If you never tried this French light sauce let me tell you that it's easy to make (there is a step-by-step video!), even though the yolks are cooked on the stove and that can be intimidating sometimes. It comes together quickly but needs to cool down. Serve it with fruit, cake slices, bread puddings, or waffles, it's a delicious sweet custard to make often.
About this recipe
It's made in the stove top and it consists of sweetened egg yolks cooked with milk until they thicken enough to be called a sauce.
Vanilla is the traditional flavor and you can use pure vanilla extract, paste (my favorite) or beans. The last two leave those tiny blacks specks that are so particular to using the vanilla seeds and make it more sophisticated.
But this custard can be flavored with so many other ingredients: citrus zest, other extracts (like coffee, rum, maple, citrus, almond), cocoa powder, brown sugar, and more. So, start with the traditional and start playing around until you find your favorite!
Only 4 ingredients are needed!
- Egg yolks. Use fresh ones for best results.
- Whole milk. Don't be tempted to use lowfat as the custard will not have the same richness.
- Sugar. White granulated is what you need.
- Vanilla. It's the star flavoring and I particularly love vanilla paste. But you can use pure extract or beans. Use the best brand you can afford.
How to use a vanilla bean
If you decide to go French all the way and use vanilla beans (instead of extract or paste) here is how you open and use them:
- Place the bean flat on the surface.
- With a sharp knife (I use the small one) open the bean lenghtwise.
- With the tip of the knife scrape the inside of each half bean, lenghtwise, taking out the seeds.
Put the empty vanilla beans in a jar with powdered sugar and leave for several weeks. You'll have amazing vanilla sugar!Vintage Kitchen Tip
How to make crème anglaise
If you have any apprehension about cooking yolks in the stove, don't. If you follow the tips and details in the recipe you will be able to make a wonderful custard sauce.
WATCH THE STEP-BY-STEP VIDEO 👇🏻
My top tips
- Organization: read the recipe carefully and make sure you have the ingredients, utensils and space needed to make it.
- Mixing: the yolks and sugar are traditionally whisked and not beaten with a mixer. This is because you don't want to add too much air. I've done both with good results, the key being beating them (with electric hand-held mixer) for a short period, just until they thicken a little.
- Heat: it's key to cook the yolks and milk over low heat until they thicken. Watch it closely, stirring frequently, and don't let it boil.
- Storing: it lasts in the refrigerator for several days, a week many times. You can freeze it though it will never have the same consistency once you defrost it, but depending on how you plan to serve it, you might not care.
- Serving it: in my opinion, is better after several hours, or a day, in the fridge
Frequently asked questions
Crème anglaise is a light, pourable custard. But different from a vanilla custard pudding, which is thicker as it contains cornstarch or some other thickening agent.
Only 4 ingredients are needed: egg yolk, milk, sugar, and vanilla. Find the full recipe below in the recipe card.
It uses egg yolks as thickener. Since it doesn't contain cornstarch or flour, I suggest you use less milk if you want a thicker sauce.
Related recipes you might like:
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- 3 egg yolks
- 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract or paste
- Have all ingredients ready. Including a bowl with ice and some water if you're going to cool it down with an inverted water bath (see Notes below).
- Pour milk on a medium saucepan and add half of the sugar. Whisk until the sugar starts to dissolve and heat over medium heat until it starts to barely simmer, or bubble in the edges. Don't let it boil.
- Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until slightly thickened. It's recommended to use a whisk because we don't want to incorporate too much air, but if you only have a hand-held mixer use it just until the mixture thickens.
- Add the hot milk to the egg mixture a little at a time (we don't want to cook the yolks with the heat) until you add ⅔ of the milk.
- Return this mixture to the same saucepan that has the rest of the milk and cook over low heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture is hot and thickens slightly. Don't let it boil.
- Check a few times that the custard is not boiling as it might curdle. That's why we use low heat, to be able to cook it without curdling.
- It should coat the back of a wooden spoon and, if a finger is drawn across it, it should leave a clear path.
- Strain the custard onto a bowl to discard any solids that might've formed while cooking.
- Add vanilla paste or extract and mix.
- Transfer to the ice water bowl if using an inverted water bath (see Notes below), or cover the bowl with a piece of plastic on top that touches the whole surface.
- Cool at room temperature and refrigerate.
- Store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
Recipe: it can easily be doubled. Keep in mind that it will take a little longer to heat the milk and cook it.
Inverted water bath: this is a great way to cool the custard fast, and it involves putting it in a bowl and then in another bowl that has ice and water. Stir constantly until it cools down completely and thickens. You can then refrigerate it in an airtight container or in a bowl with a piece of plastic on top touching the whole surface.
Organization: read the recipe carefully and make sure you have the ingredients, utensils and space needed to make it.
Mixing: the yolks and sugar are traditionally whisked and not beaten with a mixer. This is because you don't want to add too much air. I've done both with good results, the key being beating them (with electric hand-held mixer) for a short period, just until they thicken a little.
Heat: it's key to cook the yolks and milk over low heat until they thicken. Watch it closely, stirring frequently, and don't let it boil.
Storing: it lasts in the refrigerator for several days, a week many times. You can freeze it though it will never have the same consistency once you defrost it, but depending on how you plan to serve it, you might not care.
Serving it: in my opinion, is better after several hours, or a day, in the fridge
- Prep Time: 10
- Cook Time: 10
- Category: Sauces
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: French
- Serving Size: ¼
- Calories: 128
- Sugar: 15.7 g
- Sodium: 32.5 mg
- Fat: 5.4 g
- Carbohydrates: 15.9 g
- Protein: 3.9 g
- Cholesterol: 144.4 mg
Keywords: creme anglaise, custard cream