Thursday, July 5, 2012

Rich French Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

A while back, I participated in a three-part contest hosted by Marx Foods. I didn't win, but everyone who advanced to the third round received a gift - 1/4 pound of vanilla beans. And yup, I got that far and shortly after, the beans arrived.

Mmmmm ... vanilla beans.

Even through the vacuum-sealed package, I could smell the gloriousness of the beans. It didn't take me long to decide to make ice cream. Hey, it's summer, it's hot, and we like ice cream.

I considered adding fruit, or rum, or nuts ... but then I decided that I'd be much happier if I didn't hide the vanilla. Instead, I wanted to highlight it as much as possible.

And I wanted it super-rich.

I succeeded.

Rich French Vanilla Bean Ice cream

3 vanilla beans
2 cups half-and-half
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 egg yolks

Split the vanilla beans lengthwise and scrape out the tiny black seeds. Put the seeds and the beans into a medium saucepan.

Add the half-and-half, cream, sugar, and salt. Heat the mixture slowly until it is just simmering.

Meanwhile beat the egg yolks in bowl. When the cream mixture it simmering, turn off the heat and slowly add some of the hot mixture to the eggs, whisking or stirring constantly until you've added a cup or two of the cream mixture and the eggs are warmed.

Add the eggs back to the cream mixture in the pan, whisking or stirring the cream mixture as you add the eggs.

Turn the heat back on and heat until the mixture thickens to coat the back of a spoon. (If you run your finger across the back of the stirring spoon, the line you cleared will remain.

Pour the liquid through a strainer into a storage container. Fish out the vanilla beans and put them into the strained mixture (might as well get every bit of flavor you can out of them, right?) Refrigerate the mixture until it is fully chilled - at least 4 hours or overnight.

When the mixture is fully chilled, churn it in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the finished ice cream to a storage container and freeze until firm.