It is definitely the time of year to make ice cream at home. It always tastes so much better than what you buy at the store, and these days it is easy to make.
When I was a child, in the hot summer we often sat out on the back porch with the ice cream churn, a burlap sack of ice, and a big box of rock salt. My mother would set a tinned canister filled with a sweet cream mixture in the middle of the wooden churn bucket, and my father would pack it with ice and rock salt in layers so that the melting ice would stay as cold as possible. Then the kids took turns turning the crank so that the dasher inside the canister would scrape the cream as it froze against the side. The process seemed to take a long time, and no single kid could finish the whole effort. At the end, some grown-up – usually my father – would turn the crank until it wouldn’t turn any more. The dasher came out. The kids took turns licking it, and the ice cream was put back into the ice to firm up a bit before everyone got their own bowlful of the ambrosia.
Next in the evolution of the home ice cream maker was one with an electric motor. Ours never survived very long, because the motor would burn out when everyone forgot to watch it carefully.
Now, there are all sorts of choices and all sorts of prices. We have had our machine for many years, and it continues to work just fine. One advantage is that we can make ice cream whenever we want it. We don’t have to wait for summer. We stick the canister in the bottom of our freezer and forget about it until it is time to make a batch. Then we fill it up, put the dasher in, fasten down the cover, and turn on the motor. In about half an hour, we have ice cream that tastes better than anything one can buy. Our machine cost about $50 when we bought it. It’s probably a little more expensive these days, but not much. You can buy versions with built-in freezers and elaborate adjustments. Those can easily run to well over $300. In my view, you have to eat a lot of ice cream to justify the expense, but someone must be buying those machines.
This recipe comes from our family cookbook. It is called French vanilla ice cream. I always thought “French” referred to some kind of fancy vanilla, but it turns out that “French” implies that the ice cream is made from custard. That makes me think that the proper name for the dish should be vanilla French ice cream. I don’t look for that change to occur.
Crème anglaise is probably the most common custard base used for ice cream. This recipe is actually based on a modified crème anglaise that uses whole eggs instead of egg yolks. But the same warning applies: don’t let the custard get too hot or the eggs will scramble. Even if you don’t do that, you should always strain the custard before you chill it overnight as invariably there will be tiny little clumps of egg, and you want the finished ice cream to be as smooth as possible.
French Vanilla Ice Cream
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- In a bowl, using an electric beater, cream the eggs and sugar together until pale yellow and smooth
- Add milk and beat until completely combined
- Place the mixture in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture has thickened and coats the spoon. It should reach about 160°F. Do not boil or the eggs will scramble and you will have to start over. Remove from the heat and cool for about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the cream and vanilla. Strain through a fine-meshed sieve into a storage container and refrigerate, covered, over night.
- Place the mixture in an ice cream maker and spin according to directions.
- Transfer the finished ice cream to a container and place in the freezer for an hour to temper. Serve.