Explainers

How to make crème anglaise

We demystify a classic Christmas pudding accompaniment.

By Lisa Featherby
Cold custard at Christmas time is a favourite for many of us, whether it be spiked with brandy for your Christmas pud, or poured over simply baked stone fruit. It's also great to keep in the fridge ready to go.
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To make a custard, or crème anglaise, as it's also called, the method is quite simple – egg yolks whisked with sugar and cooked out with the addition of milk – but some patience is required. You need to cook the custard over a low heat with a lot of movement to hold the protein together and avoid curdling the mixture. Once the custard is made, chilling it quickly to halt the cooking process will safeguard that perfectly thick, velvety finish.

Step by step

  1. Place a heatproof bowl over a bowl of ice and set aside.
  2. Whisk 8 egg yolks and 150gm caster sugar in a bowl until thick, pale and creamy (about 3 minutes). If you have an electric mixer, beat with the whisk attachment fitted.
Step 2.
  1. Bring 1 litre full-cream milk, 1 split vanilla bean with seeds scraped and 50gm caster sugar to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Pour hot milk mixture, in batches, over yolk mixture, stirring to combine.
  2. Return mixture to the saucepan. If there are milk solids stuck on the base, use a clean saucepan (if there are minimal milk solids, it will be fine). Scalded milk will taint the flavour of the custard (see tips). Stir mixture continuously over low-medium heat until custard thickens, reaches 82°C and coats the back of a wooden spoon (10-15 minutes; test for thickness by running your finger along the spoon; it should leave a clean line).
Step 3.
  1. Immediately pour custard into prepared bowl to stop the cooking process, then stir mixture occasionally until chilled (30 minutes). If serving custard warm, very gently reheat it, stirring continuously to prevent it from splitting. Custard will keep refrigerated for 3-4 days.
Step 5.