Simple and comforting, Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is what to serve for sundaes or milkshakes. But make no mistake, this rich and flavorful ice cream is better than any you can buy!
I wanted a milkshake. Seems simple enough, doesn't it?
The thing is, I wanted a good quality milkshake, made from ingredients I could pronounce. And I wanted it rich, thick, and chocolatey.
My Dear Husband has been making me the best milkshakes for years, always using vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup. I made the chocolate syrup...it was easy, fast, with ingredients that I had in the pantry. While I was at it, I made a batch of dark chocolate hot fudge, you know, just in case he wanted a sundae.
Great milkshakes and great sundaes start with great vanilla ice cream, and the best comes from my kitchen in the form of Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. It's also not hard to make, but it does require some advanced planning.
The steps to making ice cream at home
There are two ways to make ice cream at home. The first one involves taking a chilled sweetened cream base and...uhm...freezing it.
That's right, if your ice cream maker is ready (mine needs to be chilled for 15 hours before use), then you can just combine milk and cream, flavor and sweeten it as you prefer, and churn away. You'll have ice cream in about 30 minutes. Well, add in the chilling time required to firm up the ice cream, about 2-3 hours, so let's say 3-½ hours.
What this technique produces is a serviceable ice cream.
If you want great ice cream, then you'll want to go with the second way. You make a Crème Anglaise custard (aka Vanilla Sauce) in the flavor you want, thoroughly chill it (usually overnight), then churn it.
What this technique gives you is a richer base, hence a richer final product. For me there's the added benefit that, since the base is cooked, the lactose is altered so that I can digest it better. My tummy likes that.
What you need to make a vanilla custard base
First and foremost, real vanilla beans.
All the flavor comes from the type of vanilla bean you use. Whichever country of origin's beans you choose, adding the floral notes that real vanilla beans bring takes this recipe for vanilla ice cream to a sublime level.
In the spirit of Earth Day, there is also the added benefit of being able to make your own vanilla extract from the spent beans. (Yay recycling!)
You can use vanilla extract if you'd like, just make sure it's the best quality you can find.
Here are the other ingredients you'll need for a Vanilla Bean Ice Cream recipe:
- Heavy Cream: The rich mouthfeel of custard, whether frozen or baked, comes from heavy cream. If you only use milk for ice cream, you'll get ice milk, and that's just sad.
- Milk: Contributes to the mouthfeel like cream. Depending on the kind of milk you use, it can cut the overall level of dairy fat (like using non-fat milk) up to enhancing it (using whole milk). I use 1% milk because I like the level of cream without producing ice cream that just coats your mouth
- Egg Yolks: Provides richness, but really helps to thicken the cream into a real custard
- Sugar: The sweetness has to come from somewhere!
How to make Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Cut the vanilla bean in half, then split the halves lengthwise. Scrape the seeds into the milk-and-cream mixture, then throw the pods in the pot for good measure.
Heat the milk mixture until just simmering (you don't want it to boil), and let the the whole thing steep for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with sugar and cream. In order to avoid bits of scrambled egg in your custard, gradually add some of the milk mixture to the yolk mixture to slowly raise its temperature (a technique called tempering the eggs). Once it's warmed up a bit, add it back into the milk mixture.
Cook the custard gently until it's thickened. Then strain it through a strainer and chill, first in an ice bath, then overnight.
After churning, you'll have soft ice cream, so it's best to let it harden up in the freezer for a couple of hours (called ripening the ice cream).
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream heaven
This vanilla ice cream recipe produces a product that's rich, flavorful, and satisfying, without having that "fat-coated" mouthfeel you sometimes get with cheap ice creams.
As I said in the beginning, my Dear Husband makes the best milkshakes, and he didn't disappoint me here. Thick and chocolatey with chunks of unmixed Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, this is the milkshake I was hoping for.
And I didn't forget about him...he loved his Hot Fudge sundae!
This may have started out as a milkshake craving, but it turned into so much more! Now we have delicious vanilla ice cream for "ala mode" opportunities (Skillet Hot Fudge Pudding Cake, anyone?) or just a comforting scoop in a bowl.
It's as simple as that!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
Custards come in many forms, but the method is similar across the board. Luckily, the technique is easy to master, and you'll be able to make a whole range of treats!
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Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
- 1½ cups milk
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar plus 2 Tablespoons
- Combine the milk and 1 cup of the heavy cream in a saucepan. Using the tip of a sharp knife, split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk mixture, then add the vanilla bean. Heat over medium heat until small bubbles form and it starts to steam, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, sugar, and the remaining ½ cup of heavy cream. Whisk until smooth and sugar is dissolved.
- Remove the milk mixture from the heat. Slowly add ½ cup of the warm milk to the egg mixture while continuously whisking. Add another ½ cup of milk and whisk again.
- Pour the warmed egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk. Bring to a simmer over medium heat (do not boil). Cook until thickened, stirring constantly, about 4 to 6 minutes. It should coat the back of the spoon and leave a trail when you draw your finger through it.
- Strain the custard through a fine mesh strainer into a clean bowl, then discard the vanilla bean (see Recipe Notes).
- Put the bowl in an ice bath (half ice/half water). Stir occasionally until cooled. Place a piece of plastic wrap of the surface of the custard and refrigerate until chilled, at least 3 hours or overnight.
- Pour the custard into an ice cream maker and freeze per the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container and smooth over using a small offset spatula. Freeze for 2 to 4 hours to allow ice cream to firm up. Serve and enjoy!