Churn a batch of ice cream that's way more delicious and decadent than the kind you buy in pints at the supermarket. Once you've mastered this easy homemade ice cream, try flavor variations with double chocolate, strawberry and balsamic vinegar, and caramelized bananas.
1 - whole vanilla bean
1 3/4 - cups heavy cream
3/4 - cup milk
1/2 - cup sugar
1/4 - teaspoon kosher salt
5 - large egg yolks
2 - teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In heavy saucepan stir together cream, milk, half the sugar, and the salt. With a small knife split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds from bean. Add seeds and split bean to pan. Heat over medium-high heat. When mixture just begins to bubble around edges, remove from heat; cover. Let seeds and split bean soak for 30 minutes to infuse the liquid. Remove and discard vanilla bean.
Place egg yolks in a medium heatproof bowl and whisk just enough to break up yolks. Whisk in remaining sugar until smooth. (The sugar dilutes the eggs a bit and prevents them from scrambling when the hot cream is added.) Set aside. Uncover cream mixture and heat over medium-high heat until almost simmering. Reduce heat to medium.
Using a ladle, carefully scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot cream; whisking constantly, pour into yolks. Repeat. (This step, known as tempering, gradually heats the yolks to reduce the risk of overcooking.) Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, slowly pour yolk mixture into hot cream in saucepan. Continue to cook on medium, stirring constantly in a figure eight to cover entire bottom of pan. Pay close attention as the consistency can change quickly. Cook until mixture goes from the consistency of heavy cream to that of a thin puree, but no thicker. You'll notice the mixture thickening slightly and feel a little more resistance as you stir.
To test the readiness of the custard, remove the spoon from the saucepan and drag your finger across it. If the base coats the back of the spoon and the path made by your finger holds for a second or two, it's ready. Remove the pan from heat and immediately pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a measuring cup or small bowl.
Set the bowl in a larger bowl of ice water and stir frequently with a clean spatula until cool. Remove and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least two hours until completely cold. Stir in vanilla extract just before churning and freezing the ice cream.
FROM THE TEST KITCHEN
CINNAMON AND SNICKERDOODLES:
Stir in crumbled cinnamon-sugar cookies and a hefty sprinkle of cinnamon. If you like, top with sauteed apples or a drizzle of caramel sauce.
LAVENDER AND HONEY:
Stir snipped fresh or dried lavender and honey into the finished ice cream. For a more intense flavor-before making the ice cream base, add 1/4 cup honey and 2 tablespoons dried lavender with the vanilla bean.
STRAWBERRY AND BALSAMIC VINEGAR:
Before stirring strawberries into the ice cream, chop and cook the berries with a little sugar to remove excess water. Cool, puree, then stir into ice cream with a few dashes of balsamic vinegar.
Before heating the cream, stir together 1/4 cup of Dutch process cocoa powder with half the sugar. Whisk in a little of the cream to make a paste. Then whisk in the remaining cream, the milk, and salt.
BLUEBERRY-LEMON ICE CREAM PIE
To create an ice cream pie in sundae form, start with a sweet blueberry sauce made by cooking the berries with sugar and a squeeze of lemon until thickened. Pour over the ice cream and finish with crumbled gingersnaps or graham crackers.
CITRUS OLIVE OIL AND SEA SALT
Drizzle ice cream with bergamot olive oil (a citrus fruit that gives Earl Grey tea its hint of orange flavor), Meyer lemon, or orange-flavored olive oil will add the same citrusy brightness. Top it all off with a dollop of whipped cream and crunchy coarse sea salt flakes.
CARAMELIZED BANANA SUNDAE
Create a sundae with warm cooked bananas. Start by melting butter and brown sugar in a skillet. Add a couple of split bananas; cook until caramelized. If desired, add a little rum and cook and stir a few minutes. Spoon over ice cream. Top with whipped cream and toasted chopped pecans.