This is surely one of those staple recipes that every cook should have in their cooking repertoire. A Crème Anglaise is a beautiful, light form of custard, perfect for dressing any number of desserts from cake and steamed pudding, through to pies, tarts, fresh and baked fruit; and, it has to be said, anything chocolate – see how I’ve paired it with my Baked Dark Chocolate Terrine. It’s also, I have to say, uncommonly good on its own!
I adapted this recipe from David Lebovitz’s Orange Crème Anglaise recipe. I wanted to try out the flavour of cardamom, which is often used in partnership with orange, so have added it in. If, however, you don’t like the taste of cardamom, stay with David’s recipe or, even better, you could add a vanilla bean instead. Another tip, if you’re not sure about how you feel about cardamom, is to take the pods out after the milk is warmed the first time.
The only challenging thing about this recipe is knowing when to take the custard off the stove. Using a thermometer is all well and good, but I’ve often found it unreliable. I think it’s a good idea to use one, but it’s probably more important to know how the custard is meant to look. You need to watch for two things; that it begins to thicken a little (but remember this is a pourable custard so it’s not going to get as thick as a normal custard), and secondly that it coats the spoon – where, if you hold the spoon sideways, you can draw a line through the mixture on the spoon and it holds the line (you’ll also notice the custard starting to coat the sides of the pan as you stir). Ensure these two things, and your custard should be perfect.
ORANGE & CARDAMOM CRÈME ANGLAISE
Makes 2 cups (500ml)
- 2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
- 4-5 cardamom pods
- 1 Tbsp orange zest (1-2 oranges)
- 7 tablespoons (85 gr) sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 6 large egg yolks
- In preparation, make an ice bath by putting ice cubes and a small amount of cold water into a large bowl and resting a smaller metal or glass bowl in the ice. Set a fine mesh strainer over the top.
- Pour the milk into a medium saucepan and add the cardamom pods, orange zest, sugar and salt. Warm gently (stirring until the sugar is dissolved) just to the simmer point, then remove from heat, cover, and put aside. If you want, you can take the cardamom pods out at this stage.
- Whisk the yolks in a separate small bowl.
- Pour a little of the warmed milk into the egg yolks, whisking continuously as you add. Now whisk the remaining egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan of milk in a thin stream. Cook over moderate/low heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, until the custard begins to thicken and coats the spatula (if you hold the spoon up sideways and run a finger through the custard coating, the line should hold without the custard moving). This process can take 8-10 minutes or more depending on your stove; you’re wanting to bring it to a pre-simmer stage where it steams but the surface remains still – (170-175 degrees F or 77-80 degrees C, if you’re using a thermometer).Watch it carefully; if the mixture gets too hot it will curdle.* See tip below.
- Immediately strain the custard into the bowl set over ice. Whisk the custard until it’s cool.
- The sauce can be refrigerated for up to a couple of days. Simply place plastic wrap directly over the surface so that it doesn’t develop a skin.
*Tip: If the custard overheats and curdles, you may be able to rescue it by pouring the mixture immediately into a blender and process until smooth, then strain. Thanks to Stephanie Jaworski (Joy of Baking.com) for the tip.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Canon 50mm 1.8 lens / Natural lighting