Sunday, September 22, 2019
The Culinary Cook Baking How To Make Custard: The Basics of Custards & Creams

How To Make Custard: The Basics of Custards & Creams


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How To Make Custards, Creams, Dessert Sauces

In this update The Culinary Cook is going to introduce some bake shop basics and help teach you everything you need to know about how to make the custard. There is a lot to cover and most of the stuff we’re going to deal with has a lot to do with knowing a bit of the fundamental of the bake shop. If you need a refresher, be sure to review our previous posts here.

The bake shop encompasses much more than just quick breads, yeast breads, pastries, cookies, cakes, etc. It also produces incredibly delicious sweet concoctions that are not baked and are often not even cooked. These include custards, creams, frozen desserts, and dessert sauces. Sweet custards can be defined as cooked mixtures of eggs, sugar, milk. Starch can be used to thicken the liquid as well. Custards can also be flavored in a variety of ways and eaten both hot and cold. Some are served alone as a dessert, and some are used in a filling or topping. They can even be an accompaniment for pies, pastries, and cakes. Creams include whipped cream and mixtures lightened with whipped creams like Bavarian creams, chiffons, and mousses. Sauces for desserts include fruit purees, caramel sauces and chocolate syrups.

For this particular article, we’re going to be working on teaching you how to make a custard. This includes stirred custards like Creme Anglaise, Pastry Cream, and Sabayon.

Learning How To Make Custard

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Preparing custards in ramekins and placed in a bain marie is a common method.
Preparing custards in ramekins and placed in a bain-marie is a common method.

A custard is any liquid that is thickened by the coagulation of eggs. A custard’s consistency depends on the ratio of eggs to liquid and the kind of liquid being used. The more eggs that you use, the thicker and richer the final product will become. The richer the liquid (Such as cream instead of milk), the thicker the final product. Most custards, with the exception of pastry creams, are not thickened by starch.

Custard can be stirred or baked. A stirred custard will tend to be softer, richer and creamier. A baked custard, that’s typically cooked in a bain marie, is usually firm enough to slice.

Stirred Custards

To make a custard stirred, you will cook the custard on the stove top either directly in a saucepan or over a double boiler. It must be stirred throughout the process to prevent curdling – which indicates overcooking.

Stirred custards can be used as a dessert sauce as well, incorporated into a complex dessert or eaten by itself.

Vanilla Custard Sauce (Creme Anglaise)

A typical custard sauce is made with egg yolks, sugar, and milk or cream. It is usually flavored with vanilla bean or pure vanilla extract. A custard sauce can also be flavored with liquor, chocolate, ground nuts or other types of flavorings/extracts.

What a thickened creme anglaise should look like. Also called nappe
What a thickened creme anglaise should look like. Also called nappe

It is also prepared on the stovetop over direct heat. It is important to remember that when making a custard sauce that you are extremely careful to stir the mixture continually and not allow it to exceed 88’C (185’F) or it will curdle. A properly made custard sauce should be smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (Also called nappe). It should not contain any bits of cooked egg.

Vanilla custard sauce (Or creme anglaise) is served with pastries, cakes, souffles, fruits, and is often used for decorating dessert plates in beautiful patterns. creme anglaise that is thicker than average is also the basis for many ice creams.

A very thick version of this sauce can be made using 35% cream and additional egg yolks. It is consistency is more like a pudding than a sauce. This custard is served over fruit or in a small serving bowl like a ramekin and then topped with caramelized sugar for a dessert known as creme brulee.

Basic Creme Anglaise

Yield: 600 mL (20 fl. oz)
Method: Stirred Custard

Creme Anglaise
IngredientWeight (Metric)Weight (Imperial)
Heavy Cream500 mL16 fl oz
Vanilla bean, split1/21/2
Egg yolks, large140 g6
Granulated Sugar125 g4 oz.

What You’ll Need:


  1. Using your heavy non-reactive saucepan, bring the cream and vanilla bean to just a boil
  2. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Temper the eggs with approximately 1/3 of the hot cream, then return the entire mixture to the saucepan with the remaining cream.
  3. Cook the sauce over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow this mixture to boil.
  4. As soon as the sauce thickens, remove it from the heat and put it through a fine mesh strainer to remove any partial coagulation. Chill the sauce oiver an ice bath and cover and keep refrigerated.


Pastry Cream

Pastry cream is also known as pudding and is a basic stirred custard
Pastry cream is also known as pudding and is a basic stirred custard

Pastry creams is a stirred custard made with egg yolks, sugar, milk, and thickened with corn starch. Because starch protects the egg yolks from curdling (Something you do not want!), pastry cream can be boiled. In fact, it must be boiled to fully gelatinize the starch and eliminate the taste of the starch.

