I have this thing with custard these days. Could it be I’m turning just a little more French? The French custard ‘equivalent’ is nothing like the thicker British version so, when I first arrived in Paris, I found myself avoiding it due to its enormous difference – until I started playing with it like this Chai Tea Creme Anglaise.
Spoon-clinging thick vanilla custard reminds me of growing up in Scotland with classic comforting puddings such as apple crumbles – and especially, my Banana Surprise.
To my initial surprise, it totally did not rock my new French family’s gastronomic world. It was a chopped banana thrown in a bowl, hidden under a giant gloop of an instant packet mix of yellow-coloured, vanilla-flavoured custard. Hence why I hid myself away in the custard cupboard for a while until I slowly learned to cook from scratch using good ingredients. In a nutshell, more like the French. But it didn’t mean it was all fancy and difficult to make.
Good quality, homemade custard is nothing in comparison to packet mixes. I guess that’s a given, since it’s made with a whole vanilla pod (bean) with its seeds scraped out to show the evidence: flecks of pure yet simple exotic luxury.
However, being in France for so long now has made a change to my custard ideas. For thick, hot custard fans I’m not going to upset you: British-style custard goes perfectly with British-style hot puddings. For the thinner, cooler French crème anglaise it goes perfectly with French-style chocolate desserts – especially the classic chocolate fondant cake.
Vanilla is never plain and simple but this is why I also love cooking from scratch: you can play with flavours and a crème anglaise is perfect to infuse the likes of tea in the milk to give a personalised touch with its accompanying desserts. In this case, a spiced Chai tea (or other spiced tea or infusion) is perfect with our favourite Chocolate Ginger Fondant Cake.
As you can see from the above illustration, I measured out 50g sugar before mixing with the eggs. The recipe below calls for only 40g, as while developing this, it didn’t need quite as much sugar. The secret I’ve learned from many cool French pastry chefs is not to over sugar recipes – that way, you get all the flavour sensations and, in this case, the Chai Tea flavour shines through.
Chai Tea Creme Anglaise
A spicy tea-infused twist to the French classic thin vanilla custard, Crème Anglaise, which is normally served at room temperature with fondant chocolate cake. Infused with spicy tea, this goes perfectly with a chocolate ginger fondant cake.
- 300 g (10.5oz) whole milk full fat
- 1 teabag sachet Chai tea (or any other spiced infusion or tea)
- 3 organic egg yolks
- 40 g (1.5oz) sugar
Heat the milk and teabag gently in a saucepan until the milk is just about at boiling point. Remove the milk from the heat and cover, leaving the tea to infuse in the milk for 10 minutes then discard the teabag.
Meanwhile, whisk the yolks and sugar in a bowl until light and creamy. Pour over the warm milk, whisking continuously then transfer to the saucepan back on a medium heat.
Continue to whisk or stir the sauce with a wooden spoon until it thickens. The sauce is ready when your finger can run a line down the back of the spoon and it leaves a clean trace.
Immediately remove from the heat, strain into a bowl then transfer to serving jugs and leave to cool in the fridge until ready to serve.
Nutritional Information Per Serving:
70 calories; 2g protein; 7g fat; 4g carbohydrates
Although this uses Chai tea to accompany the Chocolate Ginger Fondant Cake, other teas can be used. As the milk has to be heated first, infuse your favourite tea to fragrance the milk and personalise this to suit your taste. I also love adding a tablespoon of Matcha green tea powder. Orange or lemon zest (unwaxed) is another delicious addition for chocolate cake.
The sauce can be stored in the fridge, sealed in a container for up to 5 days. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving, so that it's at room temperature. If you prefer it hot, then reheat gently (although it will tend to curdle, be careful: in this case, strain the sauce by mixing in a blender).
Incidentally, the humble crumble is popular in France but instead of serving it with British-style custard, they don’t even serve it with crème anglaise; they tend to serve the crrrum-belle on its own!
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