s John Donne once said – “No man is an island”. One of my favorite quotes, and although sometimes I wish I could become an island, just for a few minutes… the truth is – in most cases I would rather eat one! But not any island, just the floating island – dessert made of vanilla flavored crème anglaise and a blob of meringue floating on top of it, of course!
What is Crème Anglaise?
Crème Anglaise [krem änglez] , or “English Cream” is more of a sauce than a cream. It is made of milk, egg yolks, and sugar, often with vanilla added, and there are richer varieties where half of the amount or whole milk is substituted with cream. The English would say that crème anglaise is a custard. Custard would be any cream thickened with eggs, so basically pastry cream, crème caramel, and crème brulée are also custards.
The History of Custard
There is a dessert recipe written in Antique Roman cookbook “De Re Coquinaria” (“On the Subject of Cooking”) that contains honey, milk and eggs. The procedure calls for cooking all together until thickened, and serving the dessert with some ground pepper on top. So, believe it or not, ancient Romans were sweetening their taste buds with custard! Of course, at that time, there was neither white sugar nor vanilla in Europe; however honey and pepper are apparently a great combination. In Middle Ages custard was used primarily as a filling for various pies. Only from 16th century custard got independent and occurred in fancy desserts made for wealthy class.
How to Cook Crème Anglaise?
Crème Anglaise is made of egg yolks, sugar and milk (or a combination of milk and cream). It is usually flavored with vanilla pod or natural vanilla extract, but it can be aromatized with chocolate, liqueurs, nuts or spices as well. If you want to flavor crème anglaise with a liqueur, you should put it inside the cream once cooled down.
Here is the procedure for making vanilla flavored crème anglaise:
- Put the milk, half of the sugar and split and scraped vanilla pod in a saucepan. Place the saucepan on the stove and heat it up.
- Whisk the egg yolks with sugar in another bowl.
- When the milk is hot, around 80°C (176°F), pour half of it over mixed egg yolks and stir well. This procedure is called tempering (don’t mistake this procedure for !). Return the mixture back to the pan, mix with the milk that remained in the pan and put back on the stove.
- Cook the cream over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it becomes thick enough to coat the back of a spoon or reaches 80°C-84°C (176°F-183°F). When you swipe your finger across the back of the spoon, there should be a clear line left behind, confirming that the cream is of the right density. Also, there shouldn’t be any visible specs.
- Be careful not to overcook the cream because the yolks will curdle, and you will not be able to fix that. When it is done, strain through a sieve and leave it to cool down.
What Flavorings to Use?
If you pour hot crème anglaise over some chopped chocolate, you will get chocolate crème anglaise, and chocolate is always a good idea! You could mix some herbs and spices, like mint leaves or cinnamon sticks, with milk before heating. Add some Baileys or Cointreau liqueur into cooled custard to get some “kick”. If you like, add some rose water or violet essence into the cream. You can even put some rosemary, lavender, or some pepper, just play with the flavors you like, and enjoy in your floating island!
How to Serve Crème Anglaise?
This type of cream is rather thin and runny, and it is usually used as a sauce along with dessert. For example, Austrian is traditionally served in vanilla crème anglaise puddle. Floating island or île flottante is a dessert with French origin, and it is constituted of meringue floating on crème anglaise. Crème anglaise also serves as a base for making ice cream, or if you swap half of the milk with cream, put it in shallow dishes, bake it in water bath, and blowtorch some sugar on top of that, you will get to enjoy in !
I will leave you now because my floating island is waiting for me, nice and cold, and there is 30°C (86°F) outside, so the pleasure is even greater…yummy!
Well, what do you think about this post?
I read and really appreciate all the comments, even though I do not always have the time to respond to each one. So – keep me in the loop and try to create some sweetness every day because – Sweetness is happiness!!