep the milk and cream with other flavorings to pair with your desserts.
- Cinnamon: Add a cinnamon stick to the milk mixture in step 2 and bring to a simmer. Remove the cinnamon stick before tempering the egg yolks in step 3.
- Coffee: Once the milk and cream have come to a simmer, take the pan off the heat, and add 1 tablespoon of coarsely ground coffee. Cover the pan and let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain the cream before tempering the egg yolks in step 3.
- Lemon: Add the grated zest of 1 lemon to the milk mixture in step 2 and bring to a simmer. Strain the cream before tempering the egg yolks in step 3.
Ideas for Serving Crème Anglaise
Crème anglaise adds a rich creaminess and a punch of vanilla to your desserts. It brings finesse, turning a fruit salad into a composed dessert.
Try serving crème anglaise with any of your favorite desserts and you’ll see that they’re suddenly extra luscious. You can serve crème anglaise warm or cold, but it’s especially comforting when warmed and poured over a slice of pound cake or fruit pie.
Reheat custard in a glass or metal bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water for 5 minutes, or until warmed through, stirring occasionally.
Crazy for Custard
Crème Anglaise (Vanilla Custard Sauce)
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar:
In a medium, heat-proof mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until smooth and pale, about 1 minute. You can place a damp tea towel under the bowl while whisking so it doesn’t slide around.
Bring the milk and cream to a simmer:
Pour the milk and cream into a heavy-bottomed, medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a sharp paring knife and use the knife to scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the vanilla bean to the saucepan.
Bring the milk mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally to prevent the milk from scorching. The milk and cream should just come to a simmer with small bubbles along the edges of the pan. Don’t let it reach a rolling boil.
Temper the egg yolks:
As soon as the milk and cream come to a simmer, take the pan off the heat. Remove the vanilla bean using a pair of tongs. With one hand, slowly pour the hot milk into the yolk mixture a splash at a time, while whisking constantly with your other hand. The damp towel under the mixing bowl should prevent it from sliding around while whisking.
Thicken the custard:
Pour the custard back into the saucepan and cook, over low heat, whisking constantly, until the custard begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Do not boil. You can check the thickness by coating a wooden spoon with the custard. Drag your finger through the custard, and if it leaves a clean path, the custard is done.
Strain and chill:
Pour the crème anglaise through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard. Refrigerate until cool, at least 2 hours.
Serve crème anglaise warm or cold, but it’s especially comforting when warmed and poured over a slice of pound cake or fruit pie.
Crème anglaise can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. To prevent a skin from forming, place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard.
You can reheat custard in a glass or metal bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water for 5 minutes, or until warmed through, stirring occasionally.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 12g||15%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||31%|
|Total Carbohydrate 10g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 0g||0%|
|Total Sugars 10g|
|Vitamin C 0mg||1%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|