Have wanted to write about this basic and wonderful all-purpose, workhorse dessert sauce, also describe its ratio, and importantly, show off some of Donna's work (which, frankly, doesn't come off as purdy in the book as is does here).  I love two things about these photos: first, they are all about texture and lighting, difficult qualities to capture but the essence of black and white.  A juicy steak with vivid chillis and a poached egg, yolk oozing over it all is easy to get right.  A plain sauce in black and white, that's tricky.  But more, what these photographs show is that this amazing sauce, vanilla sauce, creme Anglaise in French, is fantastic in many different ways depending on how you manipulate the texture.  If you just cook it and cool it, it's the sauce above.  If you freeze it, it's ice cream (the best vanilla ice cream there is, in fact).  If you thicken it with starch, it becomes pastry cream, creme patissiere, and if you bake it in a water bath, it becomes silky creme brulee.  Truly one preparation that's all about the texture you want to bring it to.  Texture these black and whites describe.


Pastry Cream (Creme patissiere)

Ice cream 

Ice Cream!


Creme Brulee

One recipe, four preparations.  And yes I do have a ratio for it, 4:1:1:

Vanilla Sauce: 4 parts milk/cream : 1 part yolk : 1 part sugar


8 ounces milk

8 ounces cream

1 vanilla bean split down the middle

4 ounces sugar (about half a cup)

4 ounces yolk (about 7 large yolks)

Combine milk, cream, and vanilla bean in a sauce pan and bring up the heat till just before it simmers; remove from heat and allow the bean to steep while you prepare an ice bath (a large bowl of ice, with a small bowl set in the ice, with a strainer set in the bowl—you'll be straining the hot sauce into the cold bowl to halt its cooking).

Combine the eggs and sugar and whisk to combine (some people add the sugar to the cream which is fine, too).

Scrape the vanilla beans out of the pod and into the cream (put the pod in some sugar for vanilla sugar).

Bring the cream just  to a simmer, whisk some of it into the yolks to temper them, then add the remaining cream while whisking.  Pour it all back into the pot, strirring with a heatproof rubber spatula over medium heat until it's thick, a minute or 2 or more depending on your heat.  Don't boil it our you'll harden the egg.  Immediately strain the coats-the-back-of-a-spoon-thick sauce into the ice cold bowl and stir with the spatula till it's chilled. 

The sauce can be used as is (over berries, a tart, a slice of chocolate cake), or it can be be frozen in your ice cream machine.  Same ingredients, but a little different preps, will give you creme patissiere and creme brulee.

Does it sound complicated?  It's not.  If you're, organized the whole process takes about 12 minutes.  And it's sooo good, you'll want to stand at your kitchen counter with a spoon in your hand, sauce dripping down your chin, your fingers sticky and sweet.

UPDATE POST MIDNIGHT, 4/17: It is the irony of fate that i was to join a conversation at NYU this afternoon hosted by a group called Experimental Cuisine Collective, in itself a lucky sitution, and so had requested an early copy of a new book by French chemist and gastronomer Hervé This, because I thought it might be interesting fodder.  The book is Building a Meal: From Molecular Gastronomy to Culinary Conservatism.   I found it on the bed of my hotel room in a padded yellow envelope.  The next day, yesterday, I found myself, one hand on an overhead bar, rattling back and forth on the F train from 57th to W 4th, reading this, exactly while the below comments were being written.  Coincidence?  Yes.  But still:

The curious thing is that in the realm of cooking the question of preservation should be posed by scientists and not by cooks themselves, who have blithely gone about changing it in various ways, following their own aesthetic tastes.  No one today any longer makes custard, for example, the way people did a hundred years ago.  The number of egg yolks per quart (as many as 16) seemed excessive, and it was reduced without anyone wondering whether there was a law against changing the proportion.  Cooks fixed up this or that room of the ancestral home without trying to form an overall idea of it, without imagining the long-term consequences of what they were doing.
    The time has come to ask what we can renovate and what we ought to preserve. …

    —Hervé This

I am grateful for this conversation and all of the following passionate and articulate comments. More please!


96 Wonderful responses to “Vanilla Sauce in Black and White”

  • Vivian

    I love the contrast of the shadow in the creme brulee shot.

    I got my copy of RATIO in the mail this week and am just devouring it all up. I will definitely test this recipe out with my ice cream maker this evening.

