A few weeks ago I found myself in the position of needing to make a dessert at the last minute. I didn't have a whole lot of the fixings for making a decadent dessert, but I did have a chocolate fudge cake mix. So I grabbed the cake mix, beat it up, and then dumped in a package of frozen raspberries before pouring it into my bundt pan. Only after the cake was in the oven did I peek in the pantry and realize that I didn't have any powdered sugar to make a quick icing. I could do a cooked icing...but that wasn't what I wanted. And I didn't have enough chocolate chips to make a quick chocolate glaze either. What to do, what to do. I reach for a cookbook that never turns me down, The Joy Of Cooking.
This book is so beat up, but it never, ever fails me. If I want to learn how to do a simple cooking technique, this is the book I turn to first. The directions are always clear, and often there are illustrations showing me what to do. In this case, I turned to the section on Dessert Sauces, and decided to make a Crème Anglais. A simple dessert sauce that chefs worldwide use to decorate plates was going to be the crowning glory of my doctored cake mix. I paused for a second when I saw the 6 egg yolks called for, but I decided to go for it anyways.
The first step was to beat the egg yolks and sugar until foamy, and while I settled in for a long haul (thinking egg whites or whipped cream) it came together in seconds. It didn't take very long at all before I was moving on to step two and heating up my milk. For my milk choice, I simply went with the 1% milk I had in the fridge. While I knew cream would have been great, I didn't have any so low-fat milk it was. I heated the milk up until bubbles began forming around the edges, and then slowly, very slowly, streamed the hot milk into the egg yolks, whisking like a madman. This mixture went back into the pan to cook to 170ºF and just like that, I had Crème Anglais after I added some vanilla. The whole process took less than 20 minutes, and the sauce was delicious. It made the perfect sauce for my cake, and I was now in possession of a new technique. That's priceless, and was possible thanks to my trusty beat up Joy of Cooking.
from Joy of Cooking
Whisk together in a medium bowl until slightly thickened:
6 large egg yolks
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
Pour into a medium, heavy saucepan:
2 cups whole milk, 1 cup whole milk and 1 cup light or heavy cream or 2 cups half & half
(Really, even low-fat milk works here)
Cook, stirring, over medium heat until bubbles form around the edges. Slowly whisk the hot milk into the egg yolks and sugar. Return this mixture to the saucepan. Rinse out and dry the mixing bowl, then set a fine-mesh sieve over the top. Place the saucepan over low heat. Using a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon, stir the sauce gently but constantly, sweeping the entire pan bottom and reaching into the corners. As soon as the sauce is slightly thickened, remove the pan from the heat and stir for 2 minutes to complete the cooking. The sauce should be the consistency of heavy cream and register around 170ºF on an instant-read thermometer. Pour the sauce through the sieve and let cook for 10 minutes, stirring periodically to prevent a skin from forming. Stir in:
2 teaspoons vanilla
Serve warm or cold. If chilling, let the sauce become completely cold before covering, as condensation will cause it to thin. The sauce can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. To reheat, set the container of sauce in water heated to 165ºF and stir until warmed through.