We tend to use a lot of crème anglaise around here, usually as a base for ice cream, and we like to make our crème anglaise sous-vide because it’s a much easier process (see below). As a follow-up to our post about the effects of vacuum levels on protein texture, we decided to compare our typical sous-vide crème anglaise to a low-temperature-cooked crème anglaise made in a ziploc bag with as much air removed as possible. We followed the same circulating and chilling procedures for both and then compared the two products.
The sous-vide crème anglaise won on both taste and texture. The Ziploc crème anglaise had a more apparent egg taste and aroma than the sous-vide crème anglaise. It also seemed to have a looser texture to it while the sous-vide version had a smoother, more velvety mouth-feel.
To answer why we cook our crème anglaise sous-vide, we’ve listed out both procedures for you to compare for yourselves. We could use the traditional labor and supervision-intensive method:
1) Scald milk & cream with vanilla and set aside
2) Whisk together yolks & sugar until pale (blanchir)
3) Temper milk & cream mixture into yolks & sugar
4) Return to clean pot and heat mixture until the right nappant consistency is achieved, making sure not to scramble the yolks
5) Strain the crème anglaise
6) Chill the crème anglaise by stirring it in a bowl over an ice bath
Or we could cook the crème anglaise sous-vide, requiring about 5 minutes actual labor:
1) Blend all chilled ingredients (milk, crème, vanilla, yolks, sugar, pinch of salt) at once in a Vita Prep (it’s important that all ingredients be as cold as possible in order to suck a better vacuum on the bag, i.e., contents won’t boil as quickly)
2) Vacuum bag mixture (de-aerating it at the same time) and circulate in a water bath at 82°C for 20 minutes once it comes back up to temperature.
3) Squeeze bag to agitate the contents while chilling it in an ice bath.
Voilà, easy crème anglaise. You could prep that a week in advance and just keep it in the fridge. In fact, we have actually kept a bag for longer just to see; it can last up to a month, but we recommend keeping it under a week.
Joan Roca recommends mashing the bag to agitate the contents, which we faithfully did without question, until one day Dave and Chef Hervé decided to see what would happen if we didn’t. It turns out that if you don’t agitate the contents before it chills thoroughly, it results in a clumpy crème anglaise. It can easily be fixed after the fact by just stirring it back up, but you might as well just do it when it’s in the bag. You don’t have to mash the contents in the hot bag and burn your hands (which we also used to do) either. Instead, you can just dunk it in ice water and mash the bag while submerged, but before it’s cool.
Thomas Keller’s recipe says to put the bag in a circulated bath at 85°C and then drop the temperature down to 82°C. Unfortunately, we’ve known a lot of people who forget to lower the temperature… which means scrambled anglaise. We prefer to drop it in at 82°C and let it ride.