  • Natanya

    Thank you for not only making the process for creme Anglaise clear and easy to imagine doing in my kitchen, but for explaining how this same recipe can be used in so many ways. This foundational information is so often missing from typical recipes/books/blogs. Understanding the many applications makes me feel like it’s well worthy my time to master the basic recipe because I know I can use it time and again.

  • brandon_w

    If you didn’t have a vanilla bean, could you use liquid vanilla? I’m guessing it wouldn’t be as good, but would it get the job done? If you could use it, how much would you need?

  • milo

    I’ll have to try it some time for the sauce. Ice cream? Maybe someday I’ll give it a shot to see if it’s worth the extra trouble, but it’s hard to imagine when simple uncooked vanilla ice cream turns out so spectacular already.

  • milo

    So are the ounces of liquid weight or liquid measurement? With the ratio thing that should probably be spelled out, the usual assumption would be a cup of milk and a cup of cream.

  • 19thandfolsom

    Amazing. The differences in the textures in the pastry cream and the ice cream are particularly emphasized by the black and white nature of the photos. Those are gorgeous shots!

  • Lesley Chesterman

    Can’t say I’m lovin’ this post.
    First, there are too many yolks in this recipe. The classic recipe calls for 12 yolks per liter but most pastry chefs have gone down to 10. 14 is excessive and an unnecessary expense.
    Second, as I posted above, why the cream? A classic creme anglaise does not call for cream, and again it is not necessary when the sauce is properly cooked.
    Third, you should really provide a temperature for that sauce. 85C is the right temperature to get the right consistency.
    And finally, why do you bother with ounces when grams are far superior.
    Thumbs down on this recipe AND the recipe provided.
    Try this: 1 L whole milk, 10 egg yolks, 200g (1 cup sugar), 1 vanilla bean. Cook to 85C. And always pour half the sugar in the milk to keep it from burning.
    This is the superior recipe for it is cheaper and lighter than the one you provided, yet still thick and delicious.

  • Natalie Sztern

    i am no mathematician, and i see my local restaurant critic has put her two cents in…but if it is 4-1 then shouldn’t the yolks be 2 oz and the sugar 2 oz with 8 oz of milk and 8 oz of cream?

    Pls explain

  • brandon_w

    If you have 8oz of milk and 8oz of cream, that is 16oz total.

    16/4 = 4.

    If you were only using 8oz of milk or cream, then yes 1/4 of that would be 2. The recipe is calling for 8oz of milk and 8oz of cream.

  • Natalie Sztern

    have patience with me brandon, i get that it is 8oz of milk and 8 0z of cream…so that is 16 oz..but the way i read the ratio is 4:1:1 and then if you count all liquid ie cream and milk..then isn’t it 8:1:1….

    oh i am all confused now…

  • brandon_w

    Nope because the combined liquid, when applied to the ratio method is still 4 parts. And everything else is 1 part to the 4 parts.

    For your yolk and sugar you need the weight to be 1/4 whatever your total amount of cream/liquid.

  • Faustianbargain

    I agree. Too many yolks.

    My standard:

    500 ml milk
    500 ml cream
    200 gms sugar
    4 yolks

  • craigkite

    Natalie, (8+8=16) 16:4:4 goes down to Lowest common denominator(4) 4:1:1. Leslie, lighten up, did you try this version or just compare the text on it? I have no sacred cow on Creme Anglaise to compare this to, but I would probably give it a try before dismissing it, wholesale, because one I have used before is more economical in dairy or yolkage, which is not accurate. And I appreciate the food porn prose that Michael came up with to compliment Donna’s photos. You got a little splooge on your chin, Dude.

  • brandon_w

    Leslie actually provided a recipe that uses MORE yolks. She didn’t even read the recipe properly before posting on it.

  • milo

    Leslie’s does have fewer egg yolks, it just seems like more because it is a double recipe. If you want to compare the two, double Michael’s or cut hers in half.

    When you even them out it’s five yolks versus seven.

    She calls for a liter of dairy, while the 16 oz in Michael’s recipe is about half that.

  • Lesley Chesterman

    I know the recipe lists 7 yolks, but that’s only for 16 oz. of liquid. When pastry chefs talk recipes for creme anglaise, they talk in number of yolks per liter, and the standard is 10 to 12 per liter of milk. Here he’s calling for close to 15 yolks per liter because he’s using 7 for 16 oz of liquid or 465 mL, which makes about 15 for 930 mL.
    The ratio is very high, I’d say too high — especially combined with so much cream. Ugh.
    Of course, Mr.Ruhlman can write what he wants, but all those yolks and cream are shall we say, old-fashioned. I mean Fernand Point used 15 yolks to a liter 40 years ago. Pastry has evolved, and lightened up, greatly since then. The only difference between this recipe and Point’s is the amount of sugar, 200 g vs. 300g for Point.

