Recently, I decided to try to expand my cooking repertoire. After having watched Giada de Laurentiis make a savory souffle on TV, it inspired me to give souffle-making a try. Instead of a savory souffle, I went with a sweet dessert souffle (see Lemon Souffle). I’ve always loved souffles, they are one of my favorite desserts. When you order a souffle at a restaurant, it comes piping hot out of the oven, direct to your table, and often filled with some sort of a sauce. In fact, souffles are my favorite cruise dessert. Every time, I go on a cruise, inevitably, souffle is always on the menu, and often times, different flavored souffles with different flavored sauces are offered over the course of various nights on a cruise. It’s what I most look forward to.
After I had decided that I would try my hand at making a lemon souffle, I figured I needed to also make some sort of sauce to serve with my souffle. I settled on making a creme anglaise. Fancy, eh?
Creme anglaise is a french term for “English cream.” Simple as that. Fancy word for a simple item. Creme anglaise is actually very prevalent in the dessert world as it’s really a versatile pourable custard that can be used as either a dessert cream or sauce. Your basic creme anglaise is vanilla flavored and only uses 4 ingredients: whole milk, sugar, egg yolks and a vanilla bean.
In this sauce, only the egg yolks are used, so you will need to crack open a couple of eggs and separate the egg yolks from the whites. Reserve the whites for another use, such as egg white omelets.
In a saucepan, over low heat on your stove, add a couple of cups of whole milk along with one vanilla bean. Split the vanilla bean down the center and scrape some of the seeds before you put it into the milk. Let it simmer on the stove to the point where you see small bubbles on the side of the saucepan. Don’t boil your milk. If you want richer flavor, you can also choose to use heavy cream rather than whole milk. But, I had milk around the house that I needed to use, so we used milk. By allowing the milk and vanilla bean to simmer in the saucepan, you’re steeping the milk with all that rich vanilla flavor.
While the milk is simmering, add a half cup of granulated sugar, or bakers sugar, to your egg yolks. Use a wire whisk and make sure that the sugar is fully incorporated into the egg yolks. You should end up with a fairly thick mixture.
Once the milk has simmered, it’s time to temper the egg yolks into the milk mixture. It’s necessary to temper or else you’ll cook your egg yolks, and bits of cooked egg is not what you want to find in your dessert sauce. You’ll temper the egg yolks by adding half of your milk mixture directly into the bowl with your egg yolks, all the while constantly whisking. Your egg yolks will soften in color and the whole thing will become much more liquid. Now, immediately pour your egg yolk mixture from the bowl directly into the sauce pan with the remaining milk mixture. Again, constantly whisk the combined liquids so that the egg yolks become fully incorporated and don’t scramble. The milk mixture will now take on a slightly beige hue.
Now comes the part where patience plays a role in making the creme anglaise. Remove your wire whisk and replace it with a wooden spoon. Turn up the temperature on the stove to medium. The higher the temperature, the thicker your sauce will become. However, too high of a temperature and the milk will curdle. Too low of a temperature and you could be doing this forever without any results. So turn the stove to medium and keep a close eye on your sauce. Using your wooden spoon, constantly stir your milk mixture for a good 8-10 minutes. As you continue stirring, you’ll feel, and see your sauce getting thicker and thicker. Exactly what you want. Once the sauce can coat the back of your spoon, you’re done. Essentially, if you dip the back of your wooden spoon into the creme anglaise and pull it out, run your finger down the back of the spoon and the trail your finger leaves remains in place without any of the sauce running into the trail, your sauce now coats the back of your spoon.
You’ll need to now stop the cooking process on the creme anglaise. Have a bowl submerged in an ice bath, or cold water bath sitting next to the stove. Over the bowl, place a mesh strainer, and pour the contents of your saucepan through the mesh strainer and into the bowl. The strainer will catch the vanilla bean as well as any curdled, cooked, or thickened part of the sauce that you don’t want. By pouring the sauce into a bowl submerged in the ice bath, you’ll stop the cooking process on the creme anglaise. At this point, you can serve it immediately.
When you serve creme anglaise with a souffle, as soon as the souffle comes out of the oven, you’ll want to use a spoon and open up a hole right into the middle of your souffle, and immediately start spooning the creme anglaise right into the hole you’ve created in the souffle. It’ll take a couple of spoonfuls of creme anglaise to fill the souffle. Serve and eat it immediately. As you eat your souffle, you’ll be able to taste, and hopefully smell, the wonderfully fragrant and flavorful vanilla. The creme anglaise mixes perfectly with the doughy, and airy souflle. It’s the perfect combination.
You can use creme anglaise for more than just sauce for a souffle, it can be used as the base for a dessert such as ice cream or creme brulee as well. Scoop some creme anglaise directly onto a plate and top it with a scoop of ice cream or an unmolded creme brulee. You can also use creme anglaise as a sweet dessert sauce over a bowl of fresh fruit as well. And creme anglaise can be served either hot or cold. In a souffle, you’d want to serve it hot, right after you’ve made it. But if you want to use it as a dessert base, you can serve it cold. Just take plastic wrap and put it right up on the surface of the creme so that it can’t form a top crust and put it in the refrigerator; it will keep for a couple of days. Now, you can see how versatile creme anglaise can be. Fancy word for something so simple to make.