The perfect sauce to top your big ol’ slice of apple pie is this crème anglaise. Where I grew up, it’s known as custard and is absolutely addictive.

 

Pouring custard being poured over apple crumbleVery often I’ll see pictures of pies with a big scoop of ice cream on top – in fact, I’m guilty of doing it myself  – see this Chocolate Brownie Pie for evidence. I’ve even served it alongside this Chocolate Self Saucing Pudding.

Time for a confession, while they look great and it does taste good, I wouldn’t normally serve up any kind of pie with ice cream. But this – THIS – yes! Custard is the accompaniment I reach for when pudding arrives.

I can eat this stuff on it’s own, by the bowlful – sorry, not sorry – and I love it served hot.

What is it?

Crème anglaise is a silky and creamy sweet vanilla sauce used as an accompaniment to pies and puddings. It’s lovely served over my apple crumble (see above).

It’s European in origin and, being British, my Mum would always serve up custard alongside an apple crumble or sponge pudding or any sweet dessert that was serve hot and had either pastry or cake involved.

In fact, Mum would always make her custard using custard powder and I still love the stuff. I even made a recipe so everyone can make it and have it sitting in the pantry for custard emergencies.

Right now though, I’m making it from scratch.

What you’ll need

Crème anglaise is a combination of 4-5 ingredients – egg yolks, milk, cream, sugar and vanilla.

Ingredients for creme anglaise

I make mine with just milk (no cream) since I like it on the thinner side but I’ll give you the tips you need to get the exact consistency you like.

How to make it – step by step

Homemade custard is seriously simple to make and will only take you about 15 minutes. This is adapted from my crème patissiere recipe.

3 images - whisking egg yolks & sugar, then adding hot milk and heating in a saucepan

  1. Start by heating some milk on the stovetop over low heat. You want it to get to the point that it’s furiously steaming, then as you see the first bubble break the surface, take it off the heat.
  2. Now use a hand whisk to whisk together your egg yoks and sugar (image 1), just until they’re combined.
  3. Slowly drizzle the hot milk into the egg yolks whilst continuing to whisk (image 2)– don’t stop whisking and don’t add it too quickly.
  4. Return it all to the saucepan (image 3) and heat over low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens.

Straining custard after cooking

  1. Pour it through a sieve / strainer to catch any lumps, then store it until ready to use. I serve it almost immediately.

Important Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t add the sugar to the yolks until you’re ready to whisk them – if you do, the sugar will actually start cooking the egg yolks causing them to coagulate. Weird huh?!!
  • Don’t boil the milk – it just needs to be hot enough that it’s steaming and is about to start a simmer.
  • Sit your bowl on a tea towel – this will help to hold the bowl in place while you use both your hands to pour and whisk.
  • Slowly drizzle the milk into the yolks while continuing to whisk – This is call ‘tempering’ and what it’s doing is bring the egg yolk temperature up slowly so they combine with the hot milk as opposed to just cooking as soon as the hot milk hits them.
  • Heat it slowly – over low-medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens enough to coat the back of the spoon and hold a line when you run your finger through it horizontally. This will be around about 70C if you’re using a thermometer.
  • Want it thicker? – I like my custard quite runny but if you like it thicker there are two ways you can go about this.
    • Cream – The first is to swap half the milk for cream. This makes it slightly thicker and richer as well.
    • Cornflour / Cornstarch – Add 2-3 teaspoons of corn flour to the egg yolks and sugar mixture when you beat them. This will make it even thicker than the cream version.

How to serve it

I’ll happily eat my pies, crumbles, crisps and puddings all year round with hot custard but you can certainly serve it cold too. In fact, my hubbys family eat it cold, while I stick mine in the microwave to warm it up.

Hubs family also eat it a lot thicker than I grew up with, but see my notes above to thicken it up to your liking.

Creme anglaise will keep in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to 1 week. I keep mine in one of these Weck preserving jars.

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A small white saucepan filled with vanilla sauce
So there you have it. The perfect vanilla custard to serve alongside any pie or pudding. It’s cosy, rich far more delicious than the sum of it’s parts.

What to eat custard with

A small white saucepan filled with creme anglaise

How to make Creme Anglaise (Homemade Custard)

5 from 1 vote
Crème anglaise, aka pouring custard or vanilla sauce, is an easy to make dessert sauce. It can be served warm or cold, thick or thin and only needs 4 ingredients. This recipe gives you all the tips you need.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups whole milk (500ml)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar (notes)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract

Instructions
 

  • In a small saucepan, over low-medium heat, heat the milk until it's heavily steaming and very hot to the touch. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, use a hand whisk to whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until combined.
  • Whilst continuing to whisk, slowly drizzle the hot milk into the egg yolks.
  • Pour it all back into the saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until it's thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and you can draw a line through it that doesn't break.
  • Pour the custard through a strainer into a clean bowl and let it cool a few minutes before serving. It can also be served cold.

Notes

  1. This recipe makes roughly 2 cups.
  2. I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (=4 teaspoons worldwide)
  3. For a thicker consistency, swap half the milk for thickened / heavy cream. For even thicker again, add 2-3 teaspoons of cornflour / cornstarch to the egg yolks and sugar mixture.
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A small white saucepan filled with creme anglaise