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 milk and the prepared
Meanwhile, set a large fine mesh strainer over a bowl set in a larger bowl of
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 milk 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 Creme 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.
Pour custard into individual dessert
bowls or into a large serving bowl. Cover bowls with plastic wrap and chill. Custard
sets in 4 to 6 hours, depending on the size of the container.
Serve warm or cold.
Classic Almond Custard: Replace vanilla extract
or vanilla bean with an equal amount of almond extract.
Classic Bourbon Custard: Halve or omit vanilla
flavoring and gently stir in 2 teaspoons Kentucky bourbon if serving warm, 1 tablespoon
if serving cold.
Classic Brandy Custard: Halve or omit vanilla
flavoring and gently stir in 2 teaspoons randy if serving warm, 1 tablespoon brandy
if serving cold.
Classic Rum Custard: Halve or omit vanilla
flavoring and gently stir in 2 teaspoons dark rum if serving warm, 1 tablespoon
dark rum if serving cold.
You can use any of the following spirits by using the amounts shown above:
Creme de Banana, Creme de Menthe, Southern Comfort, amaretto or Grand Marnier.