Friday, June 01, 2007

Getting Fancy With Crème Anglaise

I’ve never made crème anglaise before, but when I read about it awhile back in the Los Angeles Times, I thought I had to make it one day. Why? It’s custard, and I love custard. I think it’s because of the vanilla base.

So recently with strawberries popping up at stores and farmers' markets, I was inspired to make a dessert with crème anglaise. The strawberries, sad to say, have not been super sweet in my opinion. So I wanted to dress it up with something sweet. I initially thought of making mini-tarts but I couldn’t find those pre-made frozen tart shells I used to see at my grocery store. You know me. I’m single so I’m not going to bother baking tart shells from scratch, so for dessert, the more frozen the better.

What I found were these puff pastry shells. I’ve had some success using frozen puff pastry, so I decided to create strawberry cream puffs using the puff pastry shells and crème anglaise. It turned out great, and easy to make. But only after several tries of getting the crème anglaise just right.

Below is my recipe for the crème anglaise, with ingredients to just make a small cup. I don’t get why all recipes online force you to make a whole tub of crème anglaise when it’s really just an accent to a dish. Plus, eating too much crème anglaise, no matter how good, is probably bad for your cholesterol. So that’s why I think it’s nice just as a special occasion, especially when you have fresh berries to dress. (As you can see above, I used the leftover crème anglaise to dress up some fresh berries for Sunday brunch one day.)

Crème anglaise isn’t as simple as it seems. The difficult part is getting the right low temperature when you’re cooking it to thicken the sauce. If you have the heat too high, it stays liquid and hot. But at a lower heat, it’ll slowly cook the eggs to thicken like custard. But too low a heat makes you bored at the stovetop. (Your crème anglaise also thickens when left in the refrigerator.) Turns out my stovetop required a medium heat to kick the eggs into action. Test the heat with your stovetop, from low to medium, to see what works best. And then just wait to see it slowly thicken into creamy goodness. Enjoy!

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