How to Make Crème Anglaise (Vanilla Sauce)

Crème Anglaise is one of my favourite dessert sauces.  It is made by gently heating milk then slowly tempering egg yolks and sugar until it reaches napper or coating texture. It is often flavoured with vanilla and adds an elegant, rich touch when poured over warm cakes or used as a base for ice cream.   

Crème Anglaise is French for “English Cream”.

I often find that crème anglaise is underutilized in North America as a dessert accompaniment. whereas in the UK and other parts of Europe, this sweet thin pouring custard is generously served at dessert time and even poured over fresh fruit. It is a classic for a reason and used in pastry kitchens every day.

Creme anglaise pouring into clear bowl, on wood table with blue tea towel

Crème Anglaise is a great starting point for beginner bakers and a must to master for every pastry chef as it is the base for so many desserts. This recipe as well as my recipes Crème Patisserie and Chocolate Mousse are all included in Module Three: Cream and Custard of the Kira Bakes Gluten Free Pastry School.  Learning how to make these custards will give you the base skills needed to master the gluten free cakes, cookies and desserts in upcoming Modules Four, Five and Six.

What is Crème Anglaise?

Traditionally, Crème Anglaise, also know as English Cream or Vanilla Sauce, is a classic dessert sauce that is made of a mixture of milk (and sometimes cream) that’s been infused with vanilla, sugar and egg yolks. It is similar to Crème Patisserie, but is much thinner in consistency and doesn’t contain any cornstarch. Crème Anglaise comes together by gently heating the ingredients.

Creme anglaise in clear bowl, on wood table

What is the difference between Crème Patisserie and Crème Anglaise??

Crème Patisserie (pastry cream) and Crème Anglaise (vanilla sauce) are both custards that contain milk, sugar and eggs. They differ in their consistency, cooking method and use.

Crème Anglaise

  • Crème Anglaise is a thin custard that is cooked low and slow and is used as a sauce or accompaniment for platted desserts. It is also the base for ice cream.

Crème Patisserie 

  • Crème Patisserie is a thick custard that is cooked to boiling point because it contains cornstarch which protects the egg proteins from breaking and scrambling. It is primarily used as a filling for pastries or layers in tarts and cakes.

What is Tempering

Tempering is a technique often used in professional kitchens when making custards, desserts and other sauces, (not to be confused with tempering chocolate). Essentially it is the process of gradually raising the temperature of a mixture containing eggs to reduce the risk of them curdling or turning to scrambled eggs.

The process for tempering custard will usually involve firstly heating the milk (and sometimes cream) in a saucepan until it is steaming but not boiling. With the eggs and sugar in a separate bowl, you gradually pour in a small amount of the hot milk into the egg mixture while continuously whisking the egg mixture. The gradual addition of the hot milk raises the temperature of the eggs, preventing them from curdling. The mixture would then be placed back on the stovetop where you would continue to cook the custard until it reaches napper or coating consistency.

What is “napper” and how to tell when Crème Anglaise is cooked?

Cooking Crème Anglaise can seem tedious at times because it requires a certain level of care and patience while is cooks at a very low temperature. There are two ways you can tell if your Crème Anglaise is cooked. You can either wait until the sauce has reached “napper” or coating consistency. All this means is that if you dip the back of a metal spoon into the sauce and run your finger through the sauce, the sauce should create a line and not drip.  The other way is to use a thermometer. Cooking the vanilla sauce until is reached a temperature between 78C-80C will give you a custard that is smooth and velvety.

Gold Spoon dipping into Creme anglaise in clear bowl, on wood table with blue tea towel

Why You Can’t Boil Crème Anglaise

When heated, eggs begin to bind when they reach 78C. So if you were to boil the custard (boiling begins around 100C/212F), then you would end up with very sweet scrambled eggs. 

What can you do with Crème Anglaise??

