Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Ice cream was once a sign of wealth and privilege by those who could afford ice houses at sumptuous Victorian feasts. The advent of home freezers now makes the art accessible to all—and no less irresistible.

This vanilla bean ice cream recipe is made with a custard base, which can be adapted and flavored with fruit purees, chocolate, or coffee. (See variations below.)–Alison Walker

LC Pure as the Driven Vanilla, Er, Snow Note

Sometimes you don’t need a lot of bling. Sometimes it’s nice to just let your spoon sink into something that tastes pure as the driven snow. Okay, vanilla-enhanced snow. Indulgently rich, creamy, sigh-inducing, vanilla-enhanced snow. This vanilla bean ice cream recipe is for those times. Of course, if you wish to stir in whatever at the end–some crushed black raspberries still warm from the garden, a package of chopped peanut butter cups, a swirl of fig preserves, a handful of chopped nougat–we’re not going to stop you. Not even going to try.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 15 M
  • 1 D, 1 H
  • Makes 1 1/2 pints

Ingredients

  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2/3 cup superfine sugar (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender or food processor until finely ground but not powdery)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Directions

  • 1. Split the bean lengthwise and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape out the seeds. Place the vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan along with the milk. Place over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Remove from the heat and let infuse for 30 minutes.
  • 2. Mix the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl. Remove and discard the vanilla bean from the infused milk. Gradually blend the infused milk into the yolk mixture, using a wooden spoon or a whisk, then set aside while you wash and dry the saucepan you used to infuse the milk.
  • 3. Return the milk mixture to the clean saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard has thickened sufficiently to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Do not allow the mixture to boil or it will curdle.
  • 4. Strain the mixture into a bowl and let it cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, gently pressing the wrap directly against the surface of the custard to prevent a film from forming, then refrigerate until chilled through, maybe 4 to 6 hours if you’re impatient or, preferably, 24 hours if you’re the sort who can tolerate a little anticipation. (Here’s the thing. The longer the custard stands in the refrigerator, the more flavor will develop.)
  • 5. Stir the cream into the custard.

    If using an ice cream maker, follow the manufacturer’s directions.

    If using your own devices, transfer the mixture into a shallow freezer-proof container, such as a roasting pan, and freeze until ice crystals form at the edges, about 2 hours. Turn it into a bowl and beat with a hand-held electric mixer or a whisk. Pour the mixture back into the container and return to the freezer. Repeat every 2 hours until the ice cream is completely frozen.

Just a handful of the infinite number of variations you can conjure…

  • Honey Ice Cream: Stir in 2 tablespoons honey when you add the cream.
  • Nutmeg Ice Cream: Stir in 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg when you add the cream.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Susan Bingaman

May 25, 2012

Vanilla bean is my favorite ice cream flavor. This version is pretty great. I’m a big texture person and I love the rich creamy base and the crunch of the seeds from the vanilla bean. I can see making the custard in the morning (or even the night before) and mixing in the cream and churning when we’re ready for dinner, I mean dessert. The ice cream doesn’t need to be hardened–it’s perfect to eat just out of the ice cream maker. However, I might decrease the sugar just a bit and add a pinch of salt. It’s a bit on the sweet side for me.


Comments
Comments
  1. David Leite says:

    When Renee says in the LC note that this recipe is pure, she’s right. It’s absolutely virginal. Last week The One and I bought a new electric ice cream maker in preparation for the summer, and we had to christen it with this recipe. Now, I’m not a vanilla fan in the least, and if it ain’t chocolate, it ain’t for The One. We tend to think of vanilla as a default flavor as it usually tastes bland, artificial, or like it’s been sitting in the freezer for months.

    But this recipe is voluptuous, creamy, and powerful. We used a Tahitian vanilla bean, and instead of ditching it after steeping it in the milk for 30 minutes, we kept it in the mixture until the very last minute–right before we started churning. The color of our booty was more yellow than the ice cream in the picture, and I loved the nearly imperceptible crunch of the seeds, as they gave off a tiny pop of extra vanilla flavor.

