Crème anglaise is a standard that every aspiring pastry maker needs to know how to prepare. Essentially it’s just a custard (of the “stirred” variety), that’s so thin that it can be used as a sauce. It’s most common application, however, is as an ice cream base. To make it all you need is:
seeds from half a vanilla bean
2 cups whole milk (for a richer result use half milk and half cream)
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
Pour the milk into a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Meanwhile, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and whisk them in, along with the sugar. Have the yolks ready in a medium bowl. When the milk mixture starts to simmer, pour about half a cup of it into the yolks and whisk it in. Add about another cup of the milk mixture, whisk, then pour the whole shootin’ match back into the saucepan. Return the pan to low heat and gently bring the mixture up to 183 degrees, whisking steadily. Immediately strain the custard into a bowl. Allow it to cool. Store covered, with plastic wrap touching the surface of the custard so a skin won’t form. Chill at least four hours before using.