Creme-Anglaise-color@1020

A perfect crème anglaise! Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman.

Came across this post from April 2013, on spoons, spatulas and the classic creme Anglaise. Has anything changed? I honestly don’t know.–M.R.

The television personality and cookbook author Ted Allen stirred up a shit storm this week by calling me out on my hatred of the round wooden spoon, which he apparently has the hots for. He happened to mention our exchange at a City Harvest event to Eric Ripert, executive chef of Le Bernardin, one of the finest restaurants in the country, with whom I’ve worked closely, who added a little more caca to the pot by tweeting “Crème anglaise? Since the days of Escoffier, stir with a wood spoon, Ruhlman.”

He then phoned me to further faire caca into my cell phone until he conceded that it was the wood, not a round wood spoon, then was evasive, said a client had just arrived. But he handed the phone to his British-born, French-trained pastry chef, Laurie Moran, veteran of Per Se and Daniel in NYC and hired to fill the rather large shoes of chef Michael Laiskonis. Chef Moran’s response: everyone should use a rubber spatula. I did not disagree. He added that one needs a flat edge to fully sweep the bottom of the pot to lift the cooking egg yolk.

(Ted Allen, meanwhile, was tweeting that if I cooked my Anglaise properly, I shouldn’t need to worry about the bottom of the pan and therefore his round wooden spoon still wins.)

I asked Moran about a whisk. He said, as deferential as only Brits can be, that while one would certainly whisk the sugar and yolks thoroughly, you would never whisk the pot when all the ingredients were combined as he sensed—sensed meaning a cook’s intuition based on a lifetime of cooking—that a whisk would alter the texture of the sauce, something Eric also noted. He did stress the importance of the effectiveness of the spatula at sweeping clean the bottom of the pot as the custard sauce cooked (at which point I steek out my tongue at the venerable Monsieur Allen).

I hold firm that while even I feel a ’70s-ish nostalgia for the round wooden spoons that filled my childhood suburban kitchen, the round wooden spoon is an emblem of thoughtlessness of the American cook, an icon of kitchen ignorance and, in that ignorance, downright depravity, and therefore must take a militant stance on the stupid round wooden spoon, ask for a round wooden spoon intervention by Mr. Allen’s family and close friends, and suggest a burning of them in Cleveland’s public square.

Battle of the spoon, paddle, and spatula.

From top: heatproof rubber spatula, flat-edged wood spoon, American emblem of ignorance.

But then—and I say this with a heavy heart, something not mentioned either in my my Stupid Kitchen Tools video nor Mr. Allen’s—a world in which someone has spent money to invent, manufacture, and advertise the Rollie Eggmaster, arguably the stupidest cooking tool ever invented, hilariously demoed by Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, well, it makes one feel fairly certain that human beings are not long for this world. The Rollie Eggmaster is the beginning of the end of our species.

Until then, make a proper crème Anglaise. Here are Chef Moran’s proportions, halved, to make 500 grams rather than a kilo.

Crème Anglaise

  • 294 grams milk
  • 73.5 grams cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 59 grams egg yolk
  • 73.5 grams sugar
  1. Bring the milk, cream, and vanilla bean to a simmer in a saucepan, then remove the pan from the heat and let the bean steep for 10 minutes or longer.
  2. Meanwhile, set a bowl in ice and put a strainer in the bowl.
  3. Remove the bean, scrape out the seeds, and return them to the pot. Put the empty bean pod in your sugar bowl.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together the yolks and sugar thoroughly.
  5. Bring the milk and cream back to a simmer. Pour about half of it into the yolks, whisking continuously, then pour it all back into the pan with the remaining milk and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously with a rubber spatula (or flat-edged wood spoon) until the sauce thickens to nappe consistency (when you lift the spatula out, you can draw a finger through the sauce).
  6. Pour it through the strainer into the bowl set in ice, and stir with the spatula until the sauce has cooled.

