Vehicle of Convenience: Custard Sauce

An old friend used to call ratty old cars that didn’t look like much, but ran well—vehicles of convenience.  I’m not sure that my favorite custard sauce falls exactly into the old-beater-category, but it is pretty unremarkable to look at.  And it certainly has rescued me on more than one occasion.

In some circles this sauce could be considered a Crème Anglaise, and we have already covered its wonders back in September with Floating Islands and Eggs in Snow.  Today’s custard sauce is the trimmed down version:  instead of 4 egg yolks, we use only 1 egg—just enough to supply that eggy flavor we crave.  For additional body we include a bit of cornstarch, much like Britain’s well-loved Bird’s Custard Powder. The cornstarch not only helps to thicken the sauce, it also improves its holding power, making it far more stable and less fickle than the usual egg-based custard sauce.

Not only is this convenient sauce delicious and fast; it is extremely versatile and especially handy when time and resources are limited. It can be made in an easy 10 minutes and will hold for two days in refrigerator.  Serve it hot, warm or chilled over pound cake, fresh or baked fruit; flavor it to suit the occasion:  add citrus, almond or other extract, a jigger of brandy or a favorite liqueur.  Yes, I’ve even served it on hot oatmeal…Blackberries, cooky, custard sauce

Today at the market I picked up a slim basket of tempting blackberries (no, they weren’t local; but I tell self that in Texas they rarely are anyway).  Later I whipped up a quick convenient sauce to honor the berries.  I briefly marinated them in a bit of sugar plus a dash of balsamic vinegar.

blackberries with custard sauce


At dessert they were liberally doused in plenty of the silky, thick custard sauce.  What a glorious sight:  blackberries floating amidst a burnished brown marinade and creamy custard sauce—a stunning marbleized swirl in the glass.

Custard Sauce

1 large egg, room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp genuine vanilla extract
1-1/2 cup milk, divided


  1. In a medium bowl whisk the egg and sugar together until light and sugar is incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Place cornstarch in a small bowl, stir in 2 Tbsp of the milk, and mix until smooth. Whisk the slurry into the egg mixture and beat until well combined, about 1 minute.
  3. In a small pan over medium-low setting, heat the milk until bubbles form on edges and steam is rising from the surface, but not boiling.
  4. Whisk about ½ cup of the scalded milk slowly into the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Pour the egg and milk mixture into the pan, whisking into the remaining hot milk.  Return the pan to low heat, stirring constantly until mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes—the temperature will reach 170 degrees, but not boiling.  Stir in the vanilla extract.
  5. Strain the sauce through a fine whisk and let cool.  Cover the surface with plastic wrap to avoid surface film from forming.  Serve warm, room temperature, or cold.   Serves: 3 – 4

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