Tuesday 23 December 2008

La vraie crême anglaise

C'est-à-dire, custard.

Custard is quite easy to make, except for the tricky bit at the end where you have to watch it like a hawk and stir continuously to prevent it curdling. I make custard frequently, as Simon is very keen on good stodgy British puddings*, washed down with rather more custard than is an elegant sufficiency.

Splitting the vanilla pod
First, slice a vanilla pod open and scrape out the seeds. Put the seeds and the pod in to infuse in a pint of milk, by bringing it to the boil then setting it aside for 20 minutes.

Next, mix together 4 egg yolks, 3 tablespoons of sugar (vanilla flavoured if you've been reusing your vanilla pods frugally) and 2 teaspoons of cornflour. I most definitely stir these ingredients together, never whisk – the added air with whisking changes the flavour and mouthfeel of the custard. You may like the more moussy effect, but I find it a bit weird. The addition of cornflour is a cheat, by the way. It acts to help stabilise the mixture and give you more leeway before it curdles. I can make beautiful custard without the cornflour, but it takes a little bit longer and I have to be more careful about the temperature. Our stove has solid plates which heat up and cool down slowly, so I don't have the control I would like over the temperature and have to use a work around. I could use a bain marie, but that's a bit more trouble and the thickening takes even longer.

Pear and walnut cake, taking a custard bath
Bring the milk back to the boil, then strain into the egg mixture. Give it a quick stir and clean the saucepan, which may have a bit of caramelised milk stuck to the bottom. Put the custard mixture back in the clean saucepan and set on a medium-low heat. Stir constantly, making sure it stays just under boiling point, until it is thickened. This will make a pouring sauce. If you want thick gloopy custard, just double the quantity of cornflour.


*Actually, Simon is keen on most puddings - and the true meaning of "elegant sufficiency" is "not enough". Simon


Anonymous said...

I'm going to try this walnut cake since cooked pears are my "péché mignon": my weakness! Hope my crème anglaise won't curdle as it usually does.
BTW, in France they never use walnut oil by itself. but mix it with regular peanut oil for salad dressing.

wcs said...


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