How to Make Vanilla Ice Cream

The first in a series on ice creams, custards and sorbets

Jim Berman CCI

Making ice cream is as richly rewarding as baking bread. It may be heresy, but there it is! I said it! There is no kneading, but there is churning. There is no waiting for yeast to do its thing, but there is waiting for the freezer to do its thing. There are no instant results with the two. And both instill guilt for the waist-conscious. There are artisanal approaches for the duo as well and, ultimately, creating the two is edible therapy.

We got our hands on a Lello Musso Polla 5030 dessert maker. There is a review forthcoming, but know that the machine is basically a two-quart bowl that is capable of freezing along with a drive-churn that mixes as the ingredients freeze into chilly mouthfuls. So, you will need an ice cream maker of some sort. You can try to do the stir-freeze-stir-freeze ad nauseum routine, but you simply will not get the same result. Go ahead and drop the $1200 for a quality machine. It is less expensive than a month’s worth of visits to the shrink. And, I would guess, tastes a lot better. Think of it is an investment in mental health.

Vanilla ice cream is far from plain. Do not mistake vanilla with boring, because of its apparent lack of colorful indulgences and confectionary bling. Instead, the greatness of vanilla ice cream’s flavor is born from the opulent mouthy feel of cream, the subtle sweetness of sugar and the unmistakable punch of vanilla. Again, vanilla is not plain.

As I launch into a series on various frozen confections, vanilla is a good jumping off point. In future installments, I am going to examine some savory ice cream specimens (have you had bacon-maple ice cream?!) and assorted fruit-studded varieties. Also, frozen custard and sorbet will be picked apart, analyzed and set to chill.

Vanilla Ice Cream:

2 cups, Milk, whole

1 quart, Heavy cream

¾ cup, sugar, granulated

1 Tablespoon, vanilla paste

Pinch, fine salt

Start of the freezing process

Combine all the ingredients and freeze according to your machine’s directions. In the Lello machine, it is about 20 minutes of freezing and churning. Remove the still-soft mixture and freeze for several hours to allow the flavors to blossom and develop. And that step is critical. It really is! Try the ice cream immediately upon removing it from the machine and take a flavor-snapshot. Then try it again for, say, breakfast. There is a whole other dimension that comes to life in the time it is allowed to bloom.

Oh, and don’t skimp on the vanilla! Using extract is not okay. And using imitation vanilla extract is hubris. Drop $10 for a good jar of the paste. Of course, if you can swing the bean itself, more power to you. However, using the bean means you need to exhume the flavor by steeping the pod in the milk over heat and then allow it to chill before proceeding. Using paste provides the convenience of using the real deal while avoiding another step and a delay in getting the mixture churning while waiting for the warm milk to chill. The paste also offers up some of the tell-tale speckles of the pod’s contents for some visual interest and verification of flavor authenticity.
Vanilla Paste
There are countless variations on honest vanilla ice cream. There can be a bump to the sweetness with added sugar. The fat content can be trimmed by cutting the heavy cream and subbing more milk, although too little fat yields a crystally, over-hard finished product. And this is ice cream, so there is a noticeable absence of eggs that you would find in frozen custard. That’s next.