Yield: 500 grams crème anglaise, a little more than 2 cups

 

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© 2016 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2016 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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21 Wonderful responses to “Classic Sauce:
Creme Anglaise”

  • Pete

    Why on earth have you given such ridiculous quantities? If you’ve converted from cup measures to grams that’s really no excuse. Effectively, 300g is the same as 294g; 75g is the same as 73.5g; 59g is the same as 60g. What you’ve listed is just dumb. 🙂

    • Rob Bos

      agreed! You wouldn’t convert from metric and give a unit as 788/831ths of an inch, you’d just round it to 15/16 or whatever.

    • Sam Adams

      Yeah. And if you’re converting from English to Metric, shouldn’t that be 2.54 vanilla beans?

    • Michael Ruhlman

      I wanted to give the chef’s exact recipe, thus the irregular measurements.

      My standard ratio for anglaise is 4 parts milk/cream, 1 part yolk, 1 part sugar. Simple as that.

  • Sahara

    Don’t most of we average Americans deal in cups, ounces, etc? 59 grams of egg yolk? Geesh

    • Rob Bos

      Use a scale. 🙂 I really *really* appreciate the metric units, personally. So much easier to deal with.

      That said, I think it is a little silly to use grams for egg yolk. It runs about 15g for a small to 20g for a large yolk, which is granted a pretty wide spread, but this is a forgiving sauce.

  • Sam Adams

    Inspired by some of your earlier articles, I threw away several of my old round wooden spoons and added to my collection of square ones. Big mistake. I do a lot of premixing in stainless-steel bowls that are pretty much hemispherical, except for a flattened bottom. Round spoons work much better in these. Fortunately, I kept one; but sometimes I’m using several bowls for different things and I’m gonna have to go out and get another round one.

    • Michael Ruhlman

      for that kind of mixing i’d use a rubber spatula. but glad you have one wood spoon left!

  • Allen

    I’m sure it was written after a nice martini with 18 grams of vermouth. Gotta be friggin exact.
    18 grams is perfect.

  • Candace

    Thank you!!! I have never been a fan of a wooden spoon, nor do I really care much for a whisk. Wooden spoons just don’t come clean enough for my liking and a whisk wastes too much of what I am making. Give me a granny fork, spoon, and a silicone spatula.

  • Recoil Rob

    As much as I like your writing, how about some new content?

    In May you gave us 2 rehashed articles (creme anglaise and mayo) a recipe for Mint Juleps and a review of your own book….

    • Michael Ruhlman

      Been going through a rough patch. That along with severe book deadline has prevented writing for the blog. Sorry, thanks for mentioning and will try to get back to it soon.

      • Allen

        M R
        Wishing you health, happiness & creativity – where the words flow from your keyboard like the water from a springtime Multnoma falls.
        Kind of like Barton Fink when he stuffs pill bottle cotton in his ears. Constant clicking.
        Sincerely best wishes,
        and thanks for all you do.

  • Josh

    I don’t think I’ve used a round wooden spoon in the last five years. They are totally pointless. (See what I did there?)

    I’ve gone through three flat-edge wooden spoons in the same time. I use them for literally everything. Almost. Almost literally. Actually figuratively. I use them for a lot of stuff. Because they’re awesome.

  • Chasity

    I made this to go with part of my husbands birthday breakfast. Berry French Toast with Raspberry Sauce and Crème Anglaise. Orgsmic…

  • TORI

    I made this to go with part of my husbands birthday breakfast. Berry French Toast with Raspberry Sauce and Crème Anglaise. Orgsmic…

  • Melissa Aaron

    I’m not exactly sure why I find this post so charming, but I do. Perhaps it’s the cheffy kerfuffle over utensils. Wooden spoon, spatula, squared-off spoon, whisk, whatever! Why don’t we use what works for us? Heck, I use all of the above. And sometimes I start with one and switch to another. Culinary dogmatism makes me laugh. Just cook, cook delicious fresh food, and cook with love. And write. Best wishes to you and thanks for your writing.

    Thanks for the reminder about Anglaise. I haven’t made it for a while. We have a heat wave coinciding with cherry season here in the PNW, which reminds me of the frozen custard I made with creme Anglaise and Chelan cherries last summer. I think it’s time again.

  • nathan call

    Hi, I was wondering if you would use the spatula, wooden spoon method for all ice cream bases as well. I’ve always used a whisk to make them but it stirs up a lot of air and bubbles into the base as it is cooking, thank you.

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