Crème anglaise is a sweet custard sauce, which is to say: the best kind of sauce. You can serve it hot, warm, or cold—poured on chocolate cake, bread pudding, fresh fruit, and oh-so much more.
The only catch is making it.
Most crème anglaise recipes call for milk and cream, sweetened with sugar, thickened with egg yolks, and flavored with vanilla bean. The egg yolk part is where it gets tricky: If you add too much hot milk to the yolks at one time, they’ll scramble. And if you cook the custard too high or too fast on the stove, same issue. (I need not tell you that scrambled eggs and chocolate cake aren’t a great match.)
Luckily, the brilliant Ina Garten found a way around all this...
You melt vanilla ice cream. Just make sure it’s “good” vanilla ice cream, as Ina would say. Häagan-Daz and Breyer’s are safe bets. And yes: Leaving a pint on your counter, to melt into oblivion, feels wrong. But, as Ina points out, it’s the ultimate dessert shortcut.
“Vanilla ice cream is essentially crème anglaise that’s been frozen,” she writes in Cook Like a Pro. “I reverse the process and end up with crème anglaise!”
This means if you have ice cream in your freezer, you have crème anglaise at all times. Pouring it on any dessert makes the dish seem infinitely more elegant. And you won’t have to tell anyone just how easy it was.
Here are six desserts that just can’t wait to be covered in crème anglaise:
Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.