As a child, I remember being so crazy about crème anglaise that I would lick the plate clean whenever I drizzled the sauce over a quatre-quart ("pound cake" in French). When I first met my husband Lulu, I knew from the very beginning that he had a sweet tooth but I was shocked when he told me he found crème anglaise to be too eggy to his taste. I was determined to prove him wrong. To do this, I dressed it up with strong flavors; I made Vietnamese-style coffee using condensed milk and cardamom-flavored cream. I poured the sauce over salted caramel swirl ice cream.
Lulu loved it, unsurprisingly. Seriously, who can resist anything with half and half and condensed milk in it?
Servings: 1-1/2 cups
1 Vietnamese coffee filter (or any regular filter)
3 tablespoons dark roast coffee, freshly ground
3 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
12 green cardamom pods
1 cup half and half
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
½ teaspoon cardamom extract (optional)
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the cardamom powder: Remove all the pods from the shells. In a mortar and pestle, grind the cardamom seeds. Crush all the nits and gather the cardamom powder.
On the stove, bring the half and half to a near boil. Add the cardamom. Let the cardamom infuse the cream.
Making Vietnamese coffee with half and half:
Pour the sweetened condensed milk in the bottom of a tall glass.
Put the dark roast, freshly ground coffee in the Vietnamese coffee filter. Tighten the screw of the filter so that the coffee does not escape, then cover with the lid. Place the tall glass underneath the coffee filter. Pour in a little bit of half and half at a time until the coffee is totally submerged and start dripping. Fill the half and half completely in the filter (make sure you don't pour too much liquid so that it does not overflow).
You'll start seeing the condensed milk turning into a nice caramel color at the bottom. Stir well using a long-stemmed spoon. Set aside.
Making crème anglaise:
Using a handheld mixer, whisk the egg yolks with sugar until you have a pale, yellow foam. Add the cardamom extract (if used) and salt.
Combine the hot coffee with the egg mixture by slowly adding a ladle of the dairy liquid at a time to prevent the yolks from curdling.
Transfer the mixture back to a deep saucepan. Cook until the cream thickens, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh and discard all the solids (if any).
Transfer the crème anglaise to a bowl. Place the bowl into an ice bath. When the cream is completely cool, cover with a piece of plastic wrap; make sure the plastic wrap is directly in contact with the sauce to keep it from forming a skin.
Pour the crème anglaise over your favorite dessert.
For a contrast in texture, you can top the dessert with some cashew nut brittle candy.
You can find Vietnamese coffee filters at Dai Thanh Asian market on 420 S 2nd St, in San Jose.
I usually add a little salt to most desserts. Salt brings out all the flavors. A pinch of salt will enhance the taste of your sweets.
You could make macaroons or tuiles aux amandes with the remaining egg whites.
Adding condensed milk will turn the coffee a nice caramel color. Stir well until everything is dissolved. I use Longevity Brand sweetened condensed milk. You can easily find it in Asian stores. Well, at least it's very easy to find it in California. I find the sweetness of the condensed milk gives a good balance to the sauce. If you like it sweeter, add more sugar while beating the egg yolks.