  1. Use it as a classic dessert and pouring sauce. You can use Crème Anglaise as an accompaniment to any dessert to add touch of indulgence. I personally love it poured over warm chocolate cake, fruit pie or classic British sticky toffee pudding.
  2. Serve it at brunch as a pancake or waffle topping.
  3. Ice Cream. Crème Anglaise is the base for ice cream. Once it is fully cooled, you can churn it in an ice cream maker for delicious homemade ice cream. 
  4. Trifle. You can use cooled crème anglaise when layering a trifle as the cake and lady fingers will absorb all the creamy richness.
  5. Homemade Parfaits! This is a great one if you want to get other people (especially kids!) involved and it makes for a really fun “Build You Own Parfait” for parties . First, place glasses filled halfway with crème anglaise. Then set out different parfait toppings like granola, fresh cut fruit and berries, toasted coconut, and chocolate chips.

Tips for making perfect Crème Anglaise

  1. Use a heavy bottomed saucepan. Using a heavy bottomed saucepan will ensure that the heat is distributed evenly. Reducing the risk of accidentally making scrambled eggs. 
  2. Flavour the milk.  If you want to make a flavoured crème anglaise you should do this at the very start. Although traditionally vanilla is used when making crème anglaise, you can choose to infuse the milk while it is heating with chocolate, coffee or liquors. Just remember to strain the milk before you start tempering the egg mixture.
  3. Remember to Temper. Tempering the hot milk into the eggs and sugar is critical because if you haven’t guessed what I’m going to say by now, it will turn to sweet, scrambled eggs. If you want a visual of how to temper, watch this video by. 
  4. Heat low and slow. Crème anglaise takes care and patience. Cooking the custard on a low heat will keep is from turning to scrambled eggs. Look pretty much every tip and every instruction I’m going to give you is with a goal of NOT creating sweet, scrambled eggs.
  5. Stir constantly. Because it’s heating so slowing, the custard will naturally want to form a ‘skin’ on the top of the liquid. By stirring constantly, we avoid this happening and also reduces the risk of the custard cooking to quickly near the bottom of the saucepan.
  6. Use a strainer. When the crème anglaise is fully cooked, strain it to remove any lump or bits of cooked egg that would otherwise ruin your smooth custard.
Creme anglaise pouring into clear bowl, on wood table with blue tea towel

Crème Anglaise  Quick Facts:

Origin: France in the 17th and 18th centuries. Crème Anglaise is French for “English Sauce”. 

Difficulty Level: Intermediate, you just need patience.

Ingredients: Milk (sometimes cream as well), sugar and egg yolks.

Best used for: Pouring sauce for desserts and an ice cream base

How to make Crème Anglaise Like a Pastry Chef

Creme anglaise in clear bowl, on wood table

Lets get baking! (Step-by-Step Instructions)

Mis en Place

Going back to the Kira Bakes Gluten Free Pastry Principals, this is always our first step when baking as it not only helps ensure accuracy during the mixing process, but it also makes the whole baking process a lot more relaxing and enjoyable. It’s a win/win!

If I’ve said it 100 times, I’ll say it again. Measuring ingredients by weight not volume is the magic sauce to gluten free baking! I always do my best to provide the cup (volume) measurements where possible. If you are going to measure by volume, click this link for tips on the correct way to measure by volume.

Scale the following ingredients

Crème Anglaise Ingredients:

170g Whole Milk

170g Heavy Cream

50g or 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar

4 Egg Yolks (large us eggs)

2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste

Prepare the equipment

  • Small heavy-bottomed saucepan
  • Whisk
  • Metal Spoon
  • Silicon Spatula
  • Medium mixing bowl, x2
  • Strainer (fine mesh sieve) 
  • Digital thermometer (optional) 

Method

Step 1

In a saucepan, heat ¾ of the milk, and cream, ½ of the sugar and vanilla (if using). Cook over medium heat until steam begins to form. Immediately place a lid on the pot and remove it from the heat to let the vanilla infuse a few minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining milk, cream and sugar with the egg yolks. Whisk until it looks pale and thick.

Step 2

Temper the mixture by pouring a third of the hot milk mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Whisking continually so not to overheat and cook the egg yolks.

Egg mixture ready for hot milk temper, for creme anglaise recipe

Step 3

Pour the mixture back into saucepan with the remaining milk, and return to a low heat. REMEMBER: DO NOT BOIL!

