Friday, August 7, 2009

Nothing Like Homemade Ice Cream

For such a decadent dessert, it doesn't get much simpler than French vanilla ice cream (and fresh, ripe strawberries are an added bonus). But give yourself some time to get the custard just right -- there's an art to bringing it all together to the perfect temperature so that it thickens to almost a pudding-like consistency. Just about everything else, your fruit, fudge, nuts or whatever you feel like adding, is thrown in once the custard is cool anyway (well, chocolate requires a few steps in the cooking process).

We use (get ready for an unpaid product plug) a Cuisinart ICE-20 automatic cream maker, which retails for $50 (but we found lightly used for half that on Craigslist). It was actually purchased as a money saver, since we knew we'd eat a lot of ice cream on these hot summer afternoons and wouldn't settle for crap (yeah, we're ice cream snobs). The ingredients are ridiculously simple and few.

For the recipe, I refer to a combination of Bittman's HTCE (it's not in the vegetarian edition) and the instruction booklet that came with the ice cream maker, which I downloaded. I may alter my technique down the road, but this works:

3 cups half-n-half (a blend of milk and cream is fine, but keep the fat!)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (have yet to try it with a whole vanilla bean)
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar

Put cream and vanilla extract in medium saucepan on medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it steams. At that point, remove it from the heat.

While the cream is heating up, beat the eggs and yolks with the sugar (I've been doing it by hand whisk, but would like an electric mixer) until it's somewhat whipped and light yellow in color. Slowly pour about a cup of the hot cream into the egg/sugar mixture while working it in with a wooden (or whatever) spoon.

Then add the mixture to the rest of the heated cream, return to heat at medium low and stir constantly until it's nice and thick. This is where it takes patience, practice and luck to get the perfect custard consistency. It might take five to 10 minutes but really is ready when it feels ready.

Remove from heat, pour into a bowl and cover, refrigerate until cool and keep for up to a day. When you're ready for ice cream (uh, always?) just pour it into the machine and wait. Best eaten right away, then it gets a little icy and hard but still good stored in the freezer.

We've been getting so many strawberries since spring that it's just a good way to use them before they get funky, but it's also the best strawberry ice cream I've ever had. I also was never a fan of chocolate ice cream but was converted after making it at home with some expensive chocolate, still cheaper than buying a pre-made quart. It's all about being so fresh, and Bittman says this is why ice cream is so incredible at some of the nicer restaurants.

Almost forgot -- slice about two cups of strawberries (probably the same for any fresh berry) somewhat thinly, add about 1/4 cup sugar and about two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, mix thoroughly and set aside for at least two hours. Add it to the cooled custard before using.

If you happen to live in blackberry country, I'm sure they'd be awesome in ice cream.


1 comment:

  1. It is much better with the vanilla bean. I make homemade ice cream as well and costco has vanilla beans at a reasonable price (considering they are quite expensive).