Eggnog flavored crème anglaise, a stirred custard made on the stovetop, is perfect for either a holiday drink or for pouring over cake.
Crème anglaise is a stirred custard – and eggnog is kind of like an uncooked custard – which is what makes it more pourable. They’re cousins, of a sort, but they taste nothing at all alike. And this is where my idea started for an eggnog crème anglaise.
Let’s back up a bit.
What Are the Mains Kinds of Custard?
There are 2 main kinds of custard:
- Baked Custard
- Savory or sweet, these custards are typically baked in a ‘bain-marie’ or a water bath. The water bath is crucial to slowing down the transfer of heat from the oven to the custard, and prevents the eggs in the custard from curdling.
- A savory example is quiche; sweet examples include crème caramel, pot de crème, flan, crème brûlée, cheesecake and clafoutis.
- Stirred Custard
- Usually sweet, these custards are cooked on the stove top, usually in a double boiler to prevent the eggs from cooking too quickly and curdling.
- Ice cream, pastry cream, lemon curd, mousse, zabaglione and crème anglaise.
Check it out for yourself. Both involve whisking egg yolks together with sugar. Both call for heating up a combination of milk and cream, and gradually combining it with the eggs. Both are then slowly heated to 160˚-170˚F to create a stirred custard. So really, what is the difference?
The differences may look inconsequential, but they end up making the two custards very different from each other:
- Eggnog usually has more milk/cream as a ratio to the other ingredients, making it a bit thinner than a traditional crème anglaise, and therefore more likely to be drunk. Crème anglaise is a little thicker, making it more likely to be used as a sauce over fruit or cake.
- Eggnog always includes alcohol, such as brandy, rum, or bourbon.
- True eggnog, purists will tell you, is best when it’s aged for 6 months to 1 year in the refrigerator. A kind of chemical magic happens between the egg proteins, alcohol, and milk sugars and bingo, you have eggnog. As a note, the amount of booze added is directly correlated to food safety and how long the eggnog can age before going bad. (Note: I also personally recommend using pasteurized eggs such as Davidson’s Safe Eggs if you plan to age it.) Boozy eggnog also thickens with age.
- Eggnog always has spice, such as nutmeg and / or sometimes cinnamon.
The direction I took split the difference, allowing this custard to be drunk as a thicker eggnog (similar to what it would be like if it were aged), or to be used as a sauce. With the ratio of alcohol in my recipe, I recommend a limit of 2 days aging if you can wait that long to consume it. The long periods of aging purists use requires far more alcohol – in fact the amount of alcohol can be as much as 1/2 the amount of milk and cream used. But for me, this one struck a nice balance. Here are some ideas how you can use it:
- Drink it (duh)
- Use it in a trifle
- Drizzle over cake
- Dunk spiced cookies in it
- Pour over baked apples or pears, with or without a crumb crust
- Drizzle over bread pudding
For a thicker consistency, don’t use a low-fat milk in place of whole milk. It makes a difference.
Place a medium bowl and whisk next to the stove. If the custard starts to curdle, you’ll need this ready to pour in the custard and whisk like crazy to keep from completely curdling. If you’re able to save it from curdling, I recommend you still strain the custard before continuing with the recipe.
It’s important to slowly raise the temperature of the custard. This is why the eggs are first tempered by whisking in only a portion of the hot milk, and then slowly added back into the pot holding the rest of the milk.
To simplify the recipe, add the milk and cream to the pot all at once, and skip the step of whipping up half of the cream and folding it into the custard. It will be a little thinner and less *fluffy*, but the flavors will be just as good.
The aging time in the refrigerator isn’t critical, but will add to the eggnog-y flavor.
Eggnog Crème Anglaise
- 5 egg yolks
- 1/3 cup caster fine sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt or a smaller pinch of table salt
- 1 cup whole milk do not substitute a lower fat milk
- 1 ¼ cup heavy whipping cream divided
- 3 Tablespoons dark rum
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg for garnish
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with a wire whisk until they lighten in color. Gradually add the sugar, a bit at a time, and thoroughly whisk together until completely incorporated before adding additional sugar. Whisk in the salt.
- Place a medium bowl and whisk next to the stove. If the custard starts to curdle, you'll need this ready to pour in the custard and whisk like crazy to keep from ruining. If this happens, and you're able to save it from curdling, I recommend you still strain the custard before continuing with the recipe.
- In a medium saucepan, heat up the milk and half of the cream to just below simmering. The milk will start to steam, and the suggestion of bubbles will appear at the edge of the pot. Remove the pot from the heat and pour roughly one-third of the mixture into a measuring cup.
- Gradually stream the hot milk into the eggs, whisking vigorously and continuously. Whisk the yolk mixture gradually back into the pan. Stir constantly over medium heat until the sauce thickens. If you use a thermometer, don't allow the temperature to exceed 170˚F. Eggs begin to coagulate at 160˚F, and curdle at 170˚F. It's also important the rising temperature of the eggs and milk is slow. Another way to know if the custard is ready is to dip a wooden spoon into the mixture and look at the back of the spoon. If the eggs have set into a custard, the back of the spoon will be coated. Remove from the heat. Stir in the rum and vanilla extract.
- Whisk the remaining heavy whipping cream in a small bowl, using an electric mixer, until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped cream into custard mixture. Refrigerate for two days.
- If using as a drink, pour into glasses, and top with a little sprinkle of nutmeg. If using as a sauce, whisk in the nutmeg and serve.