Luscious Creamy Custard Sauce

From: Author Lori Longbotham, Luscious Creamy Desserts (Chronicle Books, 2008). Also known as English cream, the author suggests exploring the possibilities for variation, such as steeping grated citrus zest, basil, tarragon, rosemary, lemon verbena or lemon thyme in the half-and-half. Yield: Scant 3 cups.

2 cups half-and-half

6 large egg yolks

½ cup sugar

pinch of salt

1 tsp. pure vanilla paste or extract

Heat the half-and-half in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat just until hot. Remove pan from heat.

Whisk together egg yolks, sugar and salt in medium bowl. Slowly pour in hot half-and-half, whisking constantly. Return to saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, over medium-low heat until custard has thickened and coats back of a spoon. If you draw your finger across it, it should leave a track. Do not let sauce boil or scorch on the bottom; if tiny bubbles appear around the edges, remove pan from heat for a few minutes to cool custard, continuing to whisk.

Pour custard through a fine strainer set over a medium glass measure or bowl. Let cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally to keep a skin from forming, then whisk in vanilla. Serve, or refrigerate tightly covered for about 3 hours, or for up to 4 days. Serve chilled or reheat gently to serve warm.

Variation: For Orange Flower Water or Rose Water Custard Sauce, stir in about 1 tsp. of either instead of the vanilla.