It summer, it’s hot and it’s time to think about cold treats. As promised, today is the day I try to convince you to take on making home-made ice-cream. Why I do I love making homemade ice-cream? Let me count the ways: 1) It is not as sweet as most commercial ice-cream, 2) I can get creative and make the perfect flavour for my dessert, 3) It has no artificial “junk” in it, 4) it is rich and creamy and has a pure flavour. There, have I convinced you?
First things first, you need to get yourself an ice-cream maker. I recommend the Cuisinart Ice-Cream Maker. For under $100 you can get this basic model (which is all you need) that does the trick and will last you forever. I got mine as a wedding present 15 years ago and it is still good as new…and I use it a lot! The only down side about this ice-cream maker is that the drum needs to be frozen solid before your start. I keep mine in the deep freeze so it is always read to go. Once you look at the recipe, you will also notice that it is best if the ice-cream base chills overnight, so that gives you some time to make sure the drum is frozen.
Ok, now you are ready to make some ice-cream!! Ice-cream base is really Crème Anglaise, a custard made of milk, cream, egg yolks and sugar. You can skip freezing your ice-cream base and use it as a delicious dessert sauce. Crème Anglaise is traditionally flavoured with vanilla by infusing the milk and cream mixture with vanilla beans. Once you have mastered the technique, you can infuse the dairy with almost anything you can think of; cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, star anise, tea, coffee beans, nuts, lavender (always use a light hand when using florals). I have included a few variations in the recipe below.
So there are a couple of tricks to making Crème Anglaise to make sure you don’t end up with sweet scrambled eggs! This advice may make more sense if you read through the recipe first. To begin with, don’t let your yolks sit with the sugar. The sugar will pull moisture from the egg yolk and start to coagulate the yolk which will leave nasty lumps that won’t mix in. As soon as you put your sugar and yolks in the bowl whisk them together thoroughly. Next before you add your yolk mixture to the cream, you need to temper them. This means adding warm cream to the yolks a little at a time to heat them so that when they are added to the rest of the cream they are at similar temperature. If not tempered, the difference in temperature between the hot cream and the room temperature (or cold) yolk mixture will cause the eggs to curdle…there are those sweet scrambled eggs I mentioned!! It is important that you continuously whisk the yolk mixture while the cream is being added. As you learn to make Crème Anglaise you may end up with some tiny pieces of egg yolk in your custard, but don’t worry, we strain the cooked custard as final safety net!
Once all your ingredients are combined, you need to slowly cook the custard to thicken it. You need to be patient. Do not go over medium heat and stir the mixture almost constantly. I like to use a pointed wooden spoon to get into the corners of the pot. The process of cooking the custard usually takes somewhere around 6 to 8 minutes. You will feel a change in the consistency of the custard as you are stirring it. The best way to check if it is ready is to draw a line with your finger along the back of the wooden spoon. If that line does not fill in, you are at the sweet spot for your custard!!
If you have never churned ice-cream before, it is important to know that once after the process you will have ice-cream the consistency of soft-serve. You then need to transfer it to a container and freeze if for several hours. I find a loaf pan works well as it is easy to make beautiful scoops from. The time to mix in any goodies you want to add (inclusions is the technical term, but I think goodies sounds better) is before your freeze the ice-cream! A good rule of thumb is 55 g to 115 g (about ½ to 1 cup) of nuts, chocolate or candies for 1 litre of ice-cream. The lower end with give you bites with just ice-cream. The higher amounts mean you will have goodies in every bite. If you are using something light like mini-marshmallows, use the volume measures (½ to 1 cup).
If you are chopping up any of your additions, it is good to put them in a fine-mesh sieve and give them a good shake. The tiny pieces that result from chopping can make your ice-cream feel gritty, sieving them will ensure you only have the yummy large pieces. Now stick those goodies in the freezer while your ice-cream is churning. Room temperature additions will cause small pockets of your churned ice-cream base to melt before it can fully harden making your ice-cream less smooth and creamy, and smooth and creamy is what we are after!
I hope I didn’t scare you away! Give it a try and let me know how it went in comments! If you got a new ice-cream maker and are still timid, give us a call and we can set-up an in-home lesson where you and some friends can learn how to make ice-cream and have a Sundae party!
Vanilla Ice Cream
(makes about 1 Litre)
475 ml (2 cups) whole milk
475 ml (2 cups) whipping cream
80 g (4 extra large) egg yolks
100g (½ cup) granulated sugar
Place milk and cream in a heavy bottomed pot. Use a small paring knife to split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Using the knife edge, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and place them in pot. Place vanilla bean pod in pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Cover pot, remove from heat and allow mixture to infuse for at least 30 minutes.
Bring the mixture back up to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together, preferably in a stainless-steel bowl. Use a small ladle to add a small amount of the hot cream mixture (about 45 – 60 ml or 3 - 4 tbsp) to the egg yolks, whisking as you do so. Continue whisking in small amount of the hot cream mixture until you can feel the warmth when you put your hand on the outside of the bowl.
Pour the warm mixture in the bowl back into the pot, again whisking as you do so. Return pot to medium heat and cook the custard, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the mixture thickens. To test the custard, run your finger through the custard clinging to the back of the spoon. The line you create should not fill in. If it does, cook the custard a bit longer. The process of cooking the custard should take about 6 to 8 minutes.
Strain the custard through as fine-meshed sieve into a clean bowl. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap set directly on the custard surface (to prevent a skin from forming). Place in the refrigerator and chill at least 2 hours, preferably over-night. Process in an ice-cream maker according the manufacturer’s instructions.
Cinnamon: Replace vanilla bean with 2 cinnamon sticks. Let infuse for 30 minutes. Add ½ tsp (2.5 ml) ground cinnamon after the custard is strained.
Almond: Replace vanilla bean and infuse the milk and cream with 215 g (1½ cups) toasted, coarsely chopped almonds. Add 1 tsp of almond extract after the custard is strained. Stir in 145 g (1 cup) toasted almonds, coarsely chopped, sieved, and frozen, into processed ice-cream. Note: Use fresh almonds to mix-in, NOT the almonds that infused the milk and cream.
Maple: Omit vanilla bean (there will be no infusion time, so the cream mixture is only boiled once). Replace granulated sugar with 67 g (⅓ cup) maple sugar Add 2 tbsp (30 ml) of pure maple syrup after the custard is strained.
adapted from Sunday Supper at Lucques by Suzanne Goin