  • Clara

    Yeah, I’m inclined to try my recipes before passing judgment on them. Sorta seems to make better sense. I look forward to trying this one soon – it sounds quite solid, and of course who can resist those succulent pictures?

  • craigkite

    Although, Michale has not confirmed fluid ounces or avoir du poids weight ounces as the milk/cream standard of measure, yet. OK, so grams would be less confusing, I am still drooling over the imagery of such a versatile ratio.

  • Faustianbargain

    Brandon,Leslie’s recipe(classical version, I think) calls for 1lt of milk and 10 yolks. Ruhlman’s recipe calls for approx half-half cream and milk AND 14 yolks.

    I used double cream and just 4 yolks works for me.

  • Walt Smith

    Great post Michael.

    Beautiful photographs.

    I’d love to try this as ice cream. Could you (or anyone else) recommend a good ice cream maker?

  • brandon_w

    You are right, I didn’t compare the total volume of the recipes. My bad.

    Still, Ruhlman is kind of shall we say, old-fashioned.

  • Lesley Chesterman

    This isn’t just about recipes, it’s about ratios, or more specifically, correct ratios. To me, the ratio of yolks is way too high. Not only for creme anglaise, but certainly creme patissere (custard) as well. Please tell me he’s not using cream in that!
    Looking forward to seeing this explained in the book.

  • Erik

    Oh my gosh Lesley get over yourself already. We get it – you think there are too many yolks. Got it. We’re happy for you, Creme Czar. Now go ahead and get on with the rest of your life. Or better yet go try the ratio then report back.

  • chuckd

    Lesley, we are all looking foward to your book “Correct Ratios”.

  • Ruhlman

    Works great with just milk but I like the fat. Most recipes do include some fat or half n half. And you can’t have too many yolks as far as I’m concerned. What does lebovitz say. I’m sure he’s written on it. Again these are baselines not laws. I make this and it’s fantastic.

  • Rhonda


    First off, I watched you on CBS this morning. You did a great job but I curse you for making me turn on the idiot box first thing in the morning and tune in to a morning show when my days usually start so peacefully. Anyways, Bravo. You did a great job!

    To my fellow commenters: I don’t understand what all the fuss and confusion surrounding this post is about. Seriously. This is an offered ratio that will work.

    Recipes vary, ratios remain the same.

    Read again. If you don’t want to use ounces, use grams. A ratio is a ratio.

    Cream was given as an option. If it offends, use milk not cream.

    You are all missing the point of this book. It is suppose to give you freedom and power in the kitchen. Take the ratio and make it your own.

    I still prefer TK’s 7 yolk pasta to regular pasta. The extra yolks give it an added texture and richness. However, the basic pasta ratio starts the same and is a jumping off point.

    The object of this exercise is to illustrate that there is a basic ratio for everything. Where you go from there is up to you. This is freedom!

    C’mon people! This is not a recipe it is a ratio.

    You have been given a great gift.

    You are now empowered to make your own recipe without the toil, tribulation, sweat and blood of having attended a culinary school.

    Fuck me. Accept the gift, thank Michael, and go cook something great!

  • milo

    Lebovitz uses all milk instead of cream, and six yolks to two cups milk.

    I assume the ratios are more crucial in some recipes (baking?), in this one it sure seems like you can just vary it pretty widely to taste and just throw out the ratio.

    In Leslie’s defense, looking online at a bunch of recipes for this, most are much closer to her amount of eggs (if not even less). I haven’t found another with this much yolk yet. Obviously, that doesn’t make it “right”, just saying she’s not making a claim that nobody else agrees with.

  • Marlene

    Nicely said, Rhonda. People, I tested this recipe backwards and forwards. i did the creme brulee, the ice cream, the creme anglaise etc. It makes fabulous ice cream.

    I also made the ganache and the butterscotch sauce and made a sundae with the ice cream and sauces. Go ahead. You know you want to. 🙂

    Michael very clearly says in the book that his creme anglasie recipe is a slightly richer and sweeter version. He also says to think about how small variations to the ratio will change the nuance. Rhonda is correct that the ratio is the base. Use milk or cream, take your pick or use both.

    The end result is this is still a very good ratio and the results are terrific.

  • derek

    Question for owners of ice cream machines:

    Does price matter? All that it does is churn, yes? Are there features that are worth the money? Are well-reputed brands good even for lower end models? Thanks

  • Marlene

    derek, I’ve only ever used the Cuisinart Supreme ice cream maker, but then I’m lazy. Any ice cream maker you use will pretty much still require you to freeze the finished mixture unless you like really soft ice cream. If you have a KA, you can get the ice cream bowl, and KA at least used to make a bowl that you could fill with ice and set underneath the ice cream bowl helping with the coldness.

  • milo

    I use a Cuisinart ice cream maker, the 1.5 quart, and I have always been happy with the results. Just make sure you keep the frozen bit in the freezer (or let it freeze for at least a couple days ahead of time to make sure it is totally frozen). Runs about fifty bucks and you can buy extra canisters.

  • Natalie Sztern

    To all those who have tried to explain this, thankyou: I now understand (I think:)for every 4 of liquid: 1 of yolk and 1 of sugar no matter which liquid….

    I have the Cuisinart like Milo…you can imagine the questions I have for that??? LOL david has been very good…

  • Salty

    I go strictly heavy cream and 6 yolks for creme anglaise and frozen custard.

    (We like our cream in Wisconsin)

  • milo

    Thanks for the link to Lebovitz, his site is amazing. Now I’m psyched to try making gelato. I’ve had it made with all milk and no cream, but I always assumed it had tons of yolks to make up for that. Pretty amazing that it can be as good (or in many cases, way better) than ice cream with much lower fat.

  • Sauce Robert

    well… if you are looking for flavor id be inclined to side with Ruhlman and as Leslie said Pointe. Who ever said Pointe was outdated?! he is considered one of the greatest chefs of all time! one reason that recipes have changed so much is cost effectiveness… back in Points days they didnt pay nearly as much attention to cost as they do today. So if your doing it at home what is the big deal if you only do it every so often?!

  • Salty

    I forgot to add……that’s 6 yolks per 32oz cream.

    If those weren’t black and white photos that sauce would be pretty darn yellow.

  • milo

    While the B&W pix are gorgeous, I would love to see the color versions for a reference of exactly what color this recipe turns out to be.

    Were they taken in color and converted, or were they taken in BW in the first place?

  • Sam

    Marlene, it sounds like you have really put this book to the test! I think you have inspired me to make the ice cream next (banana split of course)

  • Marlene

    Sam, I was fortunate enough to be one of the recipe testers for this book, so I can say I’ve made most of them, some of them several times! The banana split was awesome!

    Michael doesn’t claim these are the best recipes in the world, although they all work and several have made their way into my cooking rotation at home. (dutch oven bread is a standard at my cottage now. the parisianne gnocchi is always in my freezer to give a couple of examples. What he says is to take the basic ratio and learn to fly. If you know the basic ratio, you’re golden. Then you can add/subtract/double, triple/ substitute. Michael gives several examples of what you can do with the basic ratio for each one, but you are limited only by your imagination. Fly with them. Have fun. Pay attention to the results and note what you’d like to do differently next time. Happy cooking!

  • Marlene

    Sam, let me give you one more example before I shut up. Take the parisanne gnocchi. to the basic ratio, I now add chives, a little cayenne and often some cracked black pepper. It is technically parisianne gnocchi anymore? Not really, especially to the pedantic, but what I’ve done, it taken a basic ratio that Michael gives, and made my own “recipe” with it.

    All these recipes work. They are only enhanced by every twist you give them.

  • carri

    Wow, Ruhlman, see what happens when you go out of town? The commenters run amok…! How’d the show go?!

  • Spencer

    Wow. Those would make another nice poster; small multiples while highlighting the differences between sets.

  • Kate in the NW

    This is basically what I use (but a slightly thinner and definitely lower-fat version) when I make rice pudding. Add some rum-soaked raisins and a dash of cardamom = supreme comfort food. And not a bad way to use up leftover rice.

    MR, I love how versatile your stuff is. It’s like you pick out the melodies and leave it up to the rest of us to harmonize and improvise. It’s very inspiring. 🙂

  • Shai Almog

    I think the people complaining about too many eggs should read the book 😉

    Variation is the very idea of understanding ratios and methods, reducing the yolks to reduce richness is OK with the recipe…

    E.g. see this great talk on Ted from Gladwell where he talks about people having different tastes:

    Regardless, this is not a far ratio from Cheese cake which is also a custard emulsion. It also allows great variation since the NY cheese cake is remarkably rich (cream cheese based) but over here we generally tend to eat a cake made with 5% fat cheese which is remarkably different.

