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Crème Anglaise (pronounced krem ong-glaze, which you’d know if you watched The Great British Bake Off), also known as a pouring custard or vanilla custard sauce, is the most basic of custards. Not in that “ya basic” kinda way but in the “it is where you start when you have to make other types of custards and desserts”.
That’s not to say that crème anglaise isn’t delicious, because it absolutely is (I may or may not have started eating it by the spoonful). It’s a great place to start when you are just learning about making custards.
If you have frequented my blog, you will know that I do not like overly sweet desserts, and I feel like that grows more true as I get older. So I find myself adding less and less sugar. Crème anglaise is no exception. A typical crème anglaise has a ratio of 4 parts milk and/or cream to 1 part sugar to 1 part egg yolk. For me, that is far too sweet. The problem is that you can’t simply remove the sugar willy nilly. That’s because the sugar acts as a barrier for the yolks and helps to keep them from coagulating when they are being heated. But I found that you can use less sugar and still not end up with sweet scrambled eggs at the end.
What are you going to learn?
- What can you make with crème anglaise
- What is a custard
- Different types of custards
- What to serve with pouring custard
- How to scald milk
- How to temper eggs
- Food Safety: Cooling before putting into the fridge
We’re going to do something a little different this week. I’m going to break up this blog post into two sections. The first section will be devoted to how custard and creme anglaise can improve your life (and it can).
The second section will talk about the techniques involved in making creme anglaise and custards.
Section 1: Mmm… Custard!
What Can You Make With Crème Anglaise?
I first learned of crème anglaise while watching GBBO (The Great British Bake-Off–again, you should know this). If you haven’t watched GBBO and are a fan of baking competitions that aren’t snarky and mean, just stop what you are doing and go watch it (or finish reading this and then go, either way, watch it). All of the episodes are available on Netflix.
One thing you’ll notice watching GBBO is that crème anglaise is rarely the star of the show. Even though it’s delicious on its own, a crème anglaise is usually used as the starting point or accompaniment for other desserts. So what can you make with a crème anglaise? I’m so glad you asked!
- Crème Patisserie (sometimes shortened crème pat or called pastry cream), a rich, silky smooth pudding like custard that is used in pastries, cakes, pies, and more!
- Crème Brûlée, a luscious baked custard topped with sweet and crunchy burned sugar
- Eggnog, a boozy, holiday dessert drink (or drink for anytime of day)
- Île flottante (floating islands), fluffy clouds of meringue floating on a river of crème anglaise
- Ice Cream! The best dessert ever created (especially when mixed with large chunks of birthday cake)? Maybe.
Really, you’re only limited here by your imagination. So, start imagining!
What to Serve With Crème Anglaise?
Being a simple sauce, you can serve crème anglaise with just about any dessert. It goes wonderfully with a simple pound cake. Pour it over fresh or macerated berries. Pour it over pies or crisps (this would be delicious over my Strawberry and Rhubarb Crisp). Basically, anything that would be good with whipped cream would go perfectly with crème anglaise. Hell, I have no doubt that your morning cereal would be vastly improved with a generous pour of crème anglaise. (Don’t actually do this, though. Save your custard for something worthy!)
What is Custard?
Whatever dreamy dessert you’ve conjured, it’s going to start with custard (crème anglaise, as you have learned, is such a custard!) A custard is any mixture, whether hot or cold, thickened by eggs or egg yolks. Typically it refers to sweet mixtures of milk or cream and eggs. Even still, custards can be made savory or sweet. Take a quiche as an example. A quiche is essentially a savory pastry filling that is set because of the eggs that have been mixed with milk. The egg mixture used for French toast is another example of a common custard, though this one is usually sweet. So, if you’ve made french toast, you’ve made custard.
See? No reason to be worried. Not every custard is a fancy pastry shop speciality with weird symbols above some of the letters. (Though… such custards are delicious and you should make them.)
