Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
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.
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.
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.