Creme Anglaise (Vanilla Sauce)

Creme Anglaise is one of the most versatile sauces in the pastry kitchen. It is wonderful served with chocolate cake, as the sauce for floating island and as the base for lots of ice creams. It is also a creamy contrast to fruit desserts such as my tropical fruit vacherin, where I added mango puree to add a bright flavor to the sauce.

I always start with a simple vanilla flavored sauce and then add flavors to it to suit my dessert.

Creme Anglaise (vanilla sauce) and Ice Cream Base:

3 cups half and half

vanilla bean, split and the seeds scraped out to be put in the 1/2 and 1/2.

3/4 cup sugar

6 large egg yolks

Be sure to have a bowl with a strainer ready for when your creme anglaise/Ice Cream Base is ready!

Put the egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk gently, set aside.

In a medium sized sauce pan bring 1/2 and 1/2, vanilla bean and sugar to a gentle simmer. Turn the heat down to low.

creme anglaise

Whisk the hot cream into the egg yolks a little bit at a time until the yolks feel warm to the touch. You will only need to add about a cup of the hot cream, a 1/4 cup at a time.

Egg Yolks and Cream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Combining Egg Yolks and Cream | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Once the yolks are warm (I usually just feel the bottom of the bowl to see if it is warm to the touch) add them back to the pot of hot milk. Using a rubber spatula stir the mixture until the custard starts to set up just slightly, about 2 minutes)

Creme Anglaise Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

When the custard stays put when you wipe your finger across the spatula it is done.

Creme Anglaise Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Immediately pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer to remove any curdled eggs (you will always have a bit of this) and the vanilla bean.

Creme Anglaise Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

Cover the custard with plastic wrap and immediately put in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled, about an hour.

Creme Anglaise Recipe | ZoëBakes | Photo by Zoë François

16 thoughts to “Creme Anglaise (Vanilla Sauce)”

  1. I’ve made eclaires and the cream used to fill them before. Creme Anglaise seems almost the same. My question is this since the pastry cream recipe I used calls for the milk mixture to just boil and then sit to infuse the vanilla bean, how do you keep a skin from forming on the milk while it is still heating up? Also, what is the difference in Tahitian Vanilla and Madagascar Vanilla (aside from a separate species)? I get the feeling that the former is less strong.

  2. Hi Matthew,

    Creme Anglaise and Pastry cream are both custards but they are cooked in different ways. Creme Anglaise is thickened into a sauce by lightly cooking the yolks until they just begin to set. Pastry cream is generally thickened with a starch, in addition to the eggs. The starch allows you to boil the custard, which is something you never want to do with Creme Anglaise.

    I’ve added more information to the vanilla page based on your great question about the difference between the beans.

    Thank you! Zoë

  3. Oh okay, still how, if the instructions call for heating milk on med-high heat until it boils, can one prevent skin and also prevent the milk from forming a film (scolding?) on the bottom of the pan?

  4. Hi Matthew,

    If you are adding the sugar to the milk it should prevent the milk from scalding to the bottom of the pan. It prevents the proteins from binding to the metal.

    Had you added the sugar to the milk?

    To prevent a skin on the top surface you will need to stir it constantly. I would stick to a medium heat and avoid going too high.

    Let me know if that helps! Zoë

  5. Hello again Zoe,

    The recipe for the cream (for eclairs I’ve made) is as follows:

    In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the saucepan. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.

  6. I used tahitian vanilla (according to the label on the jar which the bean was contained) and the only difference was that i used a full bean as the tahitian seemed to not be as strong though still vanilla in scent and taste 🙂

  7. Hi Matthew,

    In my opinion you can skip the 15 minutes of infusing for the vanilla bean. The seeds will remain in the pastry cream to scent and flavor it without the wait!

    When you heat the milk and vanilla throw in some of the sugar from the next step to prevent it from scalding.

    The rest looks great!

    Put in as much vanilla as suits your taste! If you want to steep the vanilla bean in the milk for the 15 minutes then be sure to cover the pot so that it doesn’t develop the skin that you referred to before.

    Enjoy! Zoë

  8. I attended a social function a couple of weeks ago. For dessert, they served a chocolate cake slice on some type of thicken cream sauce. I thought the combination was fantastic. It was the crème that made the dessert. I asked the server what type of sauce was underneath the cake and she replied crème anglaise. I really do not bake very much, but I came home and started looking online for a frosting recipe that was made with crème anglaise. I know this may be a little off but I would like to have a chocolate cake frosted in this crème. This is how I stumbled across your website. Does such a recipe exist? Do you have any suggestions as to how to get the crème anglaise thick enough to hold up as a frosting or can you suggest any other frosting that would have the same taste. Thank you for your time and assistance.

    Vila

  9. Hi Vila,

    Crème anglaise alone is not thick enough to frost a cake, but there are recipes for buttercream that are made with crème anglaise and they are fantastic! I will try to do a post about that recipe soon. Until then you can find a recipe for it in “The Cake Bible.”

    Enjoy! Zoë

  10. Hi Zoe,

    I have attempted to do some research. What do you think about a bavarian or pastry cream to fill and frost a chocolate cake? Which one do you think would be better suited to use as a frosting? I do not have the Cake Bible but I am looking into purchasing it soon. Thanks again for your assistance.

    Vila

  11. Hi Villa,

    You have been studying.

    Bavarian is made with gelatin and needs to be done in a mold, so that it doesn’t lose its shape while setting. Although pastry cream is set with eggs and cornstarch, it really doesn’t have all that much body to it, not enough to stay put on the outside of a cake. You could decorate the tops of the layers and just keep the sides open.

    Here is a post using the type of mold you’d need for a bavarian http://zoebakes.com/?p=1092

    Keep me posted! Zoë

  12. I went to ruth chris steake house and ordered a desert of berries and cream and loved it so much that i had to ask the waiter how they maid it and he said it was vanela sauce englaise.When you can research that desert and let me know if this is how you make it?thanks

  13. Hello Zoe,

    O love your website so much. I baked a lot of your recipes here. Just want to know if I dont have vanilla bean, can I just used pure liquid vanilla extract? Thanks so much

    1. Hi Daryl,

      Yes, you absolutely can. Just stir it in at the end to preserve the flavor. I would start with 1 teaspoon and taste to see if that is strong enough.

      Thanks, Zoe

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