The Best Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
Years of Testing and Tasting Ice Cream
For years, I have tried to make the ultimate homemade ice cream. I mean how hard can it really be to make homemade ice cream? Hard! Either it’s too icy, too fatty or just not flavorful enough. I do consider myself a real vanilla ice cream snob its one of those desserts that has to be perfect, flavorful and delicious. When dessert options are presented to me you can be certain I’m choosing vanilla ice cream over cookies, cakes, pies and even a lemon bar.
On a recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina, I ate the best eye fluttering bowl of creamy vanilla bean ice cream. Taking a chance I asked the pastry chef if it was made in house or purchased? She smiled and said they made it in house and with a family recipe; I asked her what was the secret? I told her about my attempts through the years and why the recipes I found just didn’t work. The secret; it was using three types of milk products and then a bloom or rest time. Walking me through I learned that the French style (egg yolk based) is the best for ice cream. Half of the problem is the texture, but with that rich, creamy custard base the ice crystal problem goes away.
Make it Taste Amazing
What to choose for the ice cream flavor; well, that is a tough pick. I’m a purist I prefer simple ingredients: vanilla beans that are plump and have been been sitting in a mason jar filled with Basil Hayden’s Bourbon for say maybe six months. Or, fruit picked at the peak of freshness and flavor, peaches have just come into season here and they are amazing this year I see pints of peach ice cream in my future. But my all time favorite is blackberry syrup, the recipe is linked below.
A Family Tradition
Now for the ice cream maker, long ago and far away, an old, banged up and battered, well-loved White Mountain hand crank ice cream maker was a staple during summer. My backside would have frost bite from sitting on that machine for what seemed like hours.
I’m going to pull a Sophia from Golden Girls’ moment on you, picture it Ojai, California 1978 I’m three years old and it’s about 100° outside in the shade. My grandfather has just picked up ice and rock salt; my grandmother has just made the ice cream base. Outside on the patio, my papa created an the ice cream making station. The frozen silver canister with its paddle inside the wooden barrel packed with ice and rock salt. The ice cream base was slowly and carefully poured into that canister the lid was attached.
A few folded burlap sacks sat on top to keep it insulated. My Papa would then grab a grandchild of his choice usually it was me and plop me on top of those burlap sacks. Why do you ask? Because I was small enough to sit on top of those burlap sacks on top of the ice cream maker holding the ice and salt in place. Papa churned the ice cream until it was thick and frozen to perfection. When he was satisfied his ice cream was ready for the freezer he would pick me up throw me in the pool so I would warm up. Good times!
Tools and Technique
Was all that preparation and work worth it? Absolutely! His homemade vanilla ice cream tasted like no other ice creams I had, except for that one in Charleston. So would the trick of adding more than one type of milk to the ice cream base be the secret? I came home from that trip and bought a Cuisinart ice cream maker and got to work. I developed a recipe that used three different milk types: whole, half-and-half and whipping cream. It’s that balance that creates folds of cream not the milk crystals.
After taking my time with the ice cream base, selecting the best vanilla beans and using a reliable ice cream maker I can now say I have made the best homemade ice cream recipe. I’m certain if my grandfather was here today he would absolutely agree my vanilla ice cream is the best next to his recipe. Enjoy.
- The Best French Vanilla Ice Cream
- 1 ½ cups whipping cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- ½ cup half and half
- 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 whole vanilla bean
- Pinch of salt
- Optional: 1 cup chopped fresh fruit, ½ cup chocolate chips, 2 tablespoon fresh herbs, ½ teaspoon flavoring. Make up a batch of my Homemade Blackberry Syrup and add in 1/2 cup to the ice cream base then add a good drizzle over it when its served up in bowls.
- Combine all three milks, sugar, and the pinch of salt in a medium saucepan. Split and scrape the vanilla bean place it in the pot too. Heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is warmed through, do not boil, tiny little bubbles should form around the pans edge. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth and their rich yellow color changes to a light yellow color. Slowly pour 1 cup of the warm milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks, whisking constantly this will temper the egg yolks so you won’t have scrambled eggs. While pouring the tempered egg mixture into the saucepan with the milk, whisk constantly, you need it to blend in with the milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon (about 170 F). Pour the ice cream base through the mesh strainer into a bowl; place vanilla pod back into the strained base, let the custard cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate until chilled (24 hours). Remove the vanilla bean before churning, add optional ingredients if wanted, then follow the manufacturing directions of your ice cream maker and enjoy.