Crème Anglaise: Components, Preparation & Applications

by Ella

Crème anglaise, a classic French custard sauce, has long been celebrated for its velvety texture and rich flavor. Often used as a dessert accompaniment, this luscious sauce has found its way into the hearts of chefs and home cooks alike. In this comprehensive exploration, we will delve into the origins of crème anglaise, its fundamental components, and the diverse culinary applications that extend beyond traditional dessert pairings.

Understanding Crème Anglaise

Crème anglaise, translating to “English cream” in French, is a versatile custard sauce that serves as a base for various sweet dishes. Its origins can be traced back to 17th-century France, where it gained popularity for its simplicity and ability to enhance the flavors of desserts. The primary ingredients of crème anglaise include milk, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla, creating a velvety-smooth sauce with a delicate sweetness.


Basic Components of Crème Anglaise

a. Milk or Cream: The liquid base of crème anglaise is typically milk, although some variations use cream for a richer texture. The choice of dairy contributes to the overall richness and flavor profile of the sauce.


b. Sugar: Crème anglaise relies on sugar to provide sweetness. The amount of sugar used can be adjusted based on personal preference and the intended application.


c. Egg Yolks: The egg yolks serve as the thickening agent in crème anglaise, creating a smooth and custard-like consistency. The yolks also contribute to the sauce’s golden hue.


d. Vanilla: A key flavoring component, vanilla adds depth and complexity to crème anglaise. While vanilla extract is commonly used, some recipes call for vanilla beans to infuse the sauce with tiny specks of vanilla seeds.

Preparation of Crème Anglaise

a. Tempering Eggs: The process begins by heating the milk or cream until it’s warm but not boiling. In a separate bowl, egg yolks and sugar are whisked together until pale and slightly thickened. To avoid curdling, a small amount of the warm milk or cream is gradually added to the egg mixture, tempering the eggs.

b. Combining and Cooking: The tempered egg mixture is then combined with the remaining warm milk or cream. The mixture is returned to the heat, and the sauce is gently cooked, stirring constantly, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Care must be taken to prevent overheating, which could lead to curdling.

c. Straining and Cooling: To achieve a silky-smooth texture, the finished crème anglaise is often strained through a fine mesh sieve to remove any potential bits of cooked egg. After straining, the sauce is cooled to room temperature or chilled in the refrigerator.

Variations of Crème Anglaise

While the classic vanilla-flavored crème anglaise is timeless, chefs and home cooks often explore variations to suit specific recipes. Some popular variations include:

a. Chocolate Crème Anglaise: By incorporating high-quality chocolate, cocoa powder, or both, one can create a chocolate-infused crème anglaise that pairs beautifully with desserts like chocolate cake or profiteroles.

b. Citrus-Infused Crème Anglaise: Adding zest or extracts from citrus fruits like orange, lemon, or lime imparts a refreshing twist to the sauce. This variation complements fruit-based desserts and adds a vibrant flavor dimension.

c. Almond or Nut Flavored: Infusing crème anglaise with almond or nut extracts or incorporating finely ground nuts introduces a delightful nuttiness, perfect for desserts featuring almonds or nutty crusts.

Applications Beyond Desserts

Crème anglaise’s decadent texture and nuanced flavor profile extend far beyond being a mere dessert accompaniment. Its versatility makes it a valuable component in various culinary applications, adding a touch of elegance and richness to both sweet and savory dishes.

Dessert Pairings

a. Drizzling Over Cakes and Pastries: The classic application of crème anglaise involves drizzling it over cakes, pastries, and puddings. Its smooth consistency enhances the dessert’s presentation and provides a luxurious flavor element.

b. Accompanying Fresh Fruit: Crème anglaise pairs exceptionally well with fresh fruit, offering a creamy contrast to the natural sweetness and juiciness of fruits like berries, poached pears, or tropical fruits.

c. Serving with Custards and Puddings: Crème anglaise serves as a perfect companion to various custards and puddings, enriching the overall dessert experience. This includes classics like crème brûlée and bread pudding.

Beverage Infusions

a. Vanilla Latte or Coffee Creamer: Elevate your morning coffee or latte by incorporating a spoonful of crème anglaise. The vanilla-infused richness enhances the coffee’s flavor, creating a luxurious beverage experience.

b. Hot Chocolate Elegance: Add a decadent touch to your hot chocolate by swirling in a generous spoonful of crème anglaise. The creamy consistency complements the velvety cocoa, turning a simple hot chocolate into a sophisticated treat.

c. Flavorful Milkshakes: Blend crème anglaise into milkshakes for an indulgent twist. Whether you opt for classic vanilla or experiment with flavored variations, the sauce adds a creamy and flavorful element to the shake.

Savory Culinary Applications

a. Sauce for Poultry and Seafood: Crème anglaise can be transformed into a savory sauce by reducing the sugar content and incorporating herbs, spices, or savory extracts. This versatile sauce complements poultry and seafood dishes, adding a touch of richness.

b. Vegetable Accompaniment: Pairing crème anglaise with roasted or steamed vegetables, such as asparagus or carrots, creates a surprising and delightful contrast. The sauce adds a creamy texture and subtle sweetness to the savory vegetables.

c. Base for Savory Soups: In certain culinary traditions, crème anglaise is adapted for savory soups, providing a velvety consistency and rich flavor. This application is particularly popular in French cuisine.

Creative Culinary Endeavors

a. Ice Cream Base: Crème anglaise serves as the base for many homemade ice creams. By chilling the sauce thoroughly and incorporating it into an ice cream maker, one can create a luxurious and flavorful frozen treat.

b. Custard Fillings for Pastries: Utilize crème anglaise as a filling for pastries, tarts, or éclairs. Its smooth texture and subtle sweetness complement the flaky layers of pastry, creating a harmonious and delightful dessert.

c. Trifle Layers: In trifle desserts, crème anglaise can be layered with sponge cake, fruit, and whipped cream for a decadent and visually appealing dessert experience.

Tips for Perfecting Crème Anglaise

To achieve the perfect crème anglaise, consider the following tips and techniques:

Tempering Eggs: The key to a smooth crème anglaise is gradual and careful tempering of the egg mixture. Adding the warm milk or cream slowly prevents the eggs from curdling and ensures a silky texture.

Straining for Smoothness: Strain the finished crème anglaise through a fine mesh sieve to remove any bits of cooked egg or lumps, resulting in a velvety and flawless sauce.

Maintaining Low Heat: When cooking the sauce, keep the heat low to prevent curdling or scrambling. Stir constantly to distribute heat evenly and achieve a consistent texture.

Chilling Properly: Allow the crème anglaise to cool to room temperature before chilling it in the refrigerator. This gradual cooling process helps the sauce achieve the desired thickness and texture.

Flavor Infusions: Experiment with various flavor infusions, such as herbs, spices, or extracts, to create unique and personalized versions of crème anglaise for different culinary applications.


In conclusion, crème anglaise is a culinary gem that transcends its traditional role as a dessert accompaniment. From enriching savory dishes to elevating beverages, this velvety custard sauce showcases its versatility and elegance in a wide range of culinary applications. Whether you’re drizzling it over a classic dessert or incorporating it into innovative savory creations, crème anglaise adds a touch of sophistication to any dish.

As you embark on your culinary journey with crème anglaise, embrace the creative possibilities and experiment with flavors to discover new and exciting combinations. With its rich history and timeless appeal, crème anglaise continues to be a symbol of culinary excellence, proving that its role in the kitchen extends far beyond the boundaries of traditional desserts.



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