Points to remember
- Heat cream with the scraped seeds from a vanilla pod (if using vanilla extract, add this after you've made the custard). Remove from the heat just as the milk begins to simmer around the edge of the pan.
- Stir egg yolks with caster sugar and then pour the hot cream over the yolks in a steady stream, stirring constantly.
- Strain into a clean, heavy-bottomed pan and heat over a medium heat (be careful not to have the heat too high), stirring constantly until the mixture begins to steam and thicken.
- The custard is ready when you can draw a clean line through it on the back of a spoon, using your finger. Strain into a clean jug and serve hot or cold.
Don't stir the sugar into the egg yolks too far in advance. It can 'cook' the yolks and cause them to go grainy.
Keep an eye on the heat when cooking the custard - too low and it won't thicken, too high and you'll have scrambled eggs.
Stir the mixture constantly, making sure to work the spoon over the bottom of the entire pan.