There is no better combination than egg yolks, cream, sugar and vanilla. This particular grouping produces velvety, smooth Crème Anglaise. It’s one of the first recipes I learned and practiced at culinary school. It’s easy but like the saying goes, practice makes perfect!. Once you have it down, you’ll realize that this pourable custard is the base of so many delicious things including vanilla ice cream, the sauce for the delicate Îles Flottantes or Floating Islands, and used as an adornment on a dessert plate.
As part of my new kitchen adventure, as a prep chef with a local caterer. I’ve traded my kitchen counter desk for a stainless-steel work table, and each day brings different tasks that test my knife and baking skills, and initiates me with badges of honor in the manner of burns and cuts. This new adventure recently had me making three gallons of the silky concoction for an event with 350 people. It literally tested my physical strength.
Separating 30 egg yolks from the whites and whisking in the copious amounts of sugar and vanilla is a fantastic arm work-out, especially for my right bicep! Whether making an enormous batch or just a couple of cups, there is also a mental strength that comes along with Crème Anglaise. You need precise focus, patience and calmness. You cannot get any white into the bowl of yolks; if you do, it’s time to start over. Yes, it can be a bit maddening, but it’s necessary for success. In the initial stage as the cream heats, it should only hit the scalding point – do not let it boil. Then, when you’re the final stage of cooking the eggs and cream, it’s constant focused stirring is required so you don’t end up with a curdled mess.
There are two forms of pourable custards – one that’s stirred and one that’s baked. The base of a Crème Brulee is a baked custard. A baked custard has whole eggs and it’s poured into dishes and baked in water baths. A stirred custard is a base of egg yolks, in this instance tempered with scalded cream and cooked over a flame stirred until the consistency is smooth and the back of a spoon displays a clean streak.
There’s a wonderful satisfaction of watching the mixture go from thin to a luxurious creaminess. This basic dessert element never disappoints and you will find yourself running your finger around the rim of the empty pot to get an early taste.
- 2 cups cream
- 1 Vanilla Bean split lengthwise
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 5 large egg yolks room temperature
- In a stainless steel or heat resistant bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar, whisk to combine thoroughly.
- Set up a large sieve over an empty pot and set aside.
- Into a saucepan or small pot, add the cream and scrape the vanilla seeds from the bean and into the cream. Heat on medium until the cream is scalded or just below the boiling point. Do let it boil. Remove from the stove and quickly whisk a third of the hot liquid into the egg yolk mixture, making sure the eggs don't scramble. Add the remaining liquid and continue to whisk.
- Return the egg mixture to the saucepan and gently cook over medium heat, stirring slowly and consistently. The mixture will begin to thicken in consistency. Be sure not to let the mixture come to a boil. When you can run a clean streak on the back of your spoon, the Crème Anglaise is completed.
- Immediately remove from the heat and slowly pour the mixture through the sieve you’ve set up. Gently push and scrape the inside the bottom of the sieve to make sure you get every drop of the delicious sauce. If you have any "cooked" egg pieces, the sieve will catch these.
- Store in a covered plastic container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
- Makes 2 cups.
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking