Very Vanilla Ice Cream – and I Spill The (Vanilla) Beans

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(Very Vanilla Ice Cream - because ‘plain’ is not a flavor – recipe in post)

It’s no secret that I’m a fiend for this cold, creamy dessert. I used to tell people, sorry, I can’t hang out. I have a date with Ben… and Jerry.

Ice cream, to me, is like fuel to a vehicle – I take it by the gallon. On more than one occasion I’ve eaten myself into a chill so bad I needed a mountain of blankets to keep me warm. The Boyfriend Fiancé can attest.

Yes, you heard me right.

When The Boyfriend Fiancé and I first met, it was over a mutual love of ice cream. I proclaimed how much I adored the cold confection, and he said “You know, I make pretty good ice cream.”

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*Swoon* He had me at “Ice cream”!

I couldn’t contain myself, and burst out with an emphatic “Oh my gosh – will you marry me?”

The rest is history. Okay, that’s not entirely true… but his ice cream was good, and for the next seven months we jokingly referred to each other as ‘ice cream’ husband and wife.

That was July of 2010, in the swelter of summer, in our first year of friendship. Now, two years later, we’re taking the ‘ice cream’ off the ‘husband and wife’. But don’t worry, we aren’t getting rid of it all-together…

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Mmm, tasty nuptials!

Of all the flavors of all the ice creams of all the world, I cannot even begin to tell you my favorites. Since this will be my first ice cream recipe here on the blog, I thought I should start with the basics. Armed with a good vanilla crème anglaise, a person can do just about anything.

Somehow, vanilla has become synonymous with ‘plain’, ‘ordinary’, and ’bland’… don’t be mistaken, here – vanilla is no shy flavor! This is some of the boldest, richest vanilla ice cream you will ever make. Don’t underestimate the power of the vanilla bean.

The finished flavor of your ice cream will vary depending on the type of bean you choose – from the light and floral Tahitian vanilla, to the bold Bourbon, the rich and moody Mexican, or the Ugandan, Indonesian, or Tonga beans… each possesses its own personality, and the difference is definitely noticeable.

The Fiancé’s favorite is Tahitian, so that was the extract I chose here. The bean itself is Bourbon – a bolder, deeper vanilla, to bring a little richness to the party. Use what you like, or the best that’s available to you. Be sure to use real, pure vanilla extract here, as the alcohol helps to bring out the flavors. This is no place to use the cheap stuff.

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(Note that it is illegal to buy/sell unpasteurized dairy. If you don’t know any farmers, I highly recommend using the best local, low-heat pasteurized milk and cream you can find)

More than just the vanilla, the secret to this ice cream lies in the quality of each ingredient. In the cleanest and mostly simple things, this is most important; it is the local, farm-raised eggs that give this ice cream its lightly golden hue, and the fresh, unprocessed dairy that lends incomparable flavor and lingering creaminess.

Of course, all this nit-picking isn’t necessary to make a good ice cream, but using the freshest ingredients available to you will result in the best flavor. Remember, you can buy good ice cream in the store, so if you’re making it yourself why not make it great?

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Did I mention that July is National Ice Cream Month? How fitting!

Very Vanilla Ice Cream
(Adapted from the lord of ice cream himself, David Lebovitz, and also from The Fiancé)

1 cup (250ml) whole milk*
2 cups (500ml) heavy cream (or double cream)*
1 vanilla bean
pinch of salt
5-6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar (or vanilla sugar**)
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Recipe notes
*For a slightly lighter ice cream, you can change these amounts to 1.5 cups milk to 1.5 cups cream, or replace the cream with half-and-half. Note that this will affect the flavor and consistency of the finished product.
**Used vanilla bean pods can be washed, dried, and added to a bin of granulated sugar. Keep refilling with more sugar and fresh bean bods for an on-going supply of vanilla sugar.

Method
In a sauce pan, combine the milk and cream. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, and add the seeds and pod to the pot. Add a small pinch of salt, and place over medium heat. Stir occasionally until hot – you want the milk to be steaming, but not boiling. Cover, remove from heat, and allow to steep for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.

When the cream mixture has finished steeping, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale and smooth.

Rewarm the cream mixture over medium heat (to about 125-135 degrees F.). Very slowly and gradually, pour (or ladle) the milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Be sure to temper the yolks slowly, and keep them in constant motion to prevent them from scrambling. Once about half of the cream is added, you can begin to pour in a slow steady stream, continuing to whisk all the while.

Return the cream and egg mixture to the sauce pan, and place over low to medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, until the custard thickens to coat the back of your utensil (usually when it reaches around 175-180 degrees F.). Do not let the mixture boil!
While stirring, be sure to continuously scrape the bottom of the pot to keep the yolks from becoming lumpy.

Strain the custard into a bowl (glass, metal, or ceramic are best) set over a larger bowl full of ice. Straining the custard acts as a safeguard against any lumps or bits of untempered egg. Put the vanilla bean back into the custard after straining.

Stir the custard over the ice bath until cool, and add the vanilla extract. Cover, and refrigerate until completely chilled, or overnight.

Remove the vanilla bean pod (and rinse, dry, and add it to a bin of sugar if you like) and freeze the crème anglaise in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serve immediately for a soft-serve consistency, or pour into a lidded, chill-proof container and freeze until firm.

