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The Best Vanilla Ice Cream is a homemade, custard-based ice cream recipe that tastes so much better than anything store-bought.When Jack and I got married (many years ago!), one of our wedding gifts was an ice cream maker. For an ice cream fanatic like myself – that gift was one of my favorites! The very first batch of homemade ice cream I prepared was this recipe titled, The Best Vanilla Ice Cream. I found the recipe online*, printed it out – and it has been my go-to ice cream recipe ever since! This is a very rich (but oh-so-good!) vanilla ice cream – and it’s a custard-based ice cream so it is ultra-creamy and unforgettable!
- Heavy Cream, Whole Milk & Granulated Sugar – These are the three key ingredients in any ice cream recipe. If you are going through the effort of making a homemade ice cream – please don’t skimp and try to swap in light cream, low fat milk or sugar substitutes. The best, creamy ice creams relay on cream and milk with a higher fat content, and real granulated sugar.
- Egg Yolks – Egg yolks are what distinguishes a frozen custard from an ice cream recipe. Room-temperature egg yolks are added to the cream, milk and sugar ice cream base, then heated through just long enough to pasteurize the egg yolks and create a silky-smooth texture.
- Vanilla Extract – Again, don’t skimp here. Buy a real vanilla extract, not a vanilla-flavored extract. (There is a difference – and the real vanilla flavor is just so much better!) Depending on the brand you buy, your homemade vanilla ice cream may look more yellow if your extract is super dark.
Cooking Tip This homemade vanilla ice cream is easy to make, but it takes some time – mostly hands-off chilling time. Start this recipe two days before you plan to eat the ice cream.
How do you make The Best Vanilla Ice Cream?It’s actually quite easy to make homemade vanilla ice cream – but you will need an ice cream maker for this recipe.
- Heat – In a saucepan, combine heavy cream, whole milk, and granulated sugar. Heat over a medium flame, stirring frequently, until the mixture is hot and the sugar is completely dissolved. (Just be sure not to simmer or boil the mixture.)
- Whisk – While the cream mixture is coming up to temperature, separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and place whisked egg yolks in a bowl.
- Temper the eggs – Once the cream mixture is hot, drizzle about a cup of the mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks – but be sure to whisk while you drizzle it in to prevent the egg yolks from cooking. (This process is called tempering the eggs. It simply warms the eggs before adding them to a hot liquid so they mix in smoothly.)
- Heat to thicken – Once tempered, add the egg and cream mixture to the saucepan with the rest of the cream, milk and sugar. Cook again over medium heat until the cream mixture starts to thicken – it’s ready when a spoon dipped in the cream remains coated. (This only takes about five minutes so be careful not to overcook the custard.)
- Strain then chill – Strain the vanilla custard through a fine mesh strainer to remove any egg bits. Then pour into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight before churning. (If your ice cream maker is the kind with a freezer bowl that needs to be frozen ahead of time, be sure to place that in your freezer at least 12-24 hours before churning your ice cream.)
- Churn, then freeze – The next day, churn your vanilla ice cream according to your ice cream maker’s instructions. Pour your ice cream into a freezer-safe container, then freeze until firm.
VariationsThe Best Vanilla Ice Cream recipe can serve as the base for many other from-scratch ice cream recipes. We used this recipe as the starting point for our Chocolate Malted Ice Cream. You can also stir in chocolate chips or other mix-ins at the end of the churning process.
Serving SuggestionsServe this fantastic homemade vanilla ice cream with:
- Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
- Bourbon Poached Peaches
- Indian Pudding
- Apple Crisp
- Balsamic Macerated Strawberries and Peaches
- Key Lime Ice Cream with Graham Cracker Pistachio Crumb Topping
- No-Churn Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream
- Roasted Strawberry Crème Fraîche Ice Cream
- Oatmeal Raisin Ice Cream
- Nutella Crunch Ice Cream Cake
4 egg yolks, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
3 cups heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
¾ cup sugar
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Set aside.
- In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat milk, heavy cream and sugar, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot. (This will take less than 5 minutes – do not bring to a simmer or boil.) Remove from the heat.
- Take about a cup of the hot mixture and very slowly drizzle it into the bowl with the egg yolks – constantly whisking while you add the hot mixture. (A slow drizzle will prevent the eggs from cooking as you add the hot cream mixture.)
- Once your egg mixture is smooth, slowly pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the hot cream mixture.
- Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens a bit and coats the back of a spoon. (This will take less than 5 minutes as well, and again, do not bring the mixture to a simmer or boil, or it will curdle.)
- Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl (a large measuring cup like this one works great because you’ll have a spout for pouring the cooled custard into the ice cream maker once it has cooled). Add the vanilla extract and mix well.
- Cover the bowl with a large piece of plastic wrap, pushing the plastic down to touch the top of the custard. (This will prevent a skin from forming on the custard as it cools.) Refrigerate overnight. (Freeze your ice cream maker bowl overnight as well.)
- Churn in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. (This is similar to the one we use.) After churning, freeze again for 4-6 hours before serving.
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