Creme Anglaise in saucepan

If you want to cook it to temperature:

Stirring constantly with a spatula or spoon, cook the custard to a temperature of 78-80C/172.5-176F. Don’t let it go above this temperature.

If you want to cook it to Napper or Coating texture:

Dip a metal spoon into the crème anglaise. Angle the spoon and run a horizontal line through the custard with a finger. If fully cooked, the line will remain neat with no drips.

Step 4

Strain the custard into a bowl. If serving warm, allow it to cool for 5 minutes before serving. If cooling, place the bowl over a cold water bath.

Gold Spoon dipping into Creme anglaise in clear bowl, on wood table with blue tea towel

Storing Crème Anglaise 

Keep crème anglaise stored in the fridge for up to 2-3 days.  

Crème Anglaise Q&A

Question: Is Crème Anglaise gluten free?

It is gluten free! Because Crème Anglaise only incorporates milk, cream, sugar and eggs, it is naturally gluten free and safe for anyone who is celiac or can’t tolerate gluten.

Question: Can you save Crème Anglaise that looks like its splitting?

Yes, you can. If this happens while you are cooking the custard to temperature. Simply remove it from the heat and either place it over an ice bath and use a hand blender (this tip is from pastry guru, Ravneet Gill) or once it is cooled completely, you can put it in a blender and then stain it using a fine mesh sieve. 

Question: How can I make a coffee flavoured crème anglaise?

EASY! At the very start, add freshly roasted coffee beans (about ¼ cup) or 2 tsp instant espresso powder to the milk mixture and heat as instructed. Just remember to strain and remove the coffee beans before you temper the coffee infuse milk into the egg mixture.

Print
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Gold Spoon dipping into Creme anglaise in clear bowl, on wood table with blue tea towel

How to Make Crème Anglaise (Vanilla Sauce)


  • Author: Kira McMullan
  • Total Time: 20
  • Yield: 350g 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Crème Anglaise is one of my favourite dessert sauces.  It is made by gently heating milk then slowly ‘tempering’ egg yolks and sugar until it reaches ‘coating’ texture. It is often flavoured with vanilla and adds an elegant, rich touch when poured over warm cakes or used as a base for ice cream.


Ingredients

Scale

170g Whole Milk

170g Heavy Cream

50g or 1/4 cup Granulated Sugar

4 Egg Yolks (large us eggs)

2 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste


Instructions

Step 1

In a saucepan, heat ¾ of the milk, and cream, ½ of the sugar and vanilla (if using). Cook over medium heat until steam begins to form. Immediately place a lid on the pot and remove it from the heat to let infuse a few minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining milk, cream and sugar with the egg yolks. Whisk until it looks pale and thick.

Step 2

Temper the mixture by pouring a third of the hot milk mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Whisking continually so not to overheat and cook the egg yolks.

Step 3

Pour the mixture back into saucepan with the remaining milk, and return to a low heat. REMEMBER: DO NOT BOIL!

If you want to cook it to temperature:

Stirring constantly with a spatula or spoon, cook the custard to a temperature of 78-80C/172.5-176F. Don’t let it go above this temperature.

If you want to cook it to Napper or Coating texture:

Dip a metal spoon into the crème anglaise. Angle the spoon and run a horizontal line through the custard with a finger. If fully cooked, the line will remain neat with no drips.

Step 4

Strain the custard into a bowl. If serving warm, allow it to cool for 5 minutes before serving. If cooling, place the bowl over a cold water bath.

Storing

Keep crème anglaise stored in the fridge for up to 2-3 days.

  • Prep Time: 5
  • Cook Time: 15

Keywords: creme anglaise, custard, stirred custard, vanilla sauce, dessert sauce, dessert, French recipe

Recipe questions? I’d love to help!

Connect with me @kirabakesglutenfree or info@kirabakesglutenfree.com

Gluten Free Pastry Chef Kira McMullan, eating slice of cake

Ready to try another Gluten Free Recipe? Why not bake my Gluten Free Homemade Caramel or Gluten Free Brownies.  

The next lesson is Module Four: Gluten Free Pastry. Modules launch the last Monday of each month. Make sure to sign up to my newsletter for reminders and other gluten free recipes and tips.



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