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Simple vanilla ice cream is the perfect start to many other flavors - in the last minutes of churning, there is no end to the things that could be added. Stay tuned for more ice cream recipes!

What’s your favorite flavor? Tell me in the comments below!

28 thoughts on “Very Vanilla Ice Cream – and I Spill The (Vanilla) Beans

  1. Foodie Stuntman

    Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials! My favorite ice cream was cemented when I was probably 5 or 6. My dad took me to Baskin Robbins and ordered me a peanut butter and chocolate cone. To this day, I still crave it…

    Reply
    1. Willow

      Thank you! Ooh, I had that flavor at ColdStone recently and it was divine! I grew up with a Baskin Robbins down the block, and I clearly remember what a treat it was to walk there, and gaze at all the different flavors… thanks for bringing back such a fond memory!

      Reply
  2. Rachel

    What a sweet beginning to your relationship (pun intended)!
    I know what you mean about vanilla – it gets a bad rap for being “plain” but really, really good vanilla ice cream is the best ice cream ever as far as I’m concerned. I find that I prefer vanilla bean flavor – the more bean specs the better!

    Reply
    1. Willow

      Heheh – indeed!
      And I agree, the bean adds incredible flavor. The extract is important, though, as the alcohol keeps the ice cream extra creamy (it doesn’t freeze as hard) and helps us to experience the flavor more fully.

      Reply
  3. Abby

    Eep! Congratulations!! This ice cream is anything but boring, looks great! Now I want to go out and find all the different flavors of vanilla and have one big tasting party :)

    Reply
    1. Willow

      Danka! There’s a site called Beanilla that has a sample package, where you get 2 or 3 beans of each type for a very reasonable price. Might be worth a try to find out what you like best.

      Reply
  4. Elly McCausland

    Fascinating – I’d never have thought about different origin vanilla pods having different flavours! I wish I could get my hands on all the different ones to try…I could make ice cream with them all and have a sort of vanilla tasting, wine-tasting style! I think few things are as simple yet as wonderful as a good quality vanilla ice cream. I hate buying it because of all the rubbish that goes into it, and this post has really inspired me to make a proper, high-quality batch. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Willow

      Glad I could help! There’s a website called Beanilla.com that offers a variety pack of a bunch of different beans, and for a very reasonable price. That’s what I did when I was interested in seeing the differences for myself!

      Reply
  5. Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes

    I am so happy for you Willow! Tahitian Vanilla is so so so GOOD, before becoming vegan I used my Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker almost every three to 4 days and vanilla was my favorite :)

    ….Pictures of the ring and proposal soon right? pretty please :)

    Reply
    1. Willow

      Nice! I’ve made vegan ice cream several times, but so far I always feel like it winds up tasting more like coconut ice cream than vanilla ice cream, no matter what I do… the search will continue, though!

      And I would LOVE to post some pics of the rings, etc., but that will have to wait a while still. Looks like we’ll be having them custom made. :)

      Reply
  6. Kat

    That’s so sweet! Both the ice cream and the fiancé part. Congratulations!!

    I also don’t know how vanilla got to be “plain” since vanilla is very flavorful. I’m thinking about investing in an ice cream maker after reading this (and given that it’s too hot to eat anything but ice cream).

    Reply
    1. Willow

      You should! They aren’t very expensive, and it isn’t hard to get a lot of use out of them. I keep the canaster for mine in the freezer at all times, so it’s easy to whip up a fresh batch. So easy, it’s dangerous!

      Reply
  7. Kristy

    Oh yay! Congratulations! I am so excited for you and your “ice cream husband”!

    My favorite flavor of ice cream is just the classic chocolate. You just can’t go wrong with that! :-)

    Reply
  8. frugalfeeding.com

    So sorry that I haven’t commented for a little while, I’ve been awfully busy. You keep me coming back though :D. Vanilla ice cream is by far my favourite flavour of ice cream, followed perhaps by rum and raisin… delicious. This looks seriously good! Kind of glad I didn’t invest in an ice cream maker this year though, because we have had around 3 days worth of summer here so far. I cannot wait to go to Spain in a few weeks…

    Reply
    1. Willow

      No problem – and ditto. :)

      I haven’t had rum raisin ice cream in ages, but that sounds delicious! I’m jealous of your cool summer… we’ve had weeks of swelter, here. Just starting to become bearable, now.

      Reply
    2. Willow

      No justification is necessary when it comes to ice cream! I’ve made ice cream in the dead of winter. Just crank the heat and pile on the blankets, haha!

      Reply
  9. shannon @ a periodic table

    CONGRATULATIONS, WILLOW! how exciting! i’m going to say right now that i’m here for any venting which may need to be done regarding wedding plans. mr. table and i tied the knot 5 years ago this december, and i still remember some of the hassles leading up to it. it was all fun in the end, don’t worry. :)

    what a great reminder that simple is sometimes the best. i loved vanilla as a kid – it was almost the only flavor i ate – and i felt like i was somehow ‘boring’ because i didn’t go for the rainbow/bubblegum/glow in the dark sort of ice cream. looking back, i feel like maybe i wasn’t as plain as i thought.

    your photos are breathtaking. absolutely love them. congrats again! eeeee! :)

    Reply

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