Maybe you didn’t grow up having a bowl of ice cream each night before bed – but I did.
“Bed-time snack-time, now or never!” My mother would announce. Just as much a part of our bedtime ritual as a bath or teeth brushing.
We always had at least two or three flavors to choose from. Vanilla, mint chocolate chip, Neapolitan, chocolate. And I would fill a large cereal bowl, sometimes drench in Hershey’s syrup or sugared peaches and dig in.
As a grown-up, I pretend that I don’t still have ‘bed-time, snack-time’, but if there’s ice cream in the freezer, I’m not likely to pass up an opportunity.
I’ve been working on perfecting my homemade vanilla ice cream recipe – a flavor so versatile you can drizzle it with chocolate, spoon it up with fresh fruit, or eat it right out of the container. One of my qualms about homemade ice cream is that though it is wonderfully delicious in its melty state fresh out of the maker, once you put it in the freezer, it hardens to a solid block. Conventional ice creams are reported to contain potentially toxic ingredients (akin to anti-freeze) to keep your dessert perfectly soft right out of the icebox.
So it got me thinking. How do you keep frozen dairy firm but not rock hard?
Well, if you’ve ever put a bottle of vodka in the freezer, you would know that it doesn’t freeze – it just gets frosty. That’s because alcohol freezes at a lower temperature than water (which is the liquid in milk). But I wanted a kid-friendly final product, so I didn’t want to use a big slug of booze.
Then I started day dreaming of one of my current favorite flavors – salted caramel. Of course! Back in Pennsylvania we salted the driveway and roads to melt ice (probably not great for the soil, eh?). A few months ago I made a salted caramel ice cream that stayed soft in the freezer. Salt and sweet do make a dynamic duo.
So, for classic vanilla, the finished recipe has a bit more vanilla extract than you might expect (mine is homemade in a vodka base) and a big pinch of salt. *If your vanilla is not in alcohol, reduce vanilla to 1 tablespoon and add 2 tablespoons of vodka or spirit of your choosing.*
The final dish: decadent, comforting, and just the right amount of ease in scooping right out of the freezer.
Vanilla Ice Cream Ingredients
- 3 cups raw cream – find raw cream here
- 1 cup raw milk - find raw milk here
- 4 egg yolks – preferably from hens raised on pasture, or at minimum free-range organic
- 1/2 cup maple syrup – find unrefined sweeteners here
- 1 tablespoon raw honey – find unrefined sweeteners here
- 2 tablespoons vanilla extract (in vodka or other alcoholic spirit) – see note above*
- 1 tablespoon arrowroot powder (to aid in thickening)
- 1/2 of a vanilla bean (optional, but wonderful) – find vanilla beans here
- A generous pinch of salt (about 1/4 teaspoon) – find quality sea salt here
Vanilla Ice Cream Method
- In a large bowl, beat egg yolks.
- Whisk in other ingredients making sure to sprinkle arrowroot gradual to avoid clumps. Combine well.
- Score the vanilla bean with a sharp knife down the length, flay open, scrape the tiny black seeds into your batter, and stir.
- Pour the batter into an ice cream maker (like this one) and process according to the machine’s instructions.
- When the ice cream is done, serve immediate for soft serve or spoon into a shallow container, lay plastic wrap directly onto ice cream (to avoid freezer burn), and freeze until firm.