vanilla bean custard ice cream

Yes, I’m aware that Summer is over, but since moving to Portland, I’ve learned not to wait for the sun’s permission to do anything, especially eat ice cream.  When a craving strikes, I go into black-bear-approaching-hibernation mode.  Though my stores are plentiful, I reason the gluttony by reminding myself (and those who try to judge) that a bowl of ice cream is really just a glass of milk.  And it is almost Winter…

This ice cream begins with best custard I’ve ever had.  Ever.  Not just because it’s my mom’s unscripted, going-off-memory, over-the-phone recipe, but because it’s rich, creamy and dispels the myth that vanilla is “plain.”  Only five ingredients, a little swirling of the whisk and patience will take you far.  No restaurant or dessert shop I’ve visited makes it better.  Sorry, fancy school-trained pastry chefs, my mom– despite her antipathy of my dark hair and wardrobe– is, indeed, better than you.

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Materials  (makes about a quart and a half)
1 cup half & half
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup flour (omit in ice cream)
3/4 – 1 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 Tbsp vanilla extract or paste (or all of it!)
6 egg yolks
1/4 tsp coarse salt

 

Protocol

1. In a medium mixing bowl, beat yolks until light and fluffy, and set aside.

2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat half & half, cream, sugar, salt, flour (if making custard), vanilla bean and scraped “caviar” on medium heat.  Stir until sugar has dissolved and mixture is hot, but not boiling (about 5 minutes).  If making custard, the mixture will get thick because of the flour.

3. Remove from heat, and temper the yolks by slowly adding about a 1/2 cup of the cream mixture to the beaten yolks and whisking to combine.  Do this twice, and then pour the tempered eggs into the remainder of the cream mixture.

4. Return the saucepan to medium heat, and cook for another 7-10 minutes or until custard coats the back of a wooden spoon or silicone spatula, stirring often to prevent custard sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.  Again, do not let boil.

If you have a thermometer, make sure the temperature of the custard reaches and remains between 175 and 180 degrees F.  Custard is fully cooked at about 176 degrees, and too much extra heat will curdle and cause separation of components.  A few seconds won’t hurt, but a minute will.  If you don’t have a thermometer, remove custard from heat as soon as it’s thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (this is the 7-10 minutes, but it may be only 5).

5. When done cooking, dip the pot into a bowl of ice water to quickly stop cooking; then transfer to a bowl.  Remove vanilla bean, and allow custard to cool at room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator.  Cover with a piece of plastic wrap (to prevent a “skin” from forming).

6. To make it into ice cream, simply pour chilled custard into a pre-frozen ice cream maker bowl, and process according to manufacturer’s instructions.

The toughest part of this process is not eating the whole tub on your own.  My best advice: tell someone you’re making it, so that you’re forced to share.  Or not.  Your secret’s safe with me.

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