When I take Hal to swimming lessons, Mr. Noah always asks, “What’s your favorite ice cream.” (He teaches them to swim by scooping ice cream through the water.) Hal always responds with, “Vanilla.” And Mr. Noah always waits, even after the vanilla proclamation, expecting a new ice cream flavor. A less, you know, vanilla flavor. No, not from this family. We love a good old-fashioned homemade vanilla ice cream. One that’s creamy and super scoopable straight out of the freezer with no trace of ice. That’s this recipe.
How to make creamy vanilla ice cream
There are a couple of things to know about pulling off a creamy homemade vanilla ice cream. You’d think by just adding heavy cream to your ice cream that it would be creamy. Not necessarily so. While ice cream does need a high level of fat to produce something creamy and delicious when frozen, it also needs a thickener. If you look at the back of the ice cream carton from the store, you might see things like gums and starches. That’s one way to do it. But it adds no flavor in the process. For that reason, I love to lean on good old-fashioned egg yolks. They are rich and creamy and at-the-ready in the fridge. When combined with the hot milk and heavy cream, it turns into a creamy custard, yielding a good old-fashioned homemade vanilla ice cream.
How to temper egg yolks
Now, before you start making the vanilla ice cream, let’s talk about how to temper eggs, aka how to start cooking them before adding them to the entire mixture. To do so, whisk the eggs and a bit of the sugar together until creamy and slightly more pale than when you started. Now we’re going to temper the eggs, begin cooking them. When pouring a hot liquid into egg yolks, they cook fast, so fast you may end up scrambling the eggs. Instead, pour a little bit of the hot cream in at a time, whisking constantly as you pour.
Imagine cooking scrambled eggs. Once the eggs hit the heat of the pan, they begin to firm up. The same thing will happen when the heat is coming from the top, from the liquid. So, whisk constantly and pour a little bit at a time. You’ve got this creamy homemade vanilla ice cream in the bag!
Oh, and Mr. Noah, just a heads up. She’s gonna say vanilla ice cream this week and next week and probably the week after.
A simple, creamy recipe for old-fashioned homemade vanilla ice cream made with heavy cream, whole milk, yolks, and sugar. (Note: This 10-year-old recipe was updated June 2021. I swapped the additional ingredient of half and half for equal parts heavy cream and milk. One less ingredient to buy with the same great results.)
2 1/2 c. whole milk
2 c. heavy cream
1 c. + 2 tbsp. pure cane sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. flaky kosher salt
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven, large enough to hold the liquids if they were to double in size, combine the whole milk, heavy cream, 1 cup of the sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine.
Heat over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves and begins to simmer, whisking occasionally so as not to scald the mixture. Turn down the heat as necessary.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of sugar until creamy and slightly more pale than when you began, about 1 minute. Set aside.
Once the milk mixture comes to a low simmer, carefully measure out about one cup. Pour about 1/3 of it into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to temper the eggs. (You’ll want to work quickly and constantly here so that you don’t curdle/scramble the egg as you temper them.) Whisk in the remaining milk, whisking constantly to combine. Now add the egg mixture into the saucepan, whisking continually. Cook for about 1-2 minutes more until the mixture begins to thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour mixture in a large bowl over a fine-mesh sieve to catch any egg clumps. Cover and place in the fridge to cool, about 3 hours. To speed up the cooling process, place a bowl in an ice bath or place in the freezer sans ice bath for 30 minutes.
Once the mixture is cold, make ice cream according to your machine’s instructions. Ice cream is best after an overnight freeze post churning.
Here’s the Ice Cream Maker I use. It’s necessary that the basin is completely frozen before use, about 24 hours, so plan accordingly.
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