  • ntsc

    Julia Child once said something to the affect of that ‘You can never use too much butter’. I think one could subsitute yolks in this case. I do know that my mouth prefers ice cream with more yolk.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Michael, i just saw the morning show online and I have to say that you are a natural…i see a tv show in your future that could possibly be a PBS. (because they have the most intelligence)

    BUT it boggles my mind that 2 supposedly educated news professionals can act like asses and ignorant douchebags during a segment like this…

  • Salty

    I will make that recipe today and I’ll be the first to eat my toque if it’s acceptable.

    (You may be able to detect I have issues with recipe books.)

  • Vivian

    Wow! Who knew that a simple creme anglaise could cause such a stir! I made this last night and it froze nicely for a really rich and creamy ice cream. We had it with some outrageous brownies for dessert and it was great. It might be a bit rich for some, but then it is merely a matter of taste.

  • Joanne

    I love your description of the photography and, for the novice, basically what to appreciate in the pics.
    The recipe goes without saying. Wonderful.

  • Faustianbargain

    I am sure ruhlman’s version is lovely and better than edible, but consider this….

    Too much fat will dull flavourings…esp if served cold. Too many eggs will just make it eggy. Vanilla is a one dimensional flavour, but if you want a diff flavour like coffee or chocolate or fruit, I am not sure how this would translate.
    In a restaurant, the cost for this cannot be
    justified per serving. I would also like to know calorie count. As a sauce, it’s ok, but in an ice cream, the base is better if it’s just milk. For creme brûlée it ought to be all cream. That said, ratios are useful.

    Still….14 yolk for a litre of cream+ milk is still excessive even if it’s good.

  • Lesley Chesterman

    “If you know the basic ratio, you’re golden.”
    Marlene, the problem here is that this basic ratio of eggs to dairy is hard to accept.
    Find me one modern recipe that calls for as many yolks. Fernand Point is the ony one I could find and that is dated. OK, I’ll accept that the amount of cream can vary but the excess of yolks actually makes this recipe more like a pate a bombe than a creme anglaise.
    All milk and many yolks is one thing, but heavy on the heavy cream plus lots of yolks makes this too rich.
    Fine, the idea of ratios is worth exploring, but why not start with the standard.
    Rulhman’s egg-and-cream heavy recipe as a variation, OK.
    But as the theme, sorry, no way.

  • milo

    The other thing that is odd is that “If you know the basic ratio, you’re golden” and “use as many eggs as you want” are pretty contradictory.

    If you can use as many eggs as you think will taste good within a wide variance, then doesn’t that sort of dispel the notion that the ratio is that useful in the first place?

    Not to mention that the concept of the book makes it seem like it is giving some sort of “standards” within the cooking world. If those “standards” vary widely, and this book is just the versions done to MR’s particular (and potentially idiosyncratic in some respects) tastes, it seems a lot more like just another recipe book just dressed up in different clothing.

  • Marlene

    Lesley, who decided that Escoffier and Point were outdated? Escoffier is still the standard that culinary schools go by today as far as I know. And what makes the fact the Point’s is older any less valid? And apparently, Herve this agrees, as noted in Michael’s update as of last night.

    I tested this recipe six ways to Sunday. It works and it works well. If it is too heavy for you, then go back to what is considered the classic today and what Michael does acknowledge in the book as being 3 yolks per cup of liquid.

    Since you haven’t bothered to read the book, here is an excerpt from the creme anglaise part:
    The creme anglaise ratio above is simplified and measured by weight. A yolk is .6 oz or about half an ounce. If you are making a quart of custard, 12 yolks results in an excellent sauce.
    Fewer yolks will give you a looser consistency. Using all cream will counteract that somewhat. Use your common sense.

    Even Keller in Bouchon uses equal parts cream and milk for his anglaise although to be precise he also uses 2 less yolks than Michael does in his. I prefer Michael’s having made them both. But then I’m all about the richness. J it’s a matter of taste.

