Homemade German vanilla sauce recipe for bread pudding and other desserts.
A vanilla sauce recipe – German style, easy and quick to make, perfect to serve with any dessert, either bread pudding or something similar, but also perfect for strudels, crumbles, cobblers, crumble pies or cakes.
Or just as it is, if you ask my daughter and my husband, they don’t need anything else when it comes to enjoying homemade vanilla sauce.
GERMAN VANILLA SAUCE
The German vanilla sauce is a thin sweet sauce made preferably with the seeds of a vanilla bean. If vanilla beans are unavailable (or just too expensive), you can use pure vanilla extract or vanilla sugar with ground vanilla bean instead.
Vanillasoße or vanilla sauce has a light pouring consistency, similar to a custard, but runnier. It is made only with eggs, milk, a little sugar and vanilla and it is usually thickened with cornstarch.
The main difference between the German vanilla sauce and a custard is the consistency, vanilla custard is much thicker and it often uses butter or heavy cream to make it creamier and richer.
There is also the vanilla pudding, which is thick as well, but not as thick as custard. It is made without the butter or heavy cream, usually just eggs, sugar, milk and the thickening agent, which is cornstarch. When making custard, the thickening agent is the egg or egg yolk itself.
Of course, this is just a very basic way of understanding the differece between the three kinds of vanilla desserts, there is much more to it, especially when it comes to different kinds of custards.
Both custard and vanilla pudding are usually sweeter than the vanilla sauce.
To make it easier for me, I always think of three degrees of a “pudding”. The runnier one is the vanilla sauce, perfect to pour on top of desserts or fruit compote.
Then comes the vanilla pudding, which can be used the same way when served hot or warm and which makes a nice dessert on it own (with fruit sauce poured on top, if you wish) when served cold and set.
And then comes the custard, which is thick and luxurious and mostly served as it is when baked like in a crème brulee, for instance. Or, when stirred on a stove-top, it can be layered with other ingredients in a bowl to make some really decadent and delicious dessert like this traditional English trifle.
INGREDIENTS FOR GERMAN VANILLA SAUCE
To make a good, traditional German vanilla sauce, you only need a few ingredients.
- As mentioned above using a vanilla bean or pod to make vanilla sauce would be the best choice. However, vanilla pods have become insanly expensive in Germany during the last years, so I don’t buy them as often as I did before.
- Vanilla sugar made with ground vanilla or pure vanilla extract are good alternatives. I would rather go for vanilla sugar, because when using it, I also have the nice little vanilla specks in the sauce as well.
- But the specks are optional, when it comes to taste pure vanilla extract is fine as well. As long as you don’t use artificial vanilla flavor. That might be ok when baking a cake, but I would never use it for vanilla sauce, pudding or custard.
- The recipe requiers only 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar. If using vanilla pod or pure vanilla extract, increase the sugar quantity to 3 tablespoons.
- Also keep in mind that vanilla sauce is not very sweet. And it should not be very sweet as vanilla sauce it is usually served on top of other sweet desserts.
- Unlike commercial vanilla sauce/pudding/custard, homemade vanilla desserts are not yellow at all, they are more of a vintage white, if you ask me.
- If you want your vanilla sauce to be yellow, you will have to add a drop or two of food coloring. I actually never do, it is totally unnecessary. However, just to demonstrate the difference, I added a very small amount of yellow food coloring to the vanilla sauce recipe.
Then you will also need an egg, full-fat milk and some cornstarch for the vanilla sauce.
HOW TO MAKE VANILLA SAUCE
- Give the egg, sugar, vanilla sugar with ground vanilla (or pure vanilla extract) to a bowl. If using a vanilla pod, halve the vanilla pod lenghtwise. Scrape the vanilla seeds and give them to a small bowl.
- Whisk well until frothy.
- Add the cornstarch and whisk again to make sure that you have no clumps in the mixture.
- Slowly and whisking continously, pour in the milk.
- Transfer the mixture to a saucepan (or whisk everything in the saucepan to start with) and slowly bring to a boil. Stir very often while the mixture heats up.
- Let the vanilla sauce boil shortly until slightly thickened.
- The vanilla sauce will continue to set while it cools, so don’t let it get too thick at this point, the consistency you are aiming for is slightly thicker yet pourable.
WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVER VANILLA PODS
If you are using a vanilla pod, don’t discard the pods after scraping out the seeds.
How to make vanilla sugar:
- Give the pods to a good food processor and grind it well. Mix with granulated sugar to make vanilla sugar.
- To make powdered vanilla sugar, give the vanilla pods and granulated sugar to a good food processor and process until powdered.
- Alternatively fill a jar with sugar and stick the vanilla pods inside. The resulting vanilla sugar will not be as powerful as the mixtures mentioned above, but it would be perfect for flavoring coffee or other drinks, for instance.
- Keep all kinds of vanilla sugar in airtight containers.
- The powdered vanilla sugar tends to become hard after a while, but that doesn’t affect the taste, just scrape out the needed amount with a spoon whenever necessary.
How to make vanilla extract:
- Give the vanilla pods to a bottle or jar and cover with alcohol, preferably vodka, but brandy or rum can be used istead.
- Make sure that the vanilla pods are submerged in alcohol.
- Leave for about 8 weeks before using, so that the flavors will have time to develop.
- Keep adding more vanilla pods when you happen to have them leftover and keep topping with vodka when the pods are not submerged anymore.
HOW TO SERVE VANILLA SAUCE
The German vanilla sauce can be served immediately while still hot or warm or it can be served when completely cooled.
Vanilla sauce can also be easily reheated. Heat it gently in a small pan, while stirring continously and adding a small splash of milk to make it slightly saucier again.
Vanilla sauce keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, keep it in a closed jar and whisk it well or heat it gently before serving.
I always make this vanilla sauce to serve with the German Kirschmichel.
But here are some more ideas of desserts that go perfectly well with some vanilla sauce on top:
Vanilla Sauce Recipe – German Style
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar 3 tablespoons if using a vanilla pod or pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar with ground vanilla See note 1
- 1 ¼ tablespoons cornstarch
- 500 ml/ 1 pint/ 2 cups full-fat milk
- a few drops yellow food coloring optional (See note 2)
- Give the egg, sugar and vanilla sugar (or pure vanilla extract) to a bowl. If using a vanilla pot, halve it lenghtwise and scrape the seeds out of the pod. Give the seeds to the bowl with the egg and sugar.
- Whisk well until frothy.
- Add the cornstarch and whisk very well again, making sure that the mixture doesn't have any clumps.
- Slowly pour in the milk while whisking.
- Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and gently bring to a boil while whisking almost constantly.
- Let the vanilla sauce bubble shortly while whiking continously until it thickens slightly.
- The vanilla sauce will continue to set while it cools, so don't let it get too thick at this point, the consistency you are aiming for is slightly thicker yet pourable.
- Serve hot, warm or cold as suggested above.
- The German vanilla sauce can be easily reheated. Heat it gently in a small pan, while stirring continously and adding a small splash of milk to make it slightly thinner again.
- You can use ½ to 1 vanilla pod or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract instead.
- Totally unnecessary, but you can make the pudding more yellow, if you wish. This way it will look more like commercial vanilla sauce or pudding.