Crème Anglaise (Vanilla Custard Sauce) Recipe

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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.

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm


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.

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm


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.

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm


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.

Simply Recipes / Mark Beahm


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