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It’s cold out, but ice cream is fit for any weather. It would be hard to find an upscale casual restaurant that doesn’t use what is the classic ice cream base on its menu in some form.
Essentially a simple custard made of sugar, milk, egg yolks and a touch of vanilla, crème a l’Anglaise – English cream; or, what Escoffier called custard cream — is a basic culinary technique. You’ve likely enjoyed its supple richness hundreds of times: as I just mentioned, it is the creamy base for ice cream.
A highly versatile foundational sauce for the kitchen, crème Anglaise can be served with innumerable desserts. When you add chocolate and whipped cream, it becomes chocolate mousse; with butter added, it is crème au beurre.
Devour any Bavarois (Bavarian cream) or Charlotte “icebox cake” at a traditional bake shop here in the city and you’re enjoying crème Anglaise.
Making it at home isn’t too hard.
There are basically two steps: heat up some whole milk gently on the stove top; in a separate bowl, whisk together a few egg yolks and sugar. Carefully combine the two without scrambling the eggs and stir until it coats the back of a spoon and you can draw a line through it with your finger that holds.
There are a gazillion recipes online to follow. Practice you Anglaise in preparation for fresh fruit season in spring and early summer.
Warm or chilled, the custardy sauce is refreshing for all of its rich creaminess, and it can be flavoured with virtually anything that interests you, whether that is orange, Bourbon, cardamom for a slight savoury inflection, or keep it entirely simple with the classic vanilla from the pod.
Crème Anglaise as a base for, or garnishing, a dessert is treat at any time of the year.