Pastry cream can also be flavored with chocolate, liquors, fruits, or extracts. In fact, pudding is nothing more than flavored pastry cream! It is also used as a filling for eclairs, cream puffs, napoleons, fruit tarts and other pastries. Pastry cream is also the filling for cream pies. Pastry cream is thick enough to hold its shape without making pastry dough soggy.

Pastry cream is quite heavy. You can alleviate this by folding in whipped cream to produce a mousseline. Italian meringue can also be folded in to produce creme Chiboust.

Basic Pastry Cream

Yield: 825 mL (30 fl. oz)
Method: Stirred Custard

Pastry Cream
IngredientWeight (Metric)Weight (Imperial)
Cornstarch60 g2 oz
Sugar165 g6 oz
Milk650 mL21 fl. oz.
Egg yolks14 oz.
Whole Eggs120 g2
Butter40 g1-1/2 oz.
Vanilla5 mL1 tsp.

What You’ll Need:


  1. Dilute the cornstarch and 1/2 the sugar with 250 mL (8 fl oz) of cold milk,, egg yolks and whole eggs. Whisk until the mixture is very smooth.
  2. Bring the remaining milk and sugar to a boil.
  3. Blend the 2 mixtures together gradually, stirring constantly.
  4. Place the mixture back onto the heat and cook for a few minutes stirring constantly until thickened.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in butter and vanilla.
  6. Cover with plastic film and cool over an ice bath


A beautifully presented champagne sabayon.
A beautifully presented champagne sabayon.

A Sabayon is a foamy stirred custard made from whisking eggs, sugar, and wine over low heat. The white wine is the key element in this type of custard. The egg proteins will coagulate, thickening the mixture while the whisking incorporates air to make a light and fluffy texture. Sweet wine is usually used; Marsala and Champagne are the most popular choices.

a sabayon can be served warm, or it can be chilled. Sabayon may be served alone or as a sauce or topping with fruit or pastries such as sponge cake or ladyfingers.

Champagne Sabayon

Yield: 1 L (1 qt.)
Method: Stirred Custard

Champagne Sabayon
IngredientWeight (Metric)Weight (Imperial)
Egg yolks88
Granulated sugar150 g5-1/4 oz.
Dry Champagne180 mL6 fl. oz.
Lemon or orange juice30 mL1 fl. oz

What You’ll Need:


  1. Combine the egg yolks and sugar in your stainless steel bowl
  2. Add champagne and juice to the egg mixture.
  3. Place bowl over a pan of lightly simmering water. Whisk vigorously until the sauce is thick and pale yellow, approx. 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

How to Make a Custard: Baked!

Making a custard baked is based on the same principles as a stirred custard, as both are thickened by the coagulation of egg proteins. However, with a baked custard the thickening occurs in an oven rather than over a stove. The custard container, whether a ramekin or larger container, is usually placed into a water bath or a bain marie to ensure the temperature is controlled as much as possible in order to protect the egg from curdling. Care must be taken even though in a bain marie the temperature never raises above 100’C (212’F), as too hot an oven or too long can cause the custard to become watery or curdled. A properly made baked custard should be smooth-textured and firm enough to slice.

Creme Caramel

A classic creme caramel
A classic creme caramel

A creme caramel, creme renversee, and flan all refer to an egg custard baked over a layer of caramelized sugar and inverted for serving. The caramelized sugar produces a golden-brown surface on the inverted custard and a thin caramel sauce.


Cheesecakes are almost as old as Western civilization itself. They have undergone many changes and variations since the ancient Greeks created the first known recipe. Americans revolutionized the dessert with the development of cream cheese in 1872.

Cheesecake is a baked custard that contains a smooth cheese, usually a soft fresh cheese such as cream, ricotta, cottage or farmer cheese. Cheesecake might be prepared without a crust or it could also have a base or sides of the short dough, cookie crumbs, nuts, etc. The filling can be dense and rich (New York style), or light a fluffy (Italian style). Fruit, nuts and other flavorings may also be included in the filling. Cheesecakes are often topped with fruit or a sour cream glaze.

Bread Pudding

A home-style dessert in which chunks of bread, flavorings, and raisins or other fruit are mixed with an egg custard and baked. The result is somewhat a cross between a cake and a pudding. It is sometimes served with custard sauce, ice cream, or whipped cream. Bread pudding is a delicious way to use stale bread or overripe fruit.

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The Culinary Cook

Professional Chef & Blogger

With 15 years of experience working in restaurants, resorts, and a fully Red Seal Certified chef, The Culinary Cook shares tips, tricks, and recipes for everyone to enjoy.

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