Years ago I remember my father making vanilla ice cream for all of us with an ice cream maker that required a lot of crushed ice and salt. Can’t remember now if it was hand crank or electric. But man oh man was that ice cream good – so rich and creamy. The ice cream makers have improved a lot in the last thirty years, no more need for crushed ice or salt, just have to remember to put the bowl in the freezer a day ahead of time. We recently bought a new ice cream maker and to break it in we made a batch of French vanilla ice cream – the kind with egg yolks and vanilla been seeds in it. French vanilla is a bit more complicated than regular vanilla or most of the ice cream recipes that come with the machine, as you need to prepare a custard mix by cooking the eggs and cream first. But unlike many homemade ice creams which can be a little on the ice-y side, because of the added richness of the egg yolks, French vanilla stays creamier – at least for the first day or two in the freezer. Actually, I don’t think this batch lasted past day two, it was just too good to let languish in the freezer.
French Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe
- 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk (separated into 1 cup and 1/2 cup)
- 2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise
- 8 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 In a medium bowl, beat together the yolks and half of the sugar. You can beat by hand using a whisk or using a hand mixer or egg beater. Beat until thoroughly smooth and creamy. (A couple of minutes by hand.)
2 Put cream, 1 cup of the milk, the remaining half of the sugar, and the salt into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Scrape vanilla seeds from beans with the tip of a small knife into pan; add beans. Heat the mixture until just before it starts to simmer (do not let simmer). Remove mixture from heat and let stand 10 minutes.
3 While the mixture is standing, prepare an ice water bath in a bowl large enough to set another bowl easily inside of it. Set aside.
4 Whisk in 1 cup of the cream mixture in a slow stream into the yolk mixture to temper it. Add another cup of the cream mixture; continue to whisk. Transfer the egg yolk mixture back to the saucepan with the remaining cream, milk and vanilla. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon and an instant-read thermometer registers 180°, 5 to 7 minutes. (You can run your finger in a line over the back of the coated spoon. If the mixture doesn't run, but stays in place on the spoon, it should be thick enough.) Remove from heat and mix in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk to stop the mixture from overcooking.
5 Pour custard through a medium-mesh sieve into a stainless steel bowl set in the ice-water bath. Let cool completely, stirring until completely chilled.
6 Freeze custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. (Take care not to over churn the ice cream or it will get a grainy texture.) If you serve the ice cream immediately, it will probably be pretty soft. Freeze it for at least an hour in an airtight plastic container to have a firmer texture. If it has been frozen for more than a day, you may need to let it sit at room temperature for a few minutes to soften before serving it.
Serve with caramel sauce.