Crème anglaise

Crème anglaise

Leiths How to Cook
300 ml
Peter Cassidy

This classic custard, thickened with egg yolk, is served with all manner of desserts, including crumbles, steamed puddings and fruit tarts. It is also used as the base for some ice creams and buttercreams. A good crème anglaise has the consistency of double cream and is thinner than a flour-thickened custard.


Quantity Ingredient
300ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod
or a few drops vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons caster sugar
4 small egg yolks
or 3 large egg yolks


  1. Put the milk in a saucepan. Cut the vanilla pod, if using, down one side, then scrape out all the seeds. Add the pod and seeds to the milk and place the pan over a medium heat. Scald, by gently heating until steaming. Just before it bubbles, take off the heat and remove the vanilla pod and any skin that has formed.
  2. Put the egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a medium bowl and stir to mix. Pour in a little of the scalded milk and stir, then add the remaining milk gradually, stirring continuously until fully combined. Rinse out the saucepan used to scald the milk.
  3. Return the milk and egg mixture to the cleaned pan. Place over a low to medium heat and stir continuously with a wooden spoon. First the custard will steam, which is an indication that it is about to thicken. Watch it carefully and keep stirring, getting the wooden spoon well into the corners.
  4. To test if the sauce is thickened, remove it from the heat and draw the back of the spoon through the sauce. It should coat the back of the spoon evenly and not drop away and pool at the base of the spoon.
  5. When you draw a clean finger down the back of the spoon through the custard the trail should remain. This indicates that the sauce is ready.
  6. When this point is reached, immediately strain the sauce through a chinois or fine sieve into a bowl. Taste and add more sugar if necessary. Set aside to cool. If you are using vanilla extract, add a few drops now. To prevent a skin forming, place a disc of greaseproof paper on the crème anglaise, in direct contact with the surface.


  • For a thicker crème anglaise, use all double cream in place of the milk, or half of each.


  • Crème anglaise with liqueur: Add ½–1 tablespoon Calvados or Grand Marnier to the finished, thickened sauce.

    Chocolate crème anglaise: Melt 30 g chopped good quality dark chocolate in the milk when heating it. You may need to whisk the sauce to encourage the chocolate to melt fully.

    Coffee crème anglaise: Substitute 30–50 ml of the milk for a strong espresso.


  • Milk is scalded by being brought up to a temperature just below boiling point. Small bubbles will appear on the surface, particularly at the edges, where it comes into contact with the saucepan.


  • Only too high a heat will curdle a crème anglaise. This happens when the egg is heated to such a high temperature that it ‘cooks’ rather than thickens, resulting in flecks of cooked egg and causing the sauce to lose its velvety texture.

A note on undercooking…

  • If a crème anglaise is cooked at too low a temperature for too long, it will lose volume through water evaporation and develop a ‘condensed milk’ flavour.
Leiths School of food and wine
cookery course
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