Vanilla Ice Cream

I’ve had this cooking problem for about two years now. It started about the time I really began building up my cookbook collection and delving in the vast ocean of food blogs that I now follow most diligently follow. The problem was, most of these books and blogs featured recipe after recipe for the most innovative and delicious looking ice creams. And let me tell you now, if presented with an array of fabulous desserts, I will always choose ice cream. I would see these recipes and immediately start reading through the ingredients, my heart racing with delight and excitement. I fervently continued, completely absorbed in the directions until I reached this line: “freeze mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.” Wham! Nothing kills a food buzz quite like suddenly facing the maddening and sad truth that you do not have an ice cream maker.

I have considered buying one for a while. I came extremely close last summer but a little voice in the back of my head kept reminding me that I would soon be studying abroad, then it would be winter, and finally I would be living in a dorm room. What good would an ice cream maker do then? But this summer, I had to succumb. The store-bought stuff just wasn’t cutting it anymore, especially after having spent four months in London eating this at least once a week. I couldn’t take those foamy, airy, flavorless excuses for homemade ice cream anymore. Plus, with the prospects of moving into an apartment this fall, with my ever-handy KitchenAid in tow, what was to stop from finally buying that essential piece of equipment?

Well, nothing. So now I have it, the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment and it might just be the greatest thing I have ever used and my new favorite tool in the kitchen. I got is as an early birthday present (it’s summer right now…why wait to make ice cream) and I have already fallen in love with it. It works amazingly, and now sits in my freezer awaiting a future batch. For my first experimentation with ice-cream making, however, I decided to go for something simple. As hard as it was to avoid bizarre flavors and fun mix-ins, I retrained myself and settled for good ole vanilla. But, I found that plain vanilla, when made at home with good ingredients, was not in the least bit plain.

The recipe used both real vanilla bean (so expensive but so worth the price) and vanilla extract, lots of heavy cream and egg yolks, and sat overnight in the refrigerator to let the flavors develop and mature. What resulted was a vanilla ice cream like I’ve never tasted before. It was so rich and, well, vanilla-y. The amount of vanilla provided this slightly alcoholic taste that was pleasing and sophisticated and, after churning and hardening in the freezer for a few hours, the final result had a smooth and creamy texture. It was also dense yet still light on the tongue and sent my eyes rolling into the back of my head in bliss with every spoonful. With a successful first try, I have a feeling that I’ll be developing a little bit of an obsession here this summer. Many more ice cream recipes to come.

Vanilla Ice Cream
The recipe is exactly as David Lebovitz wrote it on his website. I didn’t want to mess around on my first try and trusted his recipe to lead my in the right direction. I was right to assume he knows what he is doing since it turned out so great. I did have a little mishap at first. After heating the milk and sugar, I added the vanilla and vigorously tried to disperse it in the mixture. I think this was a mistake since the milk immediately curdled. I guess vanilla must have a lot of acid. So on the next try I simply scraped in the seeds and let them sit in a clump, not stirring them around until after they sat in mixture for an hour. I guess this let the milk temper with the acid so when I stirred it later, the milk did not separate.

1 cup whole milk
¾ cup sugar
pinch of salt
½ vanilla bean, split lengthways
2 cups cold heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a sauce pan, combine the milk, sugar, and salt and heat on low until steaming and the sugar is dissolved. Using a paring knife, scrape the vanilla seeds into the milk mixture and then toss in the empty pot. Give the mixture a brief stir them remove from heat and let sit for an hour.

In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks. Once the milk mixture has sat for an hour, return it to a low heat to warm it up some. Add a little bit of the warm milk to the egg yolks and mix to slowly bring up their temperature. Do this a few times. Then, slowly pour the eggs yolks into the milk mixture, whisking constantly.

Continue to cook this custard over a low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula so that is does not burn on the bottom. The mixture will slowly thicken and it is done when it is able to thickly coat the back of the spatula. Meanwhile, pour your cold heavy cream into a bowl and set this in a larger bowl filled with ice water to keep the cream very cold. Place a strainer over the bowl of cream. Once the custard has reached a thick consistency, pour the mixture through the strainer straight into the cream. Stir the custard with the cream until cool. Add the vanilla extract as well as the pieces of the vanilla pod left in the strainer and stir to combine. Place plastic wrap directly over the custard in the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the vanilla bean from the mixture and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to a container and let freeze for a few hours until hardened.