We have had our share of summer weather all ready this year in St. Louis. I could say that is the reason for writing a post on ice cream, but around our house ice cream is a year-round dessert. We joke that we will wrap up in a blanket if we have to, but we won’t be without our ice cream just because it is cold outside.
Vanilla ice cream from the grocery store can be ho hum, but homemade vanilla ice cream is a treat, plain and simple. I know it is probably sacrilege, but I really prefer the taste of vanilla ice cream made with vanilla extract instead of real vanilla beans. And it is easier too, skipping the step of steeping the milk/cream with the beans. We did have a jar of crushed vanilla beans that I bought eons ago, so I put a tiny bit of that in the ice cream to get the flecks. I don’t always do this and it is totally optional. I also have a jar of vanilla sugar that I keep going, but that is also optional. This is the first time we have used it in our ice cream, and I’m not sure it made much of a difference in the flavor.
As an aside, making vanilla sugar is as easy as putting a split vanilla bean in a container of sugar and letting it sit for a month or so. I periodically replenish the sugar and maybe add another vanilla bean. The flavor is subtle and best for topping fruit, where you can really taste it. Mine might be stronger if I added a fresh vanilla bean more often!
But back to the ice cream – we have tinkered with the recipes that came with our ice cream maker until we came up with the recipe we like the best. We vary it for different flavors, but stick with the same ratio of half and half to sugar. We have tried various combinations of milk, cream and half and half and settled on all half and half to suit our tastes. We also prefer an ice cream without egg yolks, which also makes it a matter of simple stirring to get the mix ready for freezing, skipping the whole custard-cooking process.
Making ice cream our way takes only 30 minutes or so, and 25 of that is the responsibility of the ice cream machine. A few hours in the freezer and you have ice cream. Of course, a little homemade caramel syrup on top isn’t a bad thing, but that is another post.
Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream
from The Cook’s Life
Makes about 1½ quarts
Right out of the ice cream maker, your ice cream will be too soft to scoop. Freeze for a few hours and it will get firmer and scoopable.
2 cups half and half*
1/3 cup granulated sugar or vanilla sugar**
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground vanilla beans (optional)
Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until sugar is dissolved. Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions – ours takes about 25 minutes.
Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze for several hours before serving.
* You can use all cream, which will make a richer ice cream. Half and half makes a creamy ice cream, with a little less fat and without the greasy mouth feel you can sometimes get with all cream.
** Use ½ cup sugar for a sweeter ice cream. But try it once with less sugar and see how you like it. You can also use an equivalent amount of Splenda for sugar-free ice cream.