    Milo, I don’t think so. The basic ratio works as is. If you want the sauce richer, use more yolk. If you want it thinner, use less. But the basic ratio is still golden. You start with that and get an excellent sauce and then you learn to fly. J. You will note as he continues on from crème anglaise that the number of yolks changes for crème brulee, ice cream (because of the alcohol in the recipe and crème pastier. However, you could use the ratio above and still get solid results for all of them. It becomes a matter of taste.(oops did I say that already?)J

    Michael is also very explicit in the beginning of the book and I quote again
    “This is important. My aim isn’t to make the perfect bread or pasta or mayonnaise or biscuit (or crème anglaise. Ok he didn‘t say the crème anglaise part but you get my drift). It’s about setting a baseline to work from, to codify the fundamentals from which we work and which we work off of. I;ve worked with the greatest perfectionist there is in the cooking world, and I love the hunt for the perfect sauce, the perfect custard, but here, I’m after good. Only when we know good, can we begin to inch up from good to excellent.”

    Go make this already.. It is especially good with Keller’s brioche for his French Toast recipe.

    During the testing of this book, there were ratios that Michael and I disagreed on. (for example I disagree with his popover ratio, but I can’t argue with the results of Donna’s photo of one, and Micheael‘s did work). This wasn’t one of them.

  • milo

    “The basic ratio works as is.”

    And other ratios varying quite a bit from that also work. My point is I don’t see why MR’s version is The Basic Ratio, why it’s the starting point, and why the alternatives are the variation on it?

    He says he’s trying to codify a fundamental – the question is, is that truly what this is, or are these “fundamentals” just MR’s particular preferences?

    This particular example sure seems to be one that is on the extreme end of the range that will “work”.

  • Marlene

    Milo, it’s Michael’s book so I’ll let him answer that one:) but isn’t any book the author’s opinion to a certain extent?

    I am away from home so I don’t have my classical texbooks in front of me to compare.
    While Lesley is probably correct that today’s “modern” recipes use less yolk and only milk (although I’m hard pressed to find a recipe online for creme anglaise that doesn’t include cream), the recipes of Point and Escoffier and the CIA where classical cooking is still taught are richer, use more yolk and cream and frankly are3 wonderful.

    My only point in entering this discussion was to let people know that this ratio works. This is Michael’s book, not mine, and he needs no defence from me.

    I tested this. It works. It it the standard of today’s world? I have no clue. I’m just a home cook, but it works.

  • Salty

    I tried MR recipe tonight. Here are my thoughts:

    If you’re serving it warm it’s acceptable. Although I don’t usually serve it warm. If I were to serve this recipe cold (as I usually do) it has the consistancy of a bad pastry cream. As far as the color goes, it wasn’t as yellow as I thought it would be but still too yellow IMHO.

    I’m not trying to be contradictory but when you throw recipes out there you have to expect scrutiny.

    I also have to question what standards this “recipe” (Sorry, I won’t call it a ratio) was based on. I see creme anglaise every day and I know what I expect to see and taste. Do you?

    You also have to take into consideration I’m just some hack from fly-over country who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  • luis

    Michael, finally got my copy of “Ratio”. Fresh look at the art… thank you man.
    Devil’s advocate here… Disclaimer first. I have barelly scratched the surface of the book “Ratio”.
    But after chasing the book down this morning and not having the time to cook a proper meal to take to work….. I bought a pannini type sub thing….
    and found myself wondering what the proper ratios by weight of bread to ham to cheese… etc….. CRAAAAZYYY!!!!!! ain’t it?
    But a ratio is a ratio.. and if I enjoy a pannini…then shouldn’t I rip it apart and weight it’s ingredients and note the RATIO of say ham to bread to cheese…and so on.
    Bro the sandwiches I make vs the the ones I buy are so different that I think deconstructing and weighing and determining the right proportions is going to change I look at a sandwich from here on out!!!!!!!!! Guess you didn’t know you had this much influence and power did you?

  • S. Woody

    Just a few weeks ago, my partner’s daughter and family took said partner to lunch at a nice local Italian restaurant. I wasn’t invited, since I was working that day and they really aren’t all that comfortable having Daddy’s homo lover around.

    Comes time for dessert, the family father orders a creme brule, and asks his older son to take a taste. Said older son (age 11, and highly afraid of any food that might be different from what he’s had before) doesn’t just refuse to even taste the stuff, but forces a fight between father and son, embarrasing everyone even more than if I’d been at the table with them.

    The kid loves ice cream, of course. If I’d been with them, and if I’d been armed with the information about ratios, I could have educated the kid about what it was he was being offered.

    Learning about ratios – I can do that. (The book is on my next order from Jessica’s Biscuit.) Taking what I’ve learned and passing it on to the kid – I can do that, and I might have gotten him to try a taste of the stuff, at least. Getting invited to lunch… you can’t win ’em all.

