I’m a Vermonter. I grew up in the land of maple syrup, green mountains, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Ice cream made with milk from some of the happiest cows roaming some of the most beautiful fields in the country. This makes what I am about to say that much harder. This vanilla bean ice cream from David Lebovitz is the best I’ve ever tasted in my whole life. 30 years spent enjoying plenty of scoops of Ben & Jerry’s alongside apple pie, atop my favorite chocolate birthday cake, and beneath hot fudge sauce and whipped cream. Don’t get me wrong. Ben & Jerry’s still makes a mean ice cream and I’m sure I will enjoy my fair share of it for years to come, but this stuff has won me over for the time being.
The texture is outrageously creamy, and – thanks to adding both a vanilla bean and vanilla extract – it is so deeply vanilla flavored that you will want to savor every last drop. And it’s just vanilla! There are no chunks of cookie dough or swirls of caramel involved. I’d really be in trouble then. But now that I know this base vanilla flavor was such a success, I can envision endless possibilities for a promising ice cream making (and eating) future.
It’s worth it to splurge for high-quality vanilla beans here. I think part of the reason why this came out so well (aside from the recipe, of course) is that I found some really fabulous beans. It’s such a key ingredient and it will turn great vanilla flavor into holy-crap-this-is-amazing vanilla flavor just like that.
Head’s up: You will want to chill your ice cream maker bowl in the freezer for 24 hours before churning your ice cream. You may also want to chill your custard overnight well. Doing both of these things will ensure that you’ll have creamier, smoother ice cream in the end.
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Source: David Lebovitz via Fine Cooking Magazine
Yield: 1 Quart
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 large egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split lengtwise and seeds scraped out (use both the split bean and the seeds)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, mix 1 cup of the cream with the milk, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Warm the cream mixture over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and tiny bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the split vanilla bean and seeds to the cream mixture. Cover the saucepan, remove it from the heat, and let it sit for 1 hour. Taste and let it sit longer if you want a stronger flavor (1 hour was long enough for me).
Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with several inches of ice water. Set a smaller metal bowl (one that holds at least 1 1/2 quarts) in the ice water. Pour the remaining cup of cream into the inner bowl, and then set a fine strainer on top of the inner bowl. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl.
Re-warm the cream and vanilla mixture over medium-high heat until tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan, 1-2 minutes. In a steady stream, pour half of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling.
Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproofcooking spoon or rubber spatula until the custard thickens slightly (it should be thick enough to coat the utensil and hold a line drawn through it with a finger), 4-8 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should read 175° to 180° F at this point. Don’t let the mixture overheat or boil, or it will curdle. Immediately strain the custard into the cold cream over the ice bath. Press firmly in the strainer with the spoon or spatula to extract as much flavor as possible from the vanilla bean. Cool the custard to below 70° F by stirring it over the ice bath. Stir the vanilla extract into the cooled custard.
Refrigerate the custard until completely chilled, at least 4 hourse (I would recommend overnight). Then freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to an air-tight container and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours.