The Silkiest Crème Anglaise

published Jul 15, 2022
Crème Anglaise Recipe

A silky pourable custard sauce flavored with vanilla bean.

Serves4 to 6

Makesabout 1 1/2 cups

Prep15 minutes

Cook9 minutes to 14 minutes

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A photo creme anglaise (also known as custard sauce or pouring custard) being poured over a piece of white cake
Credit: Tara Holland

Crème anglaise is a silky, pourable custard sauce flavored with vanilla bean. It’s thinner than a regular custard, and although it’s very similar in flavor and color, it is different to crème pâtissière (aka pastry cream), which is much thicker and used a lot in French pastries such as the filling for eclairs and fruit tarts. 

What Is the Difference Between Custard and Crème Anglaise?

Crème anglaise, translated from French, means English cream. Although crème anglaise is a little more refined than “proper” English custard, which is usually thicker and flavored with vanilla extract, and sometimes thickened with cornstarch.

When I was a kid in England, most households always had a tub of Bird’s Custard Powder in their pantry. It is an egg-free instant custard powder that you combine with cold milk and bring to the boil for instant custard gratification. It was always served on Sundays for dessert after a traditional roast dinner, and the thick custard was usually poured over apple pies, steamed puddings, and fruit crumbles

Is Crème Anglaise French or English?

Crème anglaise is like the fancy, posh French cousin of English custard! It is used in many French desserts, such as a floating island (poached meringues served on a bed of crème anglaise), and is used as the base for crème brûlée and vanilla ice cream.

Credit: Tara Holland

What Type of Vanilla Beans Are Good for Crème Anglaise? 

Vanilla beans are expensive, so if you are splashing out, it’s a good idea to try and find one of the plumper varieties. When buying individual vanilla beans in spice jars, I’ve been disappointed in the past, as they can quickly dry out and turn brittle, so it can be almost impossible to remove the seeds. I now like to buy a 10-pack of either Tahitian or Madagascan vanilla beans online, as they are plump and flavorful. It is a more economical way of buying them, as you can usually get 10 for $10 to $15. You can store them in a resealable bag, or ideally in a vacuum-seal bag, so they last even longer and are much more cost-effective than buying one bean here and there for almost the same cost as one.

Why Do You Chill the Sauce?

Immediately chilling the sauce over an ice bath after cooking helps not only to thicken the sauce, but it also gives a silkier texture. 

What Is Good to Serve with Crème Anglaise?

Crème anglaise is a great make-ahead dessert accompaniment because you can make it up to two days in advance. It’s excellent served with fruit pies, cobblers, crumbles, and cakes. 

Crème Anglaise Recipe

A silky pourable custard sauce flavored with vanilla bean.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 9 minutes to 14 minutes

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • Ice

  • 5

    large egg yolks

  • 1

    vanilla bean

  • 1 cup

    heavy cream

  • 1/2 cup

    whole milk

  • 3 tablespoons

    granulated sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice. Sit a medium metal bowl on top of the ice and pour a couple of inches of cold water into the large bowl so the ice water reaches halfway up the outside of the inner bowl. Make sure the bowl is sitting securely. Let the bowl chill in the ice bath.

  2. Meanwhile, prepare the following: Place 5 large egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk until broken up. Halve 1 vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds into a medium saucepan. Add the split pod to the saucepan.

  3. Add 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cup whole milk, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt to the saucepan. Stir until combined and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

  4. While stirring the egg yolks with a wooden spoon, slowly pour in 1/3 cup of the hot cream mixture. Once fully combined, add the yolk mixture to the saucepan and stir to combine.

  5. Return the saucepan to medium-low heat. While stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, cook until the custard is silky but thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, 8 to 10 minutes.

  6. Immediately strain the custard through a fine-mesh strainer into the chilled metal bowl, making sure to scrape the underside of the strainer. Stir the crème anglaise continuously over the ice bath until chilled, about 5 minutes.

  7. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve. Crème anglaise may be served cold or warm. Reheat in a double boiler or small saucepan over low heat, stirring continuously to ensure the eggs do not curdle, until warmed through.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Crème anglaise can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat using a double boiler or in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring continuously to ensure the eggs do not curdle until warmed through.