Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

I love ice cream. I mean I really LOVE ice cream. Someone once asked me what three things I would bring with me if I were stuck on a desert island. My answer was my husband, my daughter, and an endless supply of ice cream (luckily they didn’t make me prioritize).

We used to keep two store bought cartons in my freezer at all times. But since we received an ice cream maker as a wedding present, store bought ice cream has no place in our freezer. It was rough in the beginning. Our ice creams often would not have the rich creamy texture I wanted and they would get icy after a couple days. But, once we figured out that custard-based ice creams behave well, that's all we make. However, I hate making custard. It requires patience, and lots of stirring over a stove. This is where Mr. F comes in. He slaves away over the stove and makes the custard that ends up being the delicious ice cream. Actually, in our house, ice cream is joint venture. I usually figure out the recipe, prepare the egg yolks, split the vanilla bean, and churn the ice cream with appropriate mix-ins. And Mr. F does everything involving the stove top: heating the milk, making caramel if necessary, stirring custard, etc. Ice cream is the one thing we always make together.

A good vanilla is a staple in our freezer. And vanilla beans are what make it awesome. You can use an extract, and it will be good, but vanilla beans make it extra special. Lately, I have been loving Mexican vanilla, which provides a lovely creamy taste. Tahitian vanilla is also great, with a stronger more floral taste. These two are my favorites, but to be honest, we always get a great vanilla ice cream when we use a whole vanilla bean.

This recipe is somewhat labor intensive, but it is yummy. It’s a perfect match for a slice of apple pie, some fresh berries, or jimmies.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream


1 ½ cups heavy cream

1 ½ cups whole milk

1 vanilla bean

¾ cup sugar

6 egg yolks


Split vanilla bean pod lengthwise and scrape beans out. Place beans and pod in a saucepan with cream and milk. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until steaming (165° F). Cover and remove from heat. Let steep for 30 minutes.

While steeping, prepare fine mesh strainer over medium bowl. Place this in a bowl in a large bowl about 1/3 filled with cold water. This will be used to strain (removes any cooked eggs or vanilla scrapings) and cool the custard.

In a small/medium bowl, combine egg yolks with about half of the sugar. Whisk until sugar is mostly dissolved, the color is a soft yellow and your arm is dead (about 4 minutes).

After the vanilla milk is done steeping, remove the vanilla pods. Add remaining sugar to milk mixture. Heat mixture over medium-low heat until steaming again. Temper the eggs by very slowly adding hot milk mixture to the egg mixture while constantly whisking. Add about 2 cups of the milk mixture to the eggs in ¼ cup increments. (Whole tempering process takes about 5 minutes.)

Dump the egg/milk mixture back into the saucepan and heat slowly over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened (175° F). Remove from heat and pour through sieve into bowl over water bath.

Refresh water a couple of times to speed cooling. When custard is at room temperature, cover and refrigerate. It is best to chill overnight, but if in a pinch, a few hours will do.

Churn in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a quart size container* and freeze.

* I really like one-quart yogurt tubs. They hold up better at low temperatures than the Ziploc and Gladware containers.

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