Vanilla ice cream may sound blah and boring to some, but it is the most versatile of all the ice cream flavors.
Even though summer is officially over, apple pie season is in full swing. As there is no à la mode without ice cream, stashing a few pints of a sinfully rich ice cream in the freezer now will guarantee that no pie, or tart, arrives at the table under-dressed this fall.
As we have chickens, we have no shortage of eggs, so of course my preference is for making French custard-based ice creams.
Note that this is not a low fat, low calorie, diet frozen dessert. Most low-fat ice cream products make up in sugar what they lack in fat, and are frequently laden with various gums to compensate texturally for the missing fats. In my opinion they barely qualify as ice cream at all. Without cream, it’s false advertising in my book. This is ice cream as it was originally intended, in all of its
artery-hardening decadent glory. Made with pure natural ingredients, with no artificial flavors, it’s well worth the indulgence, but please, consume responsibly.
Note that quality homemade ice cream is the epitome of slow food, and must not be rushed. Cutting corners while making or heating the custard, or during the chilling phase, will result in a grainy less-desirable finished product.
If you were to purchase a high quality, premium, custard-based ice cream, it would likely cost a small fortune for a mere pint. This recipe will make 4 pints for what it would it would cost to purchase a single pint of high quality ice cream at your local market, but it will taste better than most. It does require some forethought and preparation, but once you make your own ice cream, you will never want to go back to store-bought.
Yield: 8 Cups (4 Pints)
2 1/2 Cups Half-and-Half
8 Large Egg Yolks
1 Cup Vanilla Sugar*
1 Whole Vanilla Bean
2 1/2 Cups Whipping Cream
1/8 Tsp Salt
2 Cups Fresh Strawberries, or Raspberries (optional)
Before proceeding, freeze the ice cream churn bowl according to your manufacturer’s directions. If using the Kitchenaid freeze bowl, freeze for at least 15 hours prior to churning. Better yet, just store the bowl in the freezer, then you’re always ready to make ice cream!
For the Custard:
Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, and scrape the seeds into a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pan, and add the scraped pods (they’ll be strained out later).
Pour the half-and-half into the pan with the vanilla and heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming hot, but not boiling. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks, on moderately low speed (speed 2 for a Kitchenaid) until light and creamy. While continuing to whisk, slowly add the vanilla sugar to the eggs, and whisk until the mixture is pale and thickened (also known as the ribbon stage).
Strain the vanilla bean pods from the half-and-half, and set them aside.
While continuing to whisk, slowly add the warm half-and-half to the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Slowly pouring the half-and-half down the inside of the bowl will prevent shocking and curdling the eggs.
Once the half-and-half is thoroughly incorporated, return the entire mixture to the saucepan.
Cook the custard over low heat until the mixture reaches 170F. Do not rush this step, or the texture of the custard will not be all it could be. If you don’t have a thermometer, the custard is done when it is nappe, or coats the back of a spoon.
Transfer the custard mixture to a large bowl, and add the whipping cream and salt. Cover securely, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Don’t rush the chilling stage. If the mixture is not thoroughly chilled before churning, the texture of the finished ice cream will not be as smooth.
Do not panic if at this point you’ve prematurely stolen a taste of the custard and it seems too sweet. Once churned and frozen the level of sweetness will subside considerably.
To Churn the Ice Cream
Remove the churn bowl from the freezer, and fit the dasher assembly, if required.
Start the churn on the lowest speed, and then using a batter bowl with a spout, or a large measuring jug, pour the chilled custard mixture into the freeze bowl. Churn for 15-20 minutes at lowest speed.
Note the mixture will significantly increase in volume as air is incorporated into the custard during churning.
If using the optional fresh fruit, add to the mixture during the last 2-3 minutes of churning.
At the completion of churning the ice cream can be served soft-serve style, or ripened by freezing for 6-8 hours.
If sharing is not an option, and an agreement cannot be reached as to who gets to lick the dasher, I recommend thumb-wrestling for it.
To freeze, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container, or individual ice cream containers, and freeze in the coldest part of your freezer.
The ice cream can be kept frozen for up to 3 months, but seriously, when is homemade ice cream going to last that long!?
Indulge, and enjoy!
*Any time you need to simply scrape vanilla beans (not cook them), the scraped pods can be added to a cup of sugar in an airtight container, and the vanilla will infuse the sugar. This way you’ll always have some vanilla sugar on hand. Leave the pods in the sugar for at least a week before using. If you don’t have vanilla sugar available for this recipe, you can use regular granulated sugar, and add 2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract at the time you add the cream and salt to the custard base.