  • luis

    Milo, basic..base…average..median…In a bellshaped world this would be the center line.
    I think you would be happier with a base ratio or a starting point. It’s kind of a mute point I think given the amount of variation in the ingredients and other factors.
    Michael’s point is very well taken by me. I don’t read anymore into it than that. A base.. a starting point.
    Tha payday is that now that I know the basic ratio I can free myself from the gazzillion crapy web recipes out there and I can begin to make it about FLAVOR, MY FLAVORS. In the end food is nothing if not a blank canvas for your own tastes. I got easily forty or fifty ingredients and herbs and spices at any one time.
    Selecting the 2 to half a dozen that will deliver that BIG FLAVOR come through is my goal. The best comments I have ever received about my cooking are the offhanded ones when we are dinning out and someone says…this pizza is ok, but not as good as yours. Your pizzas really have FLAVOR. Yes they do because I put it there. That is cooking and not recipe reading.

  • ruhlman

    marlene’s right in all she’s commented on.

    milo, good question. In trying to keep the ratio basic i didn’t want to have .75 parts yolk or 6 parts liquid 1.5 parts sugar and 1 part yolk. I studied many many recipes and tested varying proportions represented, from Escoffier to Bouchon, and these are the ones I found worked best and were also the most simply represented. I did not go up on a mountain and come down with these things carved in stone.

    Salty, did you weigh out the yolks or use seven yolks? Also, it sounds like you cooked it too hard. It should not be the consistency of pastry cream, good or bad. It should be pourable when cold, the consistency in the top photo.

    S. Woody, great comment thanks.

  • Claudia

    It may be good to lighten up a bit, but I believe a lot of the re-doing of older recipes is a direct result of the processed, packaged, “easy to prepare” and fast-food industries. For purposes of cost, shelf life, etc. compromises are made and additives need then to be included to compensate. The thinking has filtered down to influencing and changing mainstream cooking. I appreciate your take on the situation, and am enjoying my copy of Ratio.

  • luis

    From now on… this is how I cook. Using RATIO’s. and FLAVORS. Working on my version of “Chipino” assorted seafood soup as I see it. I will make fish stock per the “Ratio” book and then add the seafood and my flavors. Fish stock, half and half, the bounty of the sea with chopped leeks and my favorite herbs and spices… (Got a ton of that farm raised shrimp shells from Thailand).. Sustainable sources is the key. This will be great!.

  • ruhlman

    a couple commenters said they tried to comment so am testing. fyi, no comments should have been deleted from this post. i almost never delete posts unless they’re spam, mean for no reason or way off topic.

  • Cameron S.

    they probably forgot the captcha part…

    Anyways, good post Michael – I think this sort of classical recipe is a good start to the topic, if you want to minimize yolk inputs then great. Find your own path, starting with classics helps a lot of people I think.

  • luis

    Michael, I wikied “Golden Ratio” you guys should too… 1.61….ddaddadad…a
    Do you know that is the basic bread ratio?????
    Have you thought about taking this thing a step farther than Uwe Hestnar and connecting these cooking ratios to the Golden Ratio or other such important ratios? Betcha that would give Milo a thing to think ha!!!….

    Golden Ratio…. for bread…

    The total length flour(5) + water(3)=8 is to the longer segment flour(5) as flour(5) is to the shorter segment water(3).

    Or 8/5 is approx equal to 5/3…. your ratio is Golden Michael…
    I wonder how many other such relations exist???? this sounds like work again don’t it? You and Uwe started it…..don’t look at me…

  • luis

    The Ice Cream machine is in the kitchen and I plan to execute this vanilla bean ice cream ratio as soon as I get hold of a vanilla bean. Fun….

  • luis

    My shiny new 12 cup ice cream maker is in…and I am hopeful but also bummed.
    The devil is in the details…and Ice Cream is just wrong as Ben and Jerry’s or even this Cream Anglaise recipe shows….
    The 4:1:1 ratio is significant and the point of the book. This is the “Pearl of Wisdom” in this chapter.
    However the recipe is just a non starter in this day and age.
    For twelve cups… We’d need something like
    six cups whole milk
    six cups heavy cream
    24 egg yolks
    3 cups of sugar
    3 vanilla beans.
    ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? what are you thinking man…@800 cal/cup… Thats ~ 10,000 cals or a guaranteed 4 more lbs for the Omentum….
    Honestly for a guy who believes in humane farming and treatment of animals….I would really expect more socially responsible recipes. End of rant…. still like you Rhulman but dude… lets be try to be more calorie correct… always left to the home cook to make some sense out of what we eat.
    This is the whole point of getting an ice cream maker in the first place.
    Wonder if your ratio will work with skim milk or even soymilk and a fraction of the eggs and cream???? The hard work and research is again left up to the individual cook….sigh!!!!!!!!!

