2 cups cream or milk
1/2 vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
If using a vanilla bean, split it lengthwise, then scrape with the back edge of
a knife and add to the cream — seeds, pod and all. If you are using vanilla
extract, add it after cooking. In a heavy saucepan, barely boil the cream and
the prepared vanilla bean.
Set a large fine mesh strainer over a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice. In the
top of a double boiler, whisk the yolks and sugar by hand or with a portable
electric mixer until thick and smooth, about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk in the hot
cream and vanilla bean.
Cook in the double boiler set over simmering water, stirring
gently and constantly all around the bottom and corners with a wooden spatula.
Eventually the foam will subside. The Crème Anglaise is done
when it coats a wooden spoon without bare spots, 12 to 15 minutes. Immediately
pour through the strainer. If you are using vanilla extract, add it now.
To keep Crème Anglaise warm for serving, place it in a bowl set in a larger pot
of hot water.
To store, cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the Crème
Anglaise, and refrigerate.
For a flavor variation, add 1 teaspoon cinnamon to vanilla-flavored cream, or
replace vanilla extract with 2 teaspoons brandy, rum, amaretto, Kahlúa or Grand