Ice cream has always had the mystic of being food for kings. Since ancient times the swiftest runners were sent to retrieve snow and ice from the snow-capped mountains to make frozen desserts for the emperors. Today it is still a royal treat, especially when freshly made.
Vanilla is the classic and the most popular ice cream flavor. It is a good base from which to start because it pairs well with so many ingredients: fresh fruits, berry sauces, chocolate, caramel, and nuts. The flavor combinations are limitless. Start with the freshest ingredients–milk, cream, sweeteners, and vanilla beans are the base for ice cream. For the smoothest texture, start by cooking a custard using cornstarch and use both heavy cream and a small amount of cream cheese. Because the custard is cooked, it needs to be well-chilled before churning it into ice cream. If in a hurry, use the technique of many chefs: quick-chill the base in an ice bath for 30 minutes. Or , if you have ample time, chill it in the refrigerator overnight.
Churn , Churn , Churn: Ice cream makers are available in many types, sizes, and options: hand-crank, electric, or battery operated. Ice cream makers have two cylinders: the outer one is a bucket and holds the ice or the coolant. The inner bowl or canister is made of aluminum , stainless steel, or other material good for transferring heat out and bringing cold in. Some inner bowls must be frozen 24 hours prior to use and are not recommended to be used consecutively for making batch after batch without re-freezing the bowl. The dasher or paddle rotates the custard to bring it in contact with the chilled outer wall of the canister. The newest gelato/ice cream makers (see Tool of the Month) with built-in auto-freeze systems offer ultra-convenience. It takes from 20 to 60 minutes to transform the custard into yummy ice cream.
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
1-1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 whole vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out and reserved
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
1. Place cornstarch in a small bowl. Add about 2 tablespoons of the milk and stir until well mixed; set aside.
2. In a large saucepan combine the remaining milk, heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup, vanilla bean and seeds and salt. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat and boil for 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Return the saucepan to the heat and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
3. Gradually add a small amount of the hot milk mixture (custard) to the cream cheese, whisking until smooth. Then stir the cream cheese into the custard until smooth. Pour into a stainless steel bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight or until well chilled.
5. Or, for fast-chilling: Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and add water. Pour the custard into a 1-gallon Ziploc plastic bag and seal well. Place the sealed bag into the ice water bath. Let stand, adding more ice if needed, for 30 minutes until cold. Turn the bag frequently to make sure it is completely submerged in the ice bath.
5. Prepare the ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Remove the vanilla bean from the custard. Pour custard into the freezer canister. Attach the dasher and cover with the lid. Churn until the ice cream comes away from the side of the canister, about 20 to 60 minutes depending on the machine and ice cream recipe used. We used the Cuisinart Ice Cream and Gelato Maker–ICE-100 for churning the ice cream.
6. If not serving immediately, spoon into a storage container, cover, and place in the freezer to “ripen.” Makes about 1 quart.
The ice cream recipe was adapted from Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream At Home by Jeni Britton Bauer. Published by Artisan Books in 2011. The cookbook is available from amazon.com