Cool and Refreshing: Vanilla Ice Cream

We at Fabulous Foodie love vanilla – scent, the extract, the flavor (or flavour, depending on which of us you are talking to at any given moment) – and we’ve written about it at some length – as you can see:The Spicy Truth About Vanilla by Patrick on June 2013

The fact that we’ve covered vanilla as a topic already in no way prevents us from exploring the topic a bit more – especially as today is vanilla ice cream day and ice cream is about all we have the energy to think about right now, as we’re all in the middle of a heat wave. In fact, if it wasn’t so early in the day (it’s only 10:00 am), I’d be spoon deep in a pint of ice cream right now.

The thing is – vanilla ice cream isn’t just one thing. NO indeed. Vanilla ice cream offers a wide scope for experimentation and variation. I think of ALL ice cream flavors, vanilla is the one offering the most delicious possibilities – and that is the aspect I want to share with you today.

The first thing you need is some vanilla ice cream – whether that is store bought or homemade is up to you. I use both depending on my mood. And even when it comes to homemade, I might use the machine and I might not. I did a bit of ice cream experimentation earlier this year – comparing a machine-based method (making vanilla ice cream) with a non-machine based method (making Nigella’s One Step No-Churn Espresso Ice Cream). Both were good but the vanilla ice cream – made with a few of my own tweaks including slightly more than called for extract and adjusted proportions – was better.

The basics of making ice cream – even without a machine – are easy.

SUPER EASY 3 INGREDIENT VANILLA ICE CREAM:

Gently fold 2 cups of cold heavy/whipping cream (whipped) into 14-ounces of sweetened condensed milk that’s had some vanilla extract added to it, then pop the whole thing into a freezer safe container and letting it freeze for a few hours. Or you can go down the slightly more involved route.

VANILLA ICE CREAM SANS MACHINE:

  • a vanilla pod or two (this depends on how intense you want to flavor your ice cream). If you can’t find pods, get some really good vanilla extract.
  • 500ml/16fl oz heavy or double cream (using this instead of milk means no hard as rock freezing)
  • 70g/3oz sugar
  • 3 egg yolks.

First, cut open the vanilla pods lengthways and scrape out the seeds. Set the seeds aside as you don’t need them for a bit.  The pods themselves however – add to the cream and bring it to a boil. Once you’ve got a boil, turn it down just a tad and add the sugar, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Once you’re sure it’s dissolved turn off the heat and turn your attention to the egg yolks. Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl then slowly – and I really can’t stress enough HOW slowly and in small quantities – whisk in the hot cream mixture. Why so slow and why such a little bit at a time? Because if you dump a bunch of egg yolks into a hot mixture, you’re going to get very wet vanilla scrambled eggs. Once the egg yolks have been thoroughly incorporated*, whisk in the vanilla seeds. Pour the mixture into a freezer-proof container and freeze for 2-3 hours, or until set.

*Some folks sieve at this point but if your sugar as dissolved and you’ve gone slowly with the eggs, you shouldn’t need to.

If you’ve got an ice cream machine, it very likely came with a recipe book plus instructions on how much mixture to use and how long to churn it. You can bet one of those recipes will be vanilla. Try it, experiment with it, tweak it. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll have a lot of ice cream to taste test. Awwwwwwww, poor thing. 🙂

So, let us now continue on the assumption that one way or another you have gotten a hold of some really excellent vanilla ice cream. What to do, what to do? Well, what can you NOT do with it?

TOPPINGS

You can added topping to any flavor ice cream obviously but vanilla ice cream- a really good vanilla ice cream (and let’s face it, there is some really bad vanilla ice cream out there) lets the topping shine. It supports it, stands side by side with it, doesn’t compete with it. Vanilla ice cream serves as a foundation, highlighting the – tartness of crushed pineapple, sweetness of roasted strawberries, crunchiness of chopped nuts or the stickiness of oozing caramel.

What about adding something to the ice cream itself? Sure, any of those toppings could be swirled through the ice cream but what if you’re quite keen on keeping the vanilla front and center and not wanting to create – say – pineapple ice cream? Well then – put the kids to bed and peruse a few of these more grown up vanilla ice cream variations.

INEBRIATED ICE CREAMS

I should mention that in all the really good homemade ice cream recipes I’ve ever encountered or tried, there is a touch (a really miniscule amount) of booze in it so this isn’t from somewhere out in left field. It’s added to keep the substance from freezing rock hard. After all, what good is having ice cream if you need a hammer and chisel to get it into the bowl? I tend to use vodka as it is doesn’t interfere with the taste of whatever ice cream I am making. But it’s when you use something else (and in slightly larger quantities) that you get some outstanding adult ice creams such as Vanilla Bourbon Ice Cream or Vanilla Rum Ice Cream.

Use whatever basic vanilla ice cream recipe you have decided upon and simply add the booze. How much? Well, it’s a matter of taste obviously and I’ll be honest, I prefer a hint of it rather than a snout full when it comes to ice cream. As a rule of thumb: on the assumption that you start with 3-4 cups of base mixture, use about 2-3 tbs. bourbon or rum. As I said, this is obviously ‘to taste’ but don’t add TOO much or you won’t get a solid enough result.

And so my friends, celebrate Vanilla Ice Cream Day by exploring this cool, creamy cornerstone of the summer culinary scene. A world of tasty treats awaits you.

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