Creme Anglaise is a thick rich vanilla custard sauce that turns a bowl of berries (or a slice of pound cake) into an elegant French dessert!!
If you’re looking for the perfect easy summer dessert with a certain elegant pedigree, this is it. Sounds fancy but it’s so simple ~ if you’ve ever made pudding (or even if you haven’t) you’ll have no trouble with creme Anglaise.
What do I bring to the party for this classic recipe? The ingredients are utterly basic, and they’re always in more or less the same proportions, so why follow my recipe? My recipe sets out a much easier method, one that avoids some of the pitfalls of the traditional way of making creme Anglaise. When you follow my step by step instructions, you basically can’t fail! It’s memorizable and pantry friendly, too, so you’ll always have a fantastic dessert at your fingertips.
did you know?
Creme Anglaise (English cream) is a simple French custard sauce or pastry filling. It’s also an ice cream base. You know when you finish a bowl of vanilla ice cream by scraping every last bit of melted cream off the bottom of the bowl? That’s creme anglaise!
what you’ll need to make creme Anglaise
Don’t blink, it’s a short list!
- cream (1 cup)
- egg yolks (4)
- sugar (1/4 cup)
- vanilla bean paste
- Vanilla bean paste is a thick, concentrated vanilla extract that contains the seeds and sometimes the pod of the vanilla bean. It’s a more convenient and less expensive alternative to vanilla beans, which have gotten absurdly expensive lately. Look for it in your baking aisle, and you can buy it here. I like and use Nielsen-Massey brand. Of course if you have deep pockets, use a vanilla bean!
how to make creme Anglaise, in 4 easy steps
My method is a little different, and a little easier, than the standard. Rather than heat the milk separately and drizzle into the yolks and sugar, I blend everything together and then cook. It’s not Cordon Bleu approved, but it works beautifully.
step 1. Blend ingredients together
Blend cream, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla together briefly in a blender. You can do this with an immersion blender, or even a whisk.
step 2. Heat on the stove until thick
Use a silicone spoonula to stir the custard constantly as you cook over medium to medium heat until it thickens (you’re aiming for 180F.) This will take about 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of your pan, and your heat level. Check for the right consistency: The crème anglaise should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, leaving a clear trail when you run your finger through it. To test the consistency, dip a spoon into the sauce, then run your finger across the back of the spoon. If the line remains intact without the sauce running together, it is ready.
step 3. Strain to remove any stray lumps
This step removes any lumps or bits of cooked egg, resulting in a silky sauce. I pour it through a fine mesh strainer.
step 4. Chill (over ice or in the fridge)
Once the crème anglaise is cooked and strained, it needs to be chilled properly before serving. It will thicken as it cools. Note: ultimately the choice is yours whether to serve creme Anglaise warm, room temp, or chilled, but since it’s summer, we’re going with chilled.
what to expect from creme Anglaise
This sauce has a medium pourable consistency ~ not as thick as custard, but with a nice voluptuous consistency. It drapes over berries or pound cake in the best way. When you use a vanilla bean or vanilla bean paste the flavor is just gorgeous (it really does taste like the best melted vanilla ice cream.) The color will range from off white to golden yellow depending on the color of your yolks. The little flecks of vanilla bean are everything.
Note: The egg yolks are the only thickening agents in this classic recipe. Creme Anglaise can be made with cornstarch or flour to thicken it further, but that is not the intended consistency for a dessert sauce.
What is creme Anglaise used for?
Creme Anglaise is a versatile dessert sauce that can be used in tons of ways, all of them simple and elegant. This is gonna make you look like a master chef!
- Use it as a sauce or a base for fresh fruit, especially berries.
- The sauce can be drizzled over cakes. It’s traditional with my Irish Apple Cake. We also love it with simple cakes like Buttermilk Pound Cake and Lemon Chiffon Cake.
- Creme Anglaise is fabulous with pies like Cherry Crumble Pie or Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Pie.
- Use it as your sauce for an easy trifle.
- Drizzle it over a decadent chocolate soufflé.
- Spoon over fruit tarts like my Rhubarb Crumble Tart or my Fresh Strawberry Galette.
- Use it to dress a mixed fruit salad.
- Elevate a flourless chocolate cake with a moat of creme Anglaise!
- Serve with Maple Frangipane Pecan Pie (one of my faves!)
- Serve with pavlovas. Creme Anglaise makes a perfect base for individual pavlovas.
make ice cream from your creme Anglaise!
You can definitely make ice cream with this ~ add the completely chilled creme Anglais to your ice cream machine and churn according to its directions. For making ice cream I would use a combination of cream and whole milk for best results.
troubleshooting creme Anglaise
Don’t skimp on your vanilla. Vanilla bean or paste gives this sauce its luxurious flavor. Vanilla extract can be used, but won’t give you the same result.
If you’re new to making creme Anglaise start out with a medium heat. It will take a little longer to come to temperature and thicken, but you’ll have more control over the process. Once you’ve mastered the process you can raise the heat.
A silicone spatula is the ideal tool for stirring a custard sauce because its flexible edge scrapes the sides and bottom of the pan clean and prevents scorching.
Don’t over cook or curdle your creme Anglaise: it should coat the back of a spoon and leave a clear path when a finger is run through it. Perform the “nappe” test by dipping a spoon into the sauce and drawing a line with your finger. If the line stays intact without the sauce running, it’s done.
how to vary your creme Anglaise
- Use half and half to cut the fat content.
- Use any alternative sweetener you like in place of the sugar for a low carb creme Anglaise.
- Yes, double or triple the recipe if you like.
- For a coffee creme Anglaise add instant coffee granules to the mixture.
- For a lemony version, add the zest of a lemon to the mix.
- Make a chocolate creme Anglaise by melting chocolate into the cream before proceeding with the recipe.
- Make it boozy: Add a tablespoon or two of your favorite liqueur. Grand Marnier or Amaretto work well. Brandy and cognac work, too.
- blender or food processor, optional
- small to medium heavy bottomed saucepan
- silicone 'spoonula'
- Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processer and blend until completely combined.*
- Pour the mixture into a small to medium saucepan with a heavy bottom and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spoonula.
- Gradually heat the mixture and bring it up to 180F, where it will have thickened slightly. The creme anglaise should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, leaving a clear trail when you run your finger through it. To test the consistency, dip a spoon into the sauce, then run your finger across the back of the spoon. If the line remains intact without the sauce running together, it is ready. Note: do not allow the custard to boil.
- Once the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove any stray lumps.
- Chill the sauce, either over ice, or in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- If you don’t have a blender or food processor you can whisk everything together really well. I would start with the yolks and sugar, then whisk in the cream.