Have I ever told you that ice cream is my favorite food? That I eat it almost every day? That I only hesitatingly admit to, more than once, eating a whole pint in one evening? That, as much as I like all desserts, at the end of a nice meal at a nice restaurant, no matter what’s on the dessert menu, I almost always order ice cream?
It’s sweet, it’s cold, it’s creamy, it’s refreshing. What more could you want?
Well, I’m also here to tell you that homemade ice cream beats the pants off of store-bought, which is typically full of gums and stabilizers to help it weather freezes and thaws but that keep it from tasting, well, simply delicious. There really is a difference. And it’s one you can only appreciate by, you guessed it, making ice cream for yourself.
That’s not necessarily bad news, because homemade ice cream is really pretty easy. In fact, the hardest thing about making ice cream is having an ice cream maker – and I’m pretty sure you can handle getting one of those. (Here’s a good one.) It’ll only cost about $50 and, while I know that’s not peanuts, I promise that you’ll get more than $50 worth of happiness dazzling people with your ice cream and saying “I made it myself!”
So then, making ice cream.
Most flavors will be a variation of your basic vanilla. This is essentially a simple custard – milk and/or cream, egg yolks, and sugar – which you cook with a split and scraped vanilla bean, to infuse the flavor of the vanilla into the custard. (Yes, you could use vanilla extract but – this is homemade ice cream – don’t you want pretty little flecks of vanilla, and full vanilla flavor, in it?) Then you chill that “base” mixture, then you process it in your ice cream maker.
Want to make mint ice cream? Instead of a vanilla bean, use fresh mint leaves, and infuse their flavor into the custard. Earl Grey ice cream? Use a few bags of Earl Grey tea. Basil ice cream? Yep – basil leaves. (Specific instructions for all of these variations – although they’d be easy enough to figure out – are included in my Basic Ice Cream recipe.)
Still pretty easy, right?
Fruit ice cream is one step more complicated – but only that. We’ll talk about it next time, and I’ll tell you about my experiments with a homemade version of Cherry Garcia, one of my favorite flavors ever (my cherry ice cream is pictured in this post).
Meanwhile, make some vanilla ice cream. Or cinnamon. Or lavender.
And maybe even eat a whole pint.
You might also be interested in a post from last summer, on how to make sorbet without a recipe.