Different Type of Custards
There’s really only two types of custard:
- Stirred Custard (example: crème anglaise)
- Baked Custard (example: crème brûlée or flan)
And they are both pretty self explanatory. Stirred custards are custards that are cooked on the stovetop and stirred until thickened. Baked custards are baked in an oven until firm (typically with a water bath or bain-marie to help prevent curdling).
Section 2: Hmm… Custard?
All right… making custard is a highly scientific (and often) confusing process. You don’t have to know why everything works, though it helps. You just have to know what works. So we’re going to talk about some of the common custard-making steps that go into creating your crème anglaise.
Scalded Milk Required
Stirred custards require applying heat to your dairy. We call this process “scalding milk.” Essentially, scalding milk means to bring milk to a temperature above 180°F (82°C). So, in order to scald milk, you just have to cook it at a sufficiently high enough heat to bring it above 180°F (82°C). Simple, right? For our recipe, we are bringing the temperature up to 194°F (90°C). Milk and cream are both very forgiving ingredients. It is difficult to overcook them and they can rapidly be brought up to a simmer.
Why Scald Milk?
Just about everything you do when making a custard is designed to accomplish one thing: Avoid scrambling your eggs. By scalding the milk before adding it to the eggs, you are reducing the amount of cooking time when all ingredients (ie: eggs) are placed back on the stove. This helps to reduce scrambling and creates a more uniform custard.
There is a lot of science behind cooking eggs. Egg yolks and whites set at two different temperatures. And then even within those yolks and whites, some proteins will begin to set before others. The purpose of tempering eggs is to control just how much of your egg sets. At least, that’s the idea.
The big risk whenever you add hot liquid to eggs (or vice versa) is that you might accidentally set all of the eggs proteins at once (we generally call this scrambled eggs–not a very pleasant experience when you’re expecting smooth, silky custard). In comes tempering. To temper eggs, you slowly whisk your hot liquid into cool eggs. This gives you much needed control, allowing you to bring the eggs up to temperature slowly without any scrambling to be had.
Now that you have a bit more information on the Mmms and Hmms of custard, you might find it an easier and more rewarding dessert to try out! Because once you open that first custard door, there’s a whole world of tasty options you get to explore.
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- Ice Bath
- 325 grams whole milk
- 225 grams heavy whipping cream
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 132 grams egg yolks 7-9 large yolks
- 45 grams granulated sugar
- ½ to 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste or extract
- Get a large bowl and fill it with ice and cold water, set aside until the custard is thickened.
- Add 325 grams whole milk, 225 grams heavy whipping cream, and a pinch of salt to a 2 quart saucepan. Set pan over medium-low heat.
- Add 45 grams granulated sugar to 132 grams egg yolks and immediately whisk until the yolks have lightened in color to a pale yellow.
- Stir the cream mixture on the stove, making sure to get into the corners of the pan, until it begins to steam and foam and reaches a temperature of at least 180°F (82°C), about 5-7 minutes in total. Turn off the heat to the burner. Immediately, temper the egg yolk mixture by pouring a slow steady stream of the cream mixture into the egg yolks and stir continuously as you pour. Once all of the cream and egg yolks have been incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan and return the saucepan to a burner set halfway between low and medium. Stir the mixture continuously until the custard has thickened, your spoon or spatula leaves a “v” shaped trail the quickly fills back in when dragged across the bottom of the pan, and you leave a clean line through the custard on the back of your spoon or spatula when you drag your finger through the custard (be careful because it will be hot).
- Once thickened, place the bottom of the pan into the bowl of ice water. Add in the ½ to 1 tablespoon vanilla (to taste) and stir continuously until the mixture has cooled. Pour custard into a clean bowl, cover with a piece of plastic wrap so the plastic is in contact with the surface of the custard, and refrigerate until ready to use. Custard will last up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Do not freeze.
- Optionally: pour custard through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl to remove any lumps or scrambled eggs that have formed.