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Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

A plastic container filled with vanilla bean ice cream with a metal ice cream scoop resting in it.
This ice cream is made with a custard base which can be adapted and flavored with fruit purees, chocolate, or coffee. It keeps for up to 1 month in the freezer.
Alison Walker

Prep 15 mins
Chill 1 d
Total 1 d 1 hr
Dessert
American
6
328 kcal

Equipment

  • Ice cream maker (optional)

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 until finely ground but not powdery)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream

Directions 

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.

Notes

Can I vary this vanilla bean ice cream?

Here's just a handful of the infinite number of variations you can conjure...
Honey Ice Cream: Stir in 2 tablespoons of honey when you add the cream.
Nutmeg Ice Cream: Stir in 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg when you add the cream. This is also very, very good with cinnamon. 
Fruit Swirl Ice Cream: Stir in a couple of spoonfuls of fig jam or strawberry compote after taking it out of the ice cream maker.