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It could be said I have an ice cream problem. Ok, well, *I* wouldn’t say that, but I am betting that if you asked Hart he would probably have a slightly different answer than me. But thats why we don’t ask him things like that, right?!? If you did he might tell you the number of times I have asked him to do a late night ice cream run was up in the ten of thousands (successfully completed late night ice cream runs are FAR lower, which is probably a good thing, really) and that me & Haagen Dazs have been having an illicit affair for decades. I will not confirm or deny these delicious accusations *she says as she hides her bowl & spoon* :)

As with most food I am a purist and, well, snob, about ice cream, too. Ice cream is really simple, 6, maybe 7, ingredients in the base mix for it plus whatever noms you choose to add to the party. Check out the ingredient list on the back of a store or cheap brand of ice cream, though; there are a LOT more than 7 ingredients listed back there, a lot of which are in ‘science-speak’. Why, you ask? Well because the companies who make lesser ice creams want to get as much bang for their buck as they can. They need to be able to use more of the less expensive ingredients while not loosing the creaminess of a good ice cream AND want their mixes to hold more air as they freeze for a higher batch yield. Yes, air. It is a huge (and free) key component of ice cream so of course they want to get as much in there as possible, air takes up space and cost nothing to add. I get it. But I don’t have to eat it.

If you have some cheap ice cream in the freezer, cheaper the better for this purpose, put a scoop in a bowl and leave it there for a few hours. It’s going to pretty much look the same when you get back because of the stabilizers used to make it hold air. That’s, well, wrong. And totally not delicious. They may attempt to fake good ice cream, and some brands do a better job of it than others, but they still don’t hold a spoon to a good quality ice cream. Ice cream buying rule: a good ice cream will be a solid weight for its container size. Pick up a package of Edys and weight it against the store brand. The Edys will be heavier. The better quality brands will always be heavier, and therefore, more expensive with smaller ingredient lists. Less air = more ice cream.

Note to Ice Cream Makers Everywhere ~ Please cut the shit with making the package sizes smaller & still finding a way to charge more. We aren’t as unobservant & stupid as you would like us to be. A ‘Pint’ is 16oz. Not 14oz, not 13oz, it is 16oz. A ‘Half Gallon’ is 2 quarts – 64oz – 4 pints. These are not mythical measurements that you get to autocratically adjust to suit your profit margins. And Klondike? You, my friends, are the WORST offender. I have eaten waffles thicker than that cube of so-called ‘ice cream’ you are now packaging. I shake my finger at you! And sadly do not buy your treats…even though I used to LOVE them & they remind me of my dad. Jerks.

Ice cream is simple, but like baking, requires some exacts to get that Haagen Dazs-esque ice cream perfection. In simple terms it is a frozen creme anglaise, very similar to the one that is used as a base for The Best Chocolate Pudding Ever. But there is a bit more technical to it, finding the balance of dairy to get the right butterfat percent as it freezes for the perfect mouth feel (for the record the ideal is around 16-20%, Haagen Dazs is around 16-18%, cheapo ice cream 10-12%), the amount of sugar, the ratio of egg yolk to dairy & base flavorings…blah blah blah. I could explain all of it, but what a rabbit hole that is of in depth cooking chemistry & geekery. I already did the hard part & worked out solid base recipes that are pretty flexible, meaning require no adjustments to the cream, when it comes to adding flavorings for both chocolate and vanilla. If any of you do WANT the full explanation you can come help me make ice cream some day & I’ll talk your ear off about ice cream, gelato, custards & sorbets. They are all slightly different and I love to make & eat them all; for the rest of y’all I’ll just post the recipes for the delicious that comes out of my ice cream maker this summer :)

The ice cream maker ~ probably the most important part of making homemade ice cream. You can’t just make up the mix, no matter the recipe, slam it in the freezer and come back to ice cream. What you will come back to is a frozen chunk of a creamy substance that could only be ‘scooped’ with a power tool – this is not ice cream, in case you didn’t know. Ice creams/gelatos/sorbets/sherbets need to be ‘spun’ while they freeze, the churning motion of a paddle incorporates air for lightness and controls how ice crystals form to create creaminess. Those two things happen continually & gradually as the ice cream base churns in some kind of cold-retaining device until it is frozen.

I fondly remember the couple times my parents made homemade ice cream with us in one of those old school churns. We were supposed to ‘help’ by taking turns spinning the handle of the old hand crank machine my dad had. We were all sorts of interested in the layers of ice & salt the bucket was nestled in but quickly lost interest in the actual labor part of the gig leaving dad to churn all by himself rather quickly. We didn’t make ice cream that often, I assume that’s why. If that’s how I had to do it now I probably wouldn’t either. I am more than happy to take full advantage of modern conveniences and have a pretty basic Cuisinart ice cream maker that gets the job done. It is basically a very simple machine that spins a lined bowl filled with a frozen substance with a paddle looking thing that stays stationary aerating the ice cream and churning to form the ice crystals. Nothing fancy, but it was quite affordable and, like I said, gets the job done. My only recommendation for this style of machine is invest in a second bowl. I usually keep one in the freezer and the other with the machine unless I know I will be needing both. I like having two, especially when I’m making large batches, it’s just convenient & the second bowl isn’t all that expensive.