    Being us, we made two quarts of the stuff—two pints were snow-driven pure vanilla, two were caramel swirl. I made a batch of homemade caramel (I just cooked sugar and water until it turned the color of a copper penny, then poured in some cream and added a pinch of salt). When I tested the caramel by freezing some in a dish, it was as hard as brittle candy, and I wanted flowing, seductive, luscious caramel oozing from the vanilla ice cream. I wrote David Lebovitz, the king of ice cream, and he said to add some vodka to the caramel. It’s tasteless and doesn’t freeze, so it prevents the caramel from hardening.

    Well. I added about 1/4 cup to a pint of caramel, and swirled the gooey mess into the two remaining pints of ice cream. Holy go to war. It was truly the best ice cream I’ve ever made–and I say this having spent years perfecting my pistachio gelato.

    We had our friends Carlotta and Ed over for a summer supper of ribs, potato salad, and ice cream. For a few years now Carlotta has prattled on about how fabulous the ice cream is from some dairy in Nowhereville, Connecticut. I just waited and watched her face. Spoonful one, surprise. Spoonful two, a check to make sure taste one wasn’t wrong. Spoonful three, all memories of that godforsaken dairy were wiped away.

    I urge anyone who has even the most remote interest in ice cream to make this. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

    [Confession: I cheated. I didn't bother to wait 4 to 6 hours for the custard to chill through. I just poured it into a metal bowl and set that in a larger metal bowl filled with ice and water. Thirty minutes later I was churning, baby.]

    • Jacqui says:

      David, your ice cream sounds AMAZING! I couldn’t resist chiming in because reading that you turned to DL while in the grips of a caramel conundrum sounds like something I’d do (and I am not a friend of his).

      However, I was once making his banana cake and had a serious icing question. I wrote to him on his blog as I set off for work, and by the time I arrived at my desk, he’d responded. And I live half a world away from his home in Paris! He’s the guy you turn to in a fix! Maybe it’s a David thing. You guys are both awesome. A toast to caramel ice cream. Salted, of course.

      • David Leite says:

        Darling Jacqui, the ice cream is amazing. That caramel was killer. I’m going to bottle it and sell it as body lotion.

        David Lebovitz is a great guy. He’s very thoughtful with his readers and very careful with his recipes. The One and I will have the distinct pleasure of cooking and dining with him at his Paris apartment next week. (Yes, I’ll take lots of pictures and go to the bathroom often to tweet!)

        • jacqui says:

          WOW! To me, this feels like the equivalent of when Laverne and Shirley would pop up on an episode of “Happy Days.” Double joy! I can only imagine how much fun you’re going to have. Please make public all the details/photos/tidbits you can share. Have a great trip!

          (….so, did I do an all right job of sounding only happy for you and not insanely jealous?)

          • David Leite says:

            Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time I’ve been likened to Laverne and Shirley. If technology wills it, I’ll send lots of details. (And, yes, I admire your acting job immensely!)

  2. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Natasha Roetter] I LOVE ice cream. I’m not one of those fair-weather ice cream eaters, who only indulges in a cone when it’s a perfect, say, 80-degree day on the boardwalk. I am a harsh critic, and, to be honest, vanilla doesn’t usually jazz me too much. I’m much more a chocolate gal. But this rich, creamy, easy-to-make ice cream is fantastic. It’s no more labor intensive than any other ice cream, and tastes just fine without superfine sugar (I didn’t even blitz my granulated sugar in the blender and the ice cream came out fine). It takes about five hours to be completely chilled. I will say, as is the case with most homemade ice creams, that its best the day you make it. This isn’t uncommon, though.

  3. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Amy Iacopi] Not sure what to say about this other than that it’s rich and perfectly delicious. I’ve found my go-to vanilla ice cream! The only thing I would change next time is to maybe add a little vanilla extract to the milk mixture to intensify the vanilla flavor. Also, I infused the mixture in the fridge for 24 hours.

