2 cups whole milk or half-and-half
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise ( optional)
5 egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract ( if not using vanilla bean)
In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk or half-and-half and vanilla bean (if using). Place over medium heat and bring almost to the boiling point, them remove from the heat. If using a vanilla bean, using the tip of a small, sharp knife, scrape the seeds into the milk and stir to combine; discard the bean.
In another heavy saucepan, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and salt and whisk until creamy. Gradually whisk in the hot milk or half-and-half. Place over low heat and cook, stirring constantly, just until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon ( your finger should leave a trail when you run it across the spoon), about 5 minutes. To prevent the eggs from overcooking or curdling, do not allow the mixture to approach a boil.
Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl. If not using a vanilla bean, stir the vanilla extract into the sauce.
Serve warm, or set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring frequently to prevent a skin from forming on the surface.
Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 4 hours or for up to 3 days. Makes 2 cups.
Source: James McNair's Cakes
Date: June 7, 2002