Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Secret Desire - Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Happy New Year!  I was looking through my old posts, and thought this would be good.  It sums up a good chunk of what I thought last year, and a little of what I hope for next year.  Here's to being happier in 2012!

Finally, now that the ice cream is all gone, do I have the courage to post this.  Although it was only on my to-do list for a short while, I couldn't quite bring myself to write about a planned and perfectly executed success.  I live in fear of egotism, of arrogance.  If I am too sure of myself, fates are certain that I will become careless and spoil my brief success.  However, I am finding more and more that confidence is a good thing.  Striking the perfect balance of confidence and humbleness leads to great things in life, not the least of which being acing an exam and having studied exactly the correct amount and material.  Something that was rather rare during my last semester.

In this case, it was the Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.  I actually made this last summer, during my fit of enthusiasm about rare and lovely ingredients and excellent food.  I ranted about it here.  These vanilla beans were part of my 18th birthday gift from my best friend, currently in Portland.  I promised to make this ice cream for her during the break, but she left before I realized, and this ice cream will have to wait until summer.  Probably even better then, but I do miss her.  Plus, she deserves to eat this ice cream.  This is some really, really good ice cream.  Former pastry chef at the Chez Panisse David Lebovtiz knows what he's talking about, having published a book called The Perfect Scoop.  I'd love to get my hands on this book...

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream from 17 and Baking, who got it from David Lebovitz
Makes about a quart

1 cup whole milk 
Scant ¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream

2-cup liquid measure
¼ teaspoon measure
1 teaspoon measure (optional, I suppose, but I have difficulty counting, so...)
¼ cup dry measure
Double boiler, or improvised.  I just used an extremely low flame and a paranoid eye.
1 small paring knife to slit and scrape vanilla bean 
1 small bowl for tempering the egg yolks
1 whisk
1 large bowl for ice cream
1 even larger bowl for ice water (larger than the ice cream bowl)
1 strainer for the custard 
Plastic wrap or lid to cover the ice cream bowl
1 freezer or 1 ice cream machine (I don't have an ice cream machine...)


1. In the double boiler or small pot, heat the milk, sugar and salt. While the milk is heating, slit the vanilla bean lengthwise, then scrape all the incredible little seeds into the milk.  Toss in the bean as well.  When the milk is steaming, turn the fire off, cover it and let it infuse for an hour or so.

2.  Right before the next step, set up an ice bath.  Place ice water inside the very large bowl, then place the large bowl inside.  Make sure that none of the ice water spills into the ice cream bowl.  Set a strainer over the ice cream bowl.

3. Whisk the egg yolks together in the small bowl.  Reheat the milk over low fire until it just begins to steam, then whisk a little of the hot milk into the eggs.  Whisk the entire time to gradually heat up the eggs without scrambling them.  This is the process of tempering the eggs.  When the eggs are warm, pour them into the milk and cook, stirring constantly, until the custard is thickened and coats the back of a metal spoon.  Make sure to keep the fire very low.

4. Pour the cooked custard into the ice cream bowl through the strainer.  Include the vanilla seeds, but save the bean pod for another use.  Pour in the cream, and gently mix the cream and custard together until completely cool.  Remove from the ice bath, cover with plastic wrap (or a lid, if you have one) and refrigerate until completely cool, preferably overnight.

5.  If you have an ice cream machine, churn it in that.  If not, simply plop your cooled ice cream into the freezer for an hour.  Then, mix up the semi-frozen custard and cream, making sure to incorporate all the frozen bits on the side.  Plop it back into the freezer for an hour, and repeat for the next 5 or 6 hours.  Enjoy the delicious, creamy, very very vanilla ice cream!

It's the only picture I have since I was busy worrying about breaking the custard, but this picture still excites me :)
Happy 2012, everyone!

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