Left ~ Machine with Lid, Freezing Bowl, Paddle
Right ~ Assembled machine, pardon her used look, she’s been used!

Mastering the basics is always the best place to start in my opinion so I present to you the classic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. It really doesn’t get much more simple than this, and even though I am a chocolate girl through & through, I cannot deny that there is something to the simplicity of a well made and balanced vanilla ice cream. I use a combination of vanilla bean steeped in the milk & cream as they heat and a touch of vanilla extract for some depth. The finished ice cream isn’t bright white like store bought vanilla bean, it has creamy yellowishness from the yolks that gives it a more French vanilla look, but it doesn’t have that stickyicky sweetness. I think it’s the perfect combination of both ~ creamy richness paired with clean vanilla flavor & subtle sweetness. The sweetness comes from sugar, a carefully measured level cup of it. Too much and it’s cloying, not enough and it tastes thin.

Procedurally we are going back to The Best Chocolate Pudding Ever, exact same process (explained in more detail over there) of tempering ~ heating the cream, adding it slowly into the egg mixture then returning to the stove to slowly thicken over moderate heat. A stove top custard. The ice cream base is cooked, without ever simmering and cooking the egg yolk, until it thickens up to the consistency of a vanilla sauce or creme anglaise and then cooled completely. COMPLETELY. Like to 33 degrees on a thermometer cooled completely. This is not as important if your ice cream maker doesn’t involve a frozen bowl, like some commercial and high end ones that cool themselves, but if it does it is vital. If the base is anything warmer than completely cold it will warm the bowl too much and it will not freeze. I am extremely impatient, and impulsive, sometimes and have made this mistake more than once; I usually make my bases at night and leave them to cool in the fridge until the next day, hasn’t failed me so far.

This recipe includes a vanilla bean, and that is definitely how I do it, but it isnt required to make ice cream. If you dont have it add 1 Tbsp of vanilla extract to the cream and follow the rest of the instructions.

Ice Cream Add Ins are, sometimes, the best part! This batch I added finely shaved bitter sweet chocolate to to make the kind of chocolate chip ice cream that Schneiders Dairy used to make that I LOVED. The base doesn’t need any add ins if you’re into plain, but if you aren’t you want to add a cup to cup & a half of chopped up whatever, it’s honestly very much up to you & what you like. If you add chopped up dry stuff – cookies, candies, etc – it can be added right into the machine right before its done spinning for even distribution of all the yummy. If you want to add a fudge sauce or fruit swirl I recommend folding in by hand to control how well it blends & have a recipe on deck for a peach swirl vanilla to show the best way to do that. Add in stuff or don’t, I am an equal opportunity ice cream appreciator.

Let’s make some ice cream!!!

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (Dark Chocolate Chip Ice Cream) yield 2 quarts

  • 1 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 1/2 cup Whole Milk
  • 1 each Vanilla Bean
  • 8 each Egg Yolks
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • pinch of Salt
  • (optional) 1 cup Shaved Dark Chocolate

Mix the milk & cream in a sauce pot. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and put in with the cream. Put on the stove over medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking often to get the vanilla beans out of their pod. Mix the yolks, sugar, vanilla & salt until smooth.

When the cream comes to a simmer use a whisk to slowly temper the heated cream into the yolk mixture until it is warmed up, about half the hot cream. Put what is left of the cream back on the stove over medium heat. Bring back up to a simmer then temper in the yolk & cream mixture. While stirring continuously let the ice cream base thicken slowly, until it is the thickness of a vanilla sauce or creme anglaise, a nappe consistency.

Remove from the heat immediately and strain through a hand strainer into a clean bowl, removing any lumps. Let it cool, stirring periodically to speed the process up, until it is cool enough to cover without sweating. Taste it at this point, too, and adjust with anything you way want to add. Cover it and let it cool completely, preferably overnight.

Make sure it has completely cooled before trying to freeze it according to the instructions for your machine. Mine needs to go for about half an hour and I have ice cream! For this one I shaved some Callebaut bittersweet chocolate on the big holes of a box grater, about a cup, so they are fine shavings and added them in the last 2 minutes the ice cream spins to combine it completely. At this point you basically have soft serve ice cream. Use a spatula to move it from the bowl into a plastic container, lid and put it in the freezer, it will be scoopable hard ice cream in about 3 hours. Its edible as soon as it is out f the ice cream machine, though.

The finished goods!

I have a chocolate recipe with toasted almonds and a mocha latte ice cream that was unreal delicious coming up in the next couple weeks and when I find some perfect peaches a grilled peach swirl ice cream and some fruit sorbets, too! If you or your family have a thing for ice cream the machine is worth the investment – you can make a half gallon of premium ice cream for the same as a pint of it from the store and you have total control over what you put in it. It’s like having Coldstone Creamery in your own kitchen! Go spin up a summer treat & hit me up if you need some taste testers, I’m a professional :)