Crema Inglese

I found myself recently with an overload of eggs. We use eggs a lot in our household. Between my two-year-old’s favourite breakfast (soft boiled egg with toast fingers) and the amount of cake baking I tend to do, we go through a lot.

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That was one of the many reasons I wanted to get a couple of chickens for the backyard, but around the time our two black, fluffy Cochins both became broody and suddenly stopped laying, I serendipitously met the lovely Jennie, who not only showered me with pretty eggs from her amazing collection of chickens, but is letting us adopt some of her newborn chicks to help get my girls out of their broody state.

Jennie’s hens lay the prettiest eggs of all shapes and colours, from a delicate pastel bluish-green to pink to speckled brown. It’s refreshing and rather fun to see such diverse chicken eggs, and you can imagine how much fun the toddler thinks it is to have rainbow eggs for breakfast!

cracking eggs for crema inglese

I found myself looking up recipes as an excuse to use up our extra eggs (the eggs came in handy for this cake in particular, although dairy and gluten free, it used a total of 14 eggs) and I thought this recipe for crema inglese was a really good, basic recipe to have on hand, whether it is to dress up a simple cake or make gelato.

Crema inglese (or to use the French crème anglaise, as it’s ironically often called in English) is a light custard that you can pour over other desserts – a slice of chocolate cake or apple crumble, where the custard forms a wonderful, creamy puddle with the crumbs and fruit juices of the accompanying dessert. It is even lovely over stewed or roasted fruit or with savoiardi (lady finger biscuits) to dip. Pour it over slices of leftover christmas panettone.

It may not seem a typically Italian preparation, as it’s name might make you think (crema inglese means “English cream”), but it is present in Pellegrino Artusi’s 1891 cookbook, under the title “crema”, where he recommends it as a base for gelato alla crema (the Italian version of vanilla ice cream) or as a rather liquid zuppa inglese (trifle). In fact, once you make this, you only need to churn it in an ice cream machine and you have a wonderful, rich, vanilla-flavoured gelato.

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This recipe below is adapted from Italian pastry chef/TV personality Luca Montersino and Australian chef Philippa Sibley. Their recipes differ enormously, Montersino’s being much lighter, consisting mostly of milk. Sibley uses half cream and half milk, 2 extra egg yolks and a bit more sugar. Interestingly, Artusi’s recipe does not include any cream, and his proportions are exactly in the middle of Montersino’s and Sibley’s recipes.

I rather like the lighter version of Montersino but Sibley has a better method, ensuring that you don’t beat the eggs and sugar together until the milk is ready (yolks “burn” when in contact with sugar, which can create little nodules and essentially ruin your smooth custard), and tempering the yolks by adding some of the hot liquid to the yolks first, not the whole thing all at once. This avoids curdling the mixture. (Incidentally, if this does happen, it can be somewhat salvaged by a good whizz with a hand blender and straining through a fine sieve!).

I also follow her direction when it comes to determining when this subtle cream is ready, a line drawn into the back of the spoon should hold its shape, at least for several seconds. And if you want to be very precise, you can measure with a candy thermometer – it’s ready when it reaches 80ºC.

crema inglese

Crema Inglese (pouring custard)

Adapted from Luca Montersino and Philippa Sibley – his recipe and her method

Makes about 2 cups

  • 450 grams whole milk
  • 50 grams single cream
  • 3 egg yolks from medium-large sized (60 gram) eggs
  • 60 grams sugar
  • ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan until hot but not boiling (little bubbles should form around the edges of the pan). Add the vanilla bean seeds along with the pod.

Once the milk is hot, in a separate bowl, beat the yolks and sugar together with a hand whisk until pale and thick.

Place a small about (about half a cup) of the hot milk/cream mixture into the eggs, whisking, as you go, then add this mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the milk/cream and whisk to combine. I like to change to a wooden spoon at this point.

Stir continuously and slowly over low heat until the cream thickens ever so slightly. It’s such a subtle difference, it can be hard to know when this point is the first time you do it. The cream should run quite like single cream does. It should coat the back of the spoon lightly and when you draw your finger across the spoon, the line will keep its shape. Remove from the heat and pour into another bowl and cool it as quickly as possible – if you can, place the bowl into a larger bowl half filled with ice cubes to help the cooling process. Once cool, strain out the vanilla pod.

Store in a jar or airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 days.

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Comments

12 Responses to “Crema Inglese”
  1. Beautiful, just beautiful!

  2. Rosa says:

    Exquisite! There’s nothing better than homemade custard.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  3. Frances says:

    Rainbow eggs! I love the pale blue – not something you find in supermarkets.

    Was nodding along with your tips: don’t burn egg yolks, yes, temper with a little hot milk, yes, 80C, yes. Then felt like a proper pedant :)

    • Emiko says:

      Isn’t it a treat to see the coloured eggs? I guess normal brown or white supermarket egg-laying hens are the more prolific egg layers while ladies like the araucanas who laid these pastel blue eggs aren’t the most practical egg layers for mass laying! Makes it all the more special when we see them ;)

  4. Oh this is so beautiful & your appreciation for fine, fresh, local produce is superb. It is such a pleasure to share our bounty with you. I will be trying this custard recipe out for sure. I made a delicious (yet heavy) custard at Christmas time with egg yolks left over from a massive Christmas pavlova, for the pudding. It was pretty fabulous & reminded me to make more custard, i never purchase it, yet i just left it off our menu for the past few years. Love Posie

    • Emiko says:

      Your eggs are just so beautiful, Jennie. Custard and pavlova go hand in hand, don’t they? It’s just such a great way to use the whole egg!

  5. Sonja says:

    this cream is delicate and natural… Exquisite!

  6. I knew about tempering the yolks but that is an absolute gem of information about the yolks “burning”- thank you!
    I am a huge fan of Creme Inglese but have been lazy lately and buying it ready made. You have inspired me to start making it again :)

  7. Alessandra says:

    I have always made my crema inglese (and pasticcera) like this, nice to know there is a good reason to!
    By the way, just made your torrone sardo. The best torrone ever!

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