My favorite ice cream is vanilla, people tell me this is a boring choice – but, I mean… it goes with everything! It’s not that I don’t love cookies ‘n’ cream, salted caramel, raspberry sherbet – you name it – I’m eating it (ice cream love runs in our family genes)! But vanilla really has my heart with it’s simple perfection, it simply never gets old. That being said, there’s plenty of vanilla ice cream out there I’d rather not eat, you know the kind with the weird fake vanilla flavor? This ice cream is another story all together, it’s made with a whole vanilla bean, and it’s the best vanilla I’ve ever had!
There aren’t really any health claims attached to this ice cream (other than being gluten free) – it’s a full egg yolk and heavy cream, custard based ice cream, (and yeah, it’s amazing). I usually go through the work of making a custard ice cream a few times a year for special occasions – i.e. Thanksgiving or in this case huckleberry season (above photo). Certain occasions seem to call for certain foods, (or is this just me)? I just can’t let a summer go by without a few bowls of homemade vanilla ice cream paired with the best local summer fruits!
Ice Cream Making Tips:
I went through a crazy ice cream faze, (lasting for years) during which I made at least 1 batch per week, and sometimes more in the summer. One thing I learned is they’ll tell you to cook your custard base to 170ºF, but it will ‘scramble your eggs’ every time! I think the temperature is a guideline to make sure your eggs are not raw, but you want to cook the custard only to the point when it starts to thicken, but not boiling. If you see it start to bubble, immediately remove it from the heat and whisk in the cold heavy cream to cool it down. If this happens, be sure not to let the whisk touch the bottom of the pan where some of the custard has scrambled. Then you simply pour it through a fine mesh sieve leaving any solid custard at the bottom of the pan.
I don’t want to make this sound harder than it is, but I’ve had several phone calls from friends complaining about their custards scrambling at 170ºF. I always give them my tips, (earned from scrambling my own custards) and their next batch turns out fine. So… I thought I’d give you my 2 cents about what I’ve learned along the way, and maybe you won’t have to learn the hard way!
When the custard has thickened, it will stay on a spoon without running right off, but it won’t be as thick as a normal baked custard which is almost solid. I’d have to say it’s about half as thick as a pudding.
Once the custard has thickened, you whisk in the cold heavy cream to cool down the mixture. Then, I always pour it through a fine mesh sieve to make sure there aren’t any bits. I like to pick out the vanilla beans, and put them back into the strained mixture to steep as the custard cools. When it’s thoroughly chilled, make sure to scrape the vanilla beans before you freeze the custard – quite a few seeds, and lots of vanilla flavor comes from this step!
When it’s frozen, it will be similar to soft serve. For a firmer texture, place it in the freezer for 6-8 hours – you want a firmer ice cream if you plan on putting hot fudge sauce over the top, or if you’re serving it with a warm peach crisp!
I hope you enjoy this classic with the best fruits summer has to offer! So far we’ve had it with huckleberries, peaches, and cherries – we ran out of ice cream before I got any further, but there could be an affogato in my near future! Affogato is the Italian dessert were they pour hot espresso over vanilla gelato – it literally means drowned, which seems perfect – anything ‘drowned’ in espresso sounds good to me!
- 8 egg yolks
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
- 2 cups half and half
- 1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
- ¼ Teaspoon sea salt
- 2 cup heavy whipping cream
- Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they're combined, then slowly whisk in the half and half.
- Add the vanilla bean and sea salt and begin to cook your custard over medium heat, whisking constantly.
- It will take 10-15 minutes for your custard to fully thicken over medium heat. I don't recommend turning up the burner though because it's too easy to wreck a custard over high heat. Most ice cream recipes call for a double boiler system to cook the custard - I've done it both ways many times and I don't find the double boiler necessary at all. In fact it doubles the cooking time, so you end up at the stove for 30 minutes!
- Once the custard thickens (but does not come to a boil) remove it from the heat source and pour in the heavy cream.
- Whisk to combine and strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. At this point, you can add the vanilla beans back to the custard to steep while it cools in the refrigerator 6 hours or overnight.
- When the custard is chilled, remove the vanilla beans being sure to scrape out any extra seeds, and freeze the ice cream according to your manufacturer's instructions.
- I use a 2-quart Cuisinart ice cream maker and it takes around 15 minutes to freeze my ice cream. You'll know it's ready when it's frozen enough to stay on a spoon without sliding right off.
- When the ice cream is frozen, it will be like soft serve. It will take an additional 6-8 hours in the freezer for a firm, fully frozen ice cream.
- This ice cream is perfect right out of the freezer, and only needs 5 minutes on the counter for a softer texture.
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