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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.
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