Crème anglaise is a very rich custard that is often used as a sauce with other desserts. It is sometimes described as a “pouring custard” because it is thin enough to be poured and is not, unlike some pudding-like custards, thick enough to be scooped for serving. The custard sauce is made with cream and egg yolks, lightly sweetened with sugar and lightly flavored with vanilla. If you’ve never had it before, it is somewhat similar to the taste and texture of melted vanilla ice cream, but maybe a bit less sweet. It goes very well with cakes, souffles and all kinds of fruit desserts, from tarts to a simple bowl of strawberries. I often make it to go with angel food cake, as it is a great use for all those extra egg yolks.Crème anglaise is made by heating cream with a vanilla bean until the mixture just comes to a simmer. Several egg yolks are then tempered with the hot cream mixture, which is added very slowly so it does not cook the eggs. The sauce base is then returned to the stove and cooked just until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. It can then either be served hot or stored in the fridge until you’re ready for it. You can find a recipe for crème anglaise here.
The two most common problems with crème anglaise are (1) adding the cream to the egg yolks too quickly and (2) overcooking the custard. In both cases you end up with a “broken” sauce that is not smooth and has a relatively eggy flavor. The best thing to keep in mind is that, for all its richness, the sauce is a very delicate one and it is best to take it very slowly. It’s always better to take a few extra minutes than to have to throw out the whole batch and start again.