There are a collection of recipes that I consider sacred, meaning they transcend anything you can buy in a store and the experience of making them is as memorable as the finished product. Ice Cream is at the top of my sacred recipe list.
In a world where you can walk into any grocery store and be presented with flavors galore and brands aplenty, why in the world would anyone bother with making ice cream at home? For me, the answer is about process and passing down experiences that occupy space in my childhood memory bank.
There is nothing like sticking a spoon into the chamber of an ice cream maker, when the freshly frozen cream is sticking to the paddle, dripping and melting in sweet puddles on the counter as you dive in. The taste of cold cream on your tongue, the sensation of sweetness and frosty delight, it’s magical.
In a culture of convenience, it is good to be reminded where food comes from, how it is made, and to see the time it takes to create something of substance. Ice cream is no exception. Quality ingredients mesh with the process of creating a cream base, infusing that cream with whatever flavors or add-ins your heart desires, allowing it to cool, and then watching with satisfaction as it freezes and firms up into billowy pillows of delight.
I will argue all day that the flavor of homemade anything is better than store-bought, but perhaps this holds most true with ice cream. Even artisan, small-batch, specialty ice cream is still processed in a factory and shipped on a truck where it sits in a freezer until you buy it. Homemade ice cream, fresh from the freezer wins the day every time. The flavor is unadulterated, and once you taste it, you will be hooked forever.
Do I make ice cream at home often? Hardly. I consider it a ritual recipe that I save for times when I want to remember a taste of my childhood, drink in the process of creating something from scratch, or relish the incredible flavor that homemade ice cream delivers. But when I do choose to make ice cream, this is my recipe and method, and it never fails to take me back to the most basics of delight.
If you’re interested in learning to make ice cream in your home kitchen, I have a video for you. Let’s Learn Ice Cream will walk you through every detail of how to create homemade ice cream, and once you know the basics, it really becomes a snap to make.
Vanilla Ice Cream
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- pinch kosher salt
- Before you decide to make homemade ice cream, you must make sure your equipment is ready. The insert on my ice cream maker requires at least 24 hours in the freezer to be frozen solid. You cannot shortcut this step, so make sure you prepare ahead.
- In a medium saucepan, over medium-low heat (40% power), stir together the heavy cream, whole milk, sugar, and egg yolks until combined. Keep stirring the cream mixture with a heat-proof spatula, scraping the bottom of the pan to the keep the ingredients from scalding. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. It should not simmer. The mixture should reach 170 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, if you choose to use one.
- Once the cream mixture has thickened, remove it from the heat and pour into a bowl. Do not leave the cream mixture in the hot pan or the eggs will continue to cook.
- Stir in the vanilla extract and the salt. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Then chill the mixture for several hours (or overnight) until it is cold.
- When you are ready to freeze the ice cream, set up your ice cream maker and add the cream mixture. As it freezes, you will see it thicken. Once it is fully thickened and ready, you can add ingredients. My favorite is crushed Oreos, but other delicious options include sprinkles, fresh fruit (diced into bite-size pieces), or any candy of your choosing.