  • ruhlman

    luis the quantities you give would result in at least in 16 cups or a gallon of ice cream. four twelve cups try 9 total cups liquid (or 8 or 10 to make the ratio simpler). but still that’s a lot of ice cream, three quarts?

  • luis

    Thank you…. my math is wayyyy off. This is my Friday( I am beat) Tomorrow I make cream anglaise ice cream.
    In a 1.5 qt machine I am only dealing with six cups.
    So I will shoot for
    16 oz of milk
    16 oz of cream
    ~1 or 2 vanilla beans
    8 oz yolk
    8 oz sugar (which I can fudge with probably 4 oz of splenda.. that I find to be sweeter than sugar).
    Thank you Michael… life is good again.

  • Jonathan

    the recipe and the ratio do not match…the recipe seems to follow 2:1:1 ratio instead of 4:1:1….anyone?

  • luis

    Ratio is awesome… great book. My first try at making ice cream from a vanilla cream anglaise worked perfectly and then I screwed up several times there after…which is how I learn. I should have gone from coat the back of the spoon right to the freezer and finito.. Also I know the egg liquid mixture needs to cross the 160 temp barrier to kill bacteria but there is a point at which things just get a bit too hot…now I know what happens when I cross that temp too… Learning curve thing….

    there is one liquid in two parts… Add the cream and the milk together and see it is 4:1:1 no matter how you scale it. This is the power of using ratios.. you can DOUBLE or TRIPLE UP on the basic recipe with ease.

    Rhulman ratios are golden, our math needs work…sigh.

  • Arturo

    I am amazed at the passion that this book and this formula have inflamed! Both here and on egullet, wow.

    I really think this is a great book. There I said it. Whether you are a chef or a home cook, thinking in formulas frees you up.

    As a chef the more you know the more of yourself and your opinions you can add to it.

    Do I have quibbles? sure I do (for instance not having egg yolks as part of the formula for Mayo. I get theory but it’s still unhelpful), but then I can open excel and make my own formula sheet.

  • luis

    Success…Ice Cream at last. What a charge….to think I can now make ice cream thousands…millions different ways and flavors….wow! I am on cloud 9. A simple thing…a giant new frontier for me.

  • zaine_ridling

    It’s been said many times before, but the photography for this blog — and your books — really enhances the writing. That’s more difficult than it looks to get a good shot. Thanks go to the wife.

  • Amy

    I haven’t tried either recipe and by no means am I an authority on cooking, but I think Ms. Chesterman has been rather presumptuous in the way she has voiced her concerns.
    Frankly, it’s turned me off on reading her blog, which is unfortunate because I do enjoy reading about food.
    I would suggest that in the future she consider voicing her concerns more politely.

  • kevin

    Thank god for the clueless. Ratios is about starting points, not ending points. If you want to use fewer eggs then do so, just stay in the ball park.

    Chesterman is splitting hairs but also (and this is the “thank god” part from Michael’s POV) generating traffic for the blog and interest in the book. Hopefully now that I’ve called her clueless she come she’ll come criticise some of my recipes.

  • KB

    Late to the fray here, but I observe that regarding yolks, Ruhlman’s recipe is very similar to the proportions (or “ratios”) in my longstanding creme anglaise recipe from Julia Child’s The Way To Cook. I long ago modified JC’s recipe to include less sugar, as it was a bit too sweet for my taste, and to include a vanilla bean. It ends up just about the same as Ruhlman’s, but without the cream (just milk — and I’ve never made a creme anglaise as such with cream). The Way To Cook was published in 1989, and, as retro as Julia may have been, that is far from the Escoffier and Careme references people are making.

    On the other hand, regarding the cream, I am a little baffled by its inclusion. Creme anglaise is my favorite dessert component, and I’ve never made it with cream. I surmise that, perhaps, in a laudable, but not always successful, effort to simplify, the cream was added to make the sauce a viable ice cream and creme brulee without changing the recipe? Creme anglaise should be a delicate sauce for an already delicious dessert of fruit, chocolate, meringue, etc. Ice cream/creme brulee must stand on their own, and the enrichment of cream makes sense. I think the creme anglaise recipe should not include cream, and the ice cream and creme brulee variations should.