Sunday, July 18, 2010

French-Style Vanilla Ice Cream

What better way to celebrate National Ice Cream day than to bust out the ice cream maker and churn up a batch! I have been thumbing through The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz for the past few weeks and each time I look I find new flavors that I want to try out. Having said that, you'll notice that I don't have a recipe for something unusual like black pepper or avocado or even something fruity like plum, but just plain old vanilla. Although to my husband it wouldn't be said with the words "just plain old", it would be his given choice of ice cream. In fact, it was his choice, and since I can add in many different mix-ins I agreed to make homemade vanilla ice cream.

When we've made ice cream in the past we have chosen the no-cook recipes out of the recipe book that came with our ice cream maker. I was completely enlightened when reading Lebovitz's book though and have finally figured out why our homemade ice cream in the past was more like ice milk rather than ice cream. To get the creamier ice creams you have to cook the custard before you churn and freeze it. He tells about two different styles of ice cream, the French style which is the cooked custard that is richer and creamier and then the Philadelphia style that is not cooked but also not quite as fattening. We chose to go all the way this time and actually make the French-Style Vanilla Ice Cream. The process wasn't really that much more difficult than the non-cooked style and I can attest to the fact that it was infinitely more creamy and rich than our homemade ice creams in the past.

                                                                  Cooking the custard

                                                      Putting it through a fine mesh strainer

                                                                  Ready to get churned

                                                       Churned and ready to go in the freezer

I found my recipe in The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, but you can find a modified version online. Our favorite mix-ins were chocolate chunks and chopped toffee-coated macadamia nuts (left over from our trip to Hawaii). We also had crushed Oreo cookies, mini chocolate chips, m&m's, and chopped Andes mints. Enjoy!

French-Style Vanilla Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean
5 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, and salt in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the warm milk; add the bean as well. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Put the vanilla bean into the custard, add the vanilla extract, and stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. When ready to churn, remove the vanilla bean, rinsing and reserving it for another use, and then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.