Home-made vanilla ice cream is sooo very good.  The vanilla beans, cream and milk freshly churned make for an extra special treat.  Vanilla ice cream pairs well with most desserts – cookies, crisps, cobblers and pies…with chocolate cake, loaf cakes, brownies and fruits – it is one of my favorite things!  (My family is really very tired of hearing me exclaim…”that would be so good with vanilla ice cream!”)  But it is true.  It is a staple.  I cut the espresso brownies into little pieces and added some to half of the ice cream and turned it into an espresso brownie swirl (photo above).  Really good.  And to right is the ice cream with apple cranberry crisp.  Really completes the dessert.  For a new ice cream mix-in, try Grape Nuts cereal and raisins…I had a version of this at Toscanini’s (my favorite ice cream parlor in Cambridge, MA) many many years ago (and I’m so happy that I can remember).  I don’t even love Grape Nuts, or raisins, but together in vanilla ice cream…wow (seriously).

* A quick word about ice cream machines – they are so easy to use and affordable these days.  In addition to ice cream, you can make sorbets, sherbets, frozen yogurts and slush drinks.  I happen to like Cuisinart’s 2 quart model – it is on sale for 50.00 bucks.  The 1.5 quart model is also good.  And if you have a kitchen aid mixer – there is an ice cream attachment that you can purchase and your done!

vanilla ice cream (adapted slightly from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz):
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean split and seeded
6 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt

Prepare an ice bath.  In a large bowl, place ice and water.  Place a medium sized bowl (or container) on top with a strainer ready as well.  (This is where the cooked custard will land.  Strain it into this bowl, on top of the ice bath.  This is to stop the custard from cooking.)

In a medium saucepan mix together the milk, heavy cream and about half of the sugar.  Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the beans out with the back of your knife and add it to the  the mixture (including the cut bean – better yet, cut the bean up too).  Heat over medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Watch it carefully – you don’t want it to boil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and remaining sugar.

Now you will “temper” the eggs which means warming them slowly so that they do not turn into scrambled eggs!  With a ladle, scoop a small amount of hot cream/milk into the eggs and whisk well.  Continue slowly ladle by ladle and constantly whisking the eggs while you do this.  Keep going (slowly) until you’ve added all the milk/cream/vanilla to the eggs.

Pour the warm egg and milk/cream mixture from the bowl back into the (same) saucepan.  Over low heat, mix the custard constantly with a wooden spoon and keep the mixture moving at all times.  Make sure you scrape the bottom as you stir.  The custard should thicken so that it coats the back of the wooden spoon.  It should take about 4-8 minutes depending on the heat.  Do not boil.  Cook slowly and carefully.

Once thickened, immediately pour and strain the custard into the bowl atop the ice bath.  Be sure to mush and smush the vanilla beans into and through the strainer.  You want all of that goodness.   Let cool then cover and chill in refrigerator preferably overnight but for at least 4-6 hours.

Freeze in your ice cream maker.  Add any mix-ins.

With all ice creams, place in container and cover with plastic wrap so that it touches the ice cream and then cover and freeze.  Eat that night for best taste and texture but if frozen hard, remember to pull it out and let soften in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.  Yum.  Enjoy.

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