This is the sauce called crème anglaise in French (and the basis for that most sublime drink, egg nog).


  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 1-inch piece vanilla bean


Mix the sugar, yolks, and salt in a bowl and whisk (or use a mixer on medium speed) until pale yellow, about 5 minutes.

Prepare an ice bath with a metal bowl sitting in the iced water.

Heat the milk and vanilla bean together until almost boiling, and pour slowly into the yolk mixture while still whisking. Put the milk and egg mixture in a double boiler and cook over simmering water, stirring constantly, until the custard begins to thicken and coats the spoon.

Remove the custard from the heat and immediately pour into the bowl sitting in the ice. Stir constantly with a spoon to prevent the custard from overcooking (curdling) and forming a skin when it cools. Strain and serve, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.


To make flavored custards, infuse nuts, fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, star anise, fennel seeds, or orange or lemon rind into the milk and follow the infusion directions for coconut custard (below).

  • coffee custard: Heat 2 cups of milk with ¼ cup ground espresso coffee until almost boiling; let sit for 30 minutes. Strain and proceed as above.
  • coconut custard: Crack the shell of a fresh coconut and remove the meat from the hard outer shell. Chop the coconut meat fine with a knife or in a food processor. Steep the coconut in 2 cups of warmed milk for at least an hour, or until the milk takes on the coconut’s flavor. Then strain the milk, discarding the coconut, and use in the recipe above. Some of the milk may be absorbed by the coconut, so correct the quantity before beginning the recipe.
  • lapsang souchong-chocolate custard: Infuse the milk with 1 tablespoon Lapsang Souchong tea and ¼ cup chocolate sauce.