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Custard Sauce (Crème Anglaise)

Pour without restraint.
difficulty:
yield:

About 2¼ cups

time:

About 15 minutes to make and at least 4 hours to chill

introduction

They call it crème anglaise for a reason. The English have an unusual fondness for this venerable sweet Mother Sauce, a stovetop-cooked vanilla-scented chilled custard sauce that flows guilelessly into the nursery, the sick room, or off the dessert cart. We cannot think of a single dessert on our website that would offer an objection to its company. Were you so inclined, you could even pour this sauce into an ice cream machine and churn it into perfect vanilla ice cream.

Cooking Remarks

We won’t insist that you cool this sauce promptly in an ice bath. But to be safe and guarantee the eggs don’t curdle with the custard’s residual heat, you may choose the ice bath option. Fill a sink or basin with at least 3 quarts of ice cubes and cold water. Place the bowl of custard in the ice and stir to cool. Mind the faucet drips!

equipment mise en place

For this recipe, you will need a digital kitchen scale, a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, a heatproof rubber spatula, a fine-mesh sieve, two medium mixing bowls, a ladle, and an instant-read thermometer.

    • 16
      ounces (2 cups) half-and-half
    • 2.4
      ounces (⅓ cup) sugar
    • teaspoon fine sea salt

    • 1
      vanilla bean, slit in half lengthwise, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 6
      large (3.75 ounces) egg yolks
  1.  

    Pour the half-and-half into a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and add about half of the sugar and the salt. If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the pod halves into the saucepan; add the pod halves as well. Set the pan over medium heat and bring the half-and-half to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. When it reaches a simmer, turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let the mixture steep for 15 minutes.

  2.  

    Heat the half-and-half over medium heat to just shy of a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and the remaining sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a second medium mixing bowl. Pull the saucepan off the burner and ladle about ½ cup of the hot half-and-half into the yolk mixture while whisking lightly, and then whisk in the remaining half-and-half one ladle at a time. Pour everything back into the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a heatproof rubber spatula, and return the saucepan to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula and the temperature registers about 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not let the temperature go over 180 degrees! Immediately pour the custard through the fine-mesh sieve into the bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract, if using. Cover and refrigerate until the custard is very cold, at least 4 hours or up to 4 days.