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Runny Creme Anglaise

I tried to make creme anglaise for the first time recently because I love custard. I wanted to drizzle them on strawberries. But it came out runny, like milk. Is there a trick to get the heavy cream thicken. I followed a basic recipe of 1 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla bean, and 4 egg yolks. And then I added a tablespoon of liquor for a kick. Any have better success making this cream and what's your secret?

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  1. I've never tried this, but I know that Ina Garten puts some cornstarch in the mix, precooking, to help it thicken and to keep it thicken. That likely comes from her catering days.

    1 Reply
    1. re: katecm

      I was thinking cornstarch to thicken, but none of the recipes I saw included it so I didn't want to go against tradition. I may have to resort to it.

    2. It takes a while for the egg yolks to thicken the entire mixture. Keep the custard on a low heat, stirring frequently. There seems to be a magic time after cooking a while when the yolks thicken the mixture, but go much beyond that and you risk curdling the custard. That's why using a low heat is important. After cooking, refrigerate the custard and it will thicken more. I never use cornstarch.

      1. It sounds like you undercooked it, that should be enough yolks to thicken. (Properly cooked) custard base like that will also thicken somewhat overnight in the refrigerator, but I don't know if undercooked custard will thicken

        3 Replies
        1. re: babette feasts

          I second these. It never gets as thick as a custard made with cornflour, but tastes ever so much better. It takes a good 10-15 minutes to thicken, on a very low heat. Stir constantly. It should coat the back of the spoon when thick.

          1. re: pootle

            Thanks you all for the low heat recommendation. I don't remember seeing that in the recipes I've read and I have to admit I do get a pit impatient! :) Thanks Pootle for at least given a time frame, so I'll at least know if I'm near the window. I'm going to try again this weekend since it's a three-day weekend and hopefully will have more time!

            1. re: singleguychef

              I am also in the no cornstarch, cook it long and slow. Stir with a wooden spoon and when you can draw a track with your finger in the custard on the back of the spoon it sufficiently thickened. Add your flavoring unless using a vanilla bean (then it would go in at the beginning) after removing it from the heat.

        2. creme anglaise is runny, this is not a custard.....try letting it go cold it might get a little thicker....good luck

          2 Replies
          1. re: clairsy87

            yes runny, but it still needs a little body.

            1. re: Candy

              Soften some really good vanilla ice cream to the consistency you want...That's all if is anyway

          2. I guess I'd need more info- did you cream the yolks and sugar together first? That helps. From you description, you just mixed these ingredients together in a bowl, but I'm sure that's not not the case.

            Steps: 1) Whisk yolks and sugar together until sugar dissolves.
            2) Heat your cream to quite hot, but not boiling.
            3) Temper the eggs
            4) Add eggs and sugar to hot milk, reduce heat.
            5) Add vanilla (can be added really at any time, so why not here)
            6) stir constantly
            7) when the back of the spoon coats, remove from heat and place immediately
            on an ice bath, keep stirring for awhile, then let rest.

            3 Replies
            1. re: cheesemonger

              Since vanilla extract has an alcohol base, add it once the custard is off the heat source to achieve full flavor. if using vanilla bean or vanilla paste, add to the milk and then heat.

              If you have an instant read thermometer, this would be a good time to use it. I tend to cook it to about 165 degrees F, pull it off and keep stirring. Residual heat will usually take it to 170, which is about right, but you have to watch it very, very closely because at that point the temperature rises very quickly and when it's at 170 you have to cool it immediately. It's trashed at 180.

              1. re: meta

                Singleguy, Meta is right and voiced what I was thinking too. I went through the same thing years ago when cooking creme anglaise/saboyon and wondering when the dang mixture was going to thicken. The insta-read thermometer shows you exactly how close you are -- the thickening starts at about 165. If you have access to Harold McGee's book, he talks about this and the importance of using a low heat.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  Thanks everyone for your tips. It gave me the confidence to try it again this weekend ... and it worked!

                  I did the same steps as I did the first time, but the difference was in the slow cooking part and waiting for it to thicken. Because I don't have a thermometer to check on the heat, I had to just go with gut instinct. But instead of a medium-high heat I used last time, I placed the setting to low like some of you suggested.

                  However, the low on my electric stove top is too weak and nothing happened when I sat staring at my pot for more than 15 minutes. I was all about to think I've failed again until I decided to turn up the heat, not as high as I had it the first time but to the medium setting. That's when everything kicked in and the cream started to thicken in about two to three minutes.

                  It was kind of like gravy when I used it for cream puffs one night. Then after a night in the refrigerator, it was close to ice cream texture which was really nice. I just poured it over a bowl of berries. It was fantastic! However, now I think my arteries are hardening just like thickening creme anglaise! Definitely not something to have every week, but it was nice to finally get it right!