  4. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Lori Widmeyer] When the first words you hear out of your family members’ mouths are “OH MY,” you know it must be great! I was leery of this recipe because it did not call for any vanilla extract, and I wondered if the vanilla bean would be enough flavor. But I had just received an order from Spice Barn and they sent me a free bag of Madagascar vanilla beans, which were more plump and tender than ones I have bought at the store, so I was excited to try this. I loved all the dark flecks of vanilla in the custard-like ice cream, but barely got to taste it myself as it was consumed so quickly. I did change one thing. In a hurry to try the ice cream I completed the first three steps, then instead of putting the mixture into the refrigerator I put it in the freezer for about one hour, making sure several times it was just cooling and not starting to freeze. I then moved it to the refrigerator for an hour before adding the cream and putting the cooled mixture into the ice cream maker. The only thing that made this recipe better was when my husband put some on top of a warm Krispy Kreme donut–the perfect storm of warm/cold, creamy and not too sweet/gooey and very sweet….wow.

    • Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

      [Lori Widmeyer] Had to make a follow up comment about this ice cream recipe. I have made it 2 more times since my original testing, the second time I quadrupled the recipe. I got in a rush and did not strain the ice cream, then I realized my tiny ice cream maker will only make 1 recipe at a time so some of the mix sat in the refrigerator 2 days. Still turned out perfect! Everyone agreed it is the best vanilla ice cream they have ever tried! Thank you for another great recipe!!

  5. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Marilee Johnson] This was a rich, creamy, vanilla-y cold delight! I didn’t strain the mixture as it was very smooth and I like vanilla beans in ice cream. I chilled it overnight and the next day used an ice cream maker, and it did a beautiful job. I would definitely make this again.

  6. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Robert McCune] I always seem to try variations of chocolate, fruit and exotic flavors of ice cream, but for some reason I rarely make vanilla. Past experiences have only been so-so, because I was either trying to cut down on fat or sugar or I was using vanilla extract instead of the bean. This is a case of “less is more.” There are only five ingredients, but good quality, high fat ones. This is truly ice CREAM, not some watered down substitute! This is rich enough that you don’t feel that you need an extra bowl to be satisfied. Put this together early in the day, chill and put it in the ice cream maker before dinner and voila, dessert awaits! I will try this as a base for other ice cream flavors this summer.

  7. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Emily Olson] Pretty darn good. In a future life, I want to return as a vanilla bean. The ice cream really benefits from the step of steeping the milk and vanilla bean. Skipping this 30-minute part would be a bad idea. Once put into the refrigerator, the mixture cooled in three hours. I also used an ice cream machine and put the ice cream in the freezer to finish hardening, probably another hour. Really simple and delicious. Nothing “fake” about the vanilla flavor.

  8. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Julie Dreyfoos] Simple ingredients, big flavor. This vanilla ice cream is a breeze to make and the texture is very smooth and creamy. The addition of heavy cream at the end allows the custard to really absorb the flavor of the vanilla but does not overpower the custard. This recipe is a good base for endless possibiities.

  9. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Larry Noak] This is my favorite ice cream. It’s as good as, and usually far better than, any ice cream that you can get commercially. Anyone with a stove and a freezer can make this. No heavy machinery, no salt, no ice, etc. I use this for every occasion, and I even make ice cream sandwiches with it. I also substitute a cup of French roast coffee beans for the vanilla bean and make one of the finest coffee ice creams ever. As always, make a double batch; you won’t be sorry.

  10. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Kristen Kennedy] I just started the custard for this recipe, which I’ve made many times, and realized I’ve never left a comment on it. We love ice cream and this recipe is tops. My husband now refuses to eat any store-bought variety.This recipe is simple and straightforward and the taste is positively decadent. The hardest part about it is keeping little (and big) fingers out of the custard while it’s chilling! I did receive one complaint, though. “Why didn’t you make that amazing Classic Apple Pie to go with it?!” Men!

  11. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Lori Widmeyer] At a recent appointment to the oral surgeon’s office we found out both my sons need to have their wisdom teeth out. The doctor, a good friend, was going through the standard talk and mentioned using a straw and eating only soft foods when one of my sons said “YES! Mom, will you make the Vanilla Bean Ice Cream?” I agreed it was the perfect thing to take their mind off any pain. Later that night the doctor’s wife called to request the recipe. This ice cream is so good, my teenage sons are no longer dreading surgery!

  12. Oh, the irony! The ad that I’m looking at right now that appeared at the end of this post….after I’ve lusted for your Vanilla Bean ice cream….is for TreadClimber: get to your goal weight fast–just walking. This proves my theory that I gain weight from looking at food. I’ve always known that. Apparently, the ad world knows it, too.

