United States is the world's largest consumer of ice cream. Of all the
flavors, Vanilla Ice Cream is the most popular. While there are
excellent brands of commercial ice cream, if you have kids you will find
they enjoy the
whole process of pouring the custard into the ice cream machine and watching
it churn until you end up with a deliciously rich and creamy smooth ice
This Vanilla Ice Cream recipe starts with a custard base made with
just four ingredients - cream, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla. The
cream gives the ice cream its rich and creamy taste. Sugar is added for
sweetness and smoothness
and the eggs are necessary for
smoothness, richness, and color. Now, since this is
'vanilla' ice cream, vanilla takes center stage. You can use a vanilla bean, pure vanilla extract, or vanilla
bean paste. First, if using a vanilla bean it imparts a wonderful complexity of flavors and aromas
to the custard. I love how the small dark vanilla seeds dot the ice
cream. Vanilla beans are most commonly sold in small plastic cylinders
in specialty grocery stores and some health food stores. Look for beans that
are shiny and black, tender, plump and moist. Never buy hard, dry and shriveled
beans because they are past their prime. The great thing about the vanilla
pod, is that once you have removed the seeds and have added them to the
custard base. The pod can then be rinsed, dried, and placed in your
container of granulated white sugar which in a week or two will give you
vanilla flavored sugar.
If you decide to use vanilla extract in the ice cream, instead of the
vanilla bean, it is important to use "pure" vanilla extract. Imitation
vanilla extracts leave a bitter
after taste. Products labeled 'Vanilla Flavoring' are a combination of
pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla extract and should not be used.
Lastly, you can use Vanilla Bean Paste. It has the convenience of pure vanilla
extract but it also contains those wonderful small black vanilla seeds
that make the ice cream look so good. It can often be found in specialty
food stores or on line.
Getting back to the recipe. It is best to make the custard base the night before
as it needs time to chill sufficiently so it will freeze in the ice cream
the churn gets too warm. The custard should only fill your ice cream
machine about half to two thirds full. This is so the custard has enough
room to expand while it freezes so you end up with an ice cream with a
light texture and no graininess. Usually the ice cream is still quite soft once
it has been churned in the machine, so put it into a storage container and
place it in the freezer for a few hours before serving. This also allows
the flavors to mellow. Although I prefer to eat homemade ice cream the day
it is made, it can be stored for a few weeks in the freezer. It will
become quite hard after being frozen for any length of time so transfer it
to the refrigerator to let it soften.
Vanilla Ice Cream: In a small
saucepan, over medium-high heat (or in the microwave), bring the half-and-half and the vanilla
bean (if using) to the scalding point (the milk just begins to foam up). Remove from heat, take out the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds from
the bean with the back of a knife, and mix the seeds back into the
Meanwhile in a
stainless steel bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. You can do this with a wire whisk or a hand mixer. Gradually pour the scalding
half-and-half into the whipped egg yolk mixture, making sure you keep
whisking constantly so the eggs don't curdle. If any lumps do
form, strain the mixture first before heating.
Place the bowl
over a saucepan of simmering water and, stirring constantly with a
wooden spoon, cook until the custard thickens enough that it coats the
back of a spoon (170 degrees F) (77 degrees C). The term 'coat a
spoon' is a technique used mainly as a way to
test when an egg-based custard or sauce is done. A spoon, usually
wooden, is placed in the custard and, when the spoon is raised, the film
of custard on the back of the spoon will stay in place even when you
draw a line with your finger through the middle of the custard.
remove the custard from the heat and continue to stir the custard for a
few minutes so it does not overcook. At this point stir in the
vanilla extract, if using. Cover and let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate the custard until it is
cold (several hours but preferably overnight).
Transfer the cold
custard to the chilled container of your ice cream machine and process
according to the manufacturer's instructions. Once made, transfer the
ice cream to a chilled container and store in the freezer. If the ice
cream becomes too hard place in the refrigerator until softened.
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