Cream desserts, mousse and meringues
What is a crème anglaise?
Crème anglaise (French for “English cream”) is essentially a vanilla custard sauce. Often served cold (but also warm or at room temperature, if preferred), it is best drizzled over fruit, but can also be enjoyed with cakes and tarts, crepes and French toast, or even as a part of certain desserts, such as an île flottante.
The classic recipe features only four ingredients: egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and hot milk. Here’s how to make it in three easy steps:
- Whisk the yolks with the sugar and vanilla until the mixture whitens;
- Slowly add the hot milk while continuing to whisk;
- Cook over low heat, stirring continuously, until the sauce coats the back of a wooden spoon.
What to do if it’s lumpy
What causes a crème anglaise to curdle? This can happen when the temperature is too high or if you cooked it for too long. This is why you add the hot milk to the egg mixture slowly as you whisk; if you pour it all in at once, the eggs will begin to cook immediately, leaving you with something similar to scrambled eggs.
If you’re faced with a lumpy crème anglaise (disaster!) don’t throw in the towel just yet; it’s possible to save it instead of starting over from scratch! Try pulsing your sauce in a blender (or even with a handheld blender) and then pouring it through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any remaining lumps.
How to safely reheat it
If you stored the sauce in the refrigerator and need to reheat it, you must do so safely so as to not bring the temperature back up too high. Cook it over very low heat or, ideally, using the bain-marie (or double boiler) method. By simmering some water in a pot and placing a glass bowl on top of it containing your sauce, you’re allowing the steam to warm up the crème anglaise rather than putting it on direct heat.