  13. Yep. It’s official. I’m TOTALLY making this ice cream. I have 12 egg yolks just begging to be used so I’ll be sure to make this recipe right away! Sorry I have to rush away, now. I have to get to the store for all the missing ingredients!

  14. P.R. Bain says:

    Finally! A recipe for my favourite flavour of ice cream…and I don’t even need to get an ice cream maker for my KitchenAid…life just doesn’t get any better! Can’t wait to make it and try it…thanks so much!

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      P.R. Bain, you’re welcome. We’re happy to see so many vanilla-lovers in the crowd today. Enjoy it!

  15. Eric Noak says:

    I am just about to indulge in this SPECTACULAR treat. I used regular, granulated sugar, as I could not locate superfine on short notice. I also used nothing more than a wooden spoon and, the results are PERFECTION!

  16. Svetlana says:

    I’m going to preapare this amazing ice cream for my little vanilla ice cream lovers. Just clear please, I haven’t whip the heavy cream?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Good morning, Svetlana, and lovely to hear that you’ve taught your little ones well in terms of the best ice cream flavor. No ma’am, no need to whip the heavy cream.

      • Svetlana says:

        Thank you for comment. I did it!!! Was not easy task for me, because I have no ice cream maker yet. Also first portion of custard curled, but at the end I have a batch of delicious ice cream. It was very interesting experience. The structure was not so smooth as it would have been if processed in the ice cream maker. But the taste is great, even my two-year-old daughter really loves this. Thank you for great recipes.

        • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

          You are so very welcome, Svetlana! We are ridiculously in love with this recipe and glad to hear you are, too. Just curious, how did you make the ice cream? Did you freeze it in a pan and stir occasionally? Or…?

          • Svetlana says:

            Yes, exactly as described in “If using your own devices” section. I froze the ice cream in a pan and whipped it every 2 hours using a hand mixer. It’s certainly not the most effective method, and I suppose the texture can be slightly better if using a special device. But it gives me an opportunity to feel the whole process, before purchasing an unnecessary kitchen gadget that only costs and takes space in the kitchen.

            • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

              Understand completely, Svetlana. I refused to buy an ice cream maker for years, literally more than a decade, before finally doing exactly as you—making a batch by hand to see if I thought I’d make ice cream often enough to warrant investing the money and space in a machine. (We ended up getting one as a wedding present, and I’m so glad we did!) Thanks so much for sharing your experience, look forward to hearing about the next recipe you try!

  17. Cherie says:

    I made this delicious ice cream last week for a group of friends for “game night”. Because I have 2 freezer bowls for my Cuisinart ice cream maker, I couldn’t make just one batch, could I?

    I doubled the recipe and the only change I made was adding approximately 3-4 (+?) tablespoons of Vanilla Bean Puree (Heilala’ brand) in addition to the split vanilla beans (Heilala brand). I added the puree after the cooking process and as it was cooling. I had never used vanilla bean puree before, but I read the puree should be used in the same proportions as vanilla extract. I allowed the mixture to chill over night and pulled the beans out and scraped them right before processing. I love seeds in a vanilla bean ice cream and the puree was a great addition.

    To the 2nd batch I added about 1 cup (?) of chopped dark red cherries and some mini semi sweet chocolate chips about half way through the churning process. I really did not pay attention to how much I was adding, but I think there was a bite or two of cherry and chips in every spoon full but not overwhelmingly sweet.

    The ice cream was easy to make, creamy, smooth, and delicious. This will definitely be my go to recipe for ice cream. I can’t wait to make it again.

    • Beth Price says:

      I must try that vanilla bean puree, Cherie, as it sounds wonderful. As do the cherries and chocolate chips!

  18. Tresa Oliveri says:

    My ice cream maker has a one gallon capacity. To create enough custard do I simply multiply the ingredients or should i modify any of the amounts?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Tresa, you should be fine to multiply out the ingredients. Let us know how it comes out!

  19. Meikda says:

    Just made this using 6 egg yolks. The best Ice cream that I have ever made. I will not be buying any more store bought ice cream again.

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