Vanilla and beyond: the beginner’s delicious two-part ice cream tutorial

This tutorial includes recipes for a classic vanilla ice cream and a coconut cherry ice cream with cacao nib creme. Yum!


Ice cream is not a recipe: ice cream is a technique. All ice creams are just variations on that technique, making the creation of new ice creams in your kitchen just a matter of interchanging lego pieces.

Ice cream is a mixture of fat, water, sugar, flavoring, and an emulsifier to prevent the ice cream’s fat and water from separating. Mix the ratios and the exact fats and flavorings and you have endless variations. Understand a few basic concepts and your ice cream will, usually, be delicious. My friend wanted blue cheese ice cream last week, and, while that is not necessarily my scene, she walked away quite happily with some lovely, delicately blue ice cream.

To illustrate this idea, let’s start with a classic, and put a twist on it, and then take things way off the rails, even throwing in an unusual, but very easy, chocolate technique.

Vanilla Ice Cream

A classic vanilla ice cream is an emulsion of cream (fat, water,) vanilla (the flavoring,) and sugar (which makes it both delicious and prevents large ice crystals from forming,) made richer and stabilized with egg yolks. This is the most classic and basic of ice cream combinations.

Back when vanilla beans were cheaper, I’d make this vanilla ice cream with the seeds and pods of no less than four vanilla beans, for a breathtaking, complex vanilla flavor. These days, we keep things realistic, and on-budget, with high quality vanilla extract. We use half and half as our fat, to keep the ice cream a little less rich and showcase the vanilla’s flavor, and add some bourbon whiskey to help the vanilla flavor shine, and to keep the ice cream from getting too hard in the fridge, so we can sneak some scoops in between salads.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons good quality bourbon

Note the ratios here: For every cup of half and half, we use 2 egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar. This is a basic ice cream ratio and can be scaled up or down.

Pour the half and half into a pot and add the sugar, salt, and egg yolks.

Whisk until the egg yolks are fully incorporated into the liquid. Heat the mixture on low heat, whisking gently but consistently at all times–you don’t want the egg yolks to curdle. Once the mixture starts letting off a bit of steam, you’re close–you will see it thicken soon. Once this happens, take the mixture off the heat and keep whisking it for another minute or so, then place in the refrigerator.

Leave in your fridge for an hour, or until fully chilled, then whisk in the vanilla and bourbon. Since these ingredients are volatile and their flavors delicate, there is no point in heating them.

Now, the next trick to a good ice cream is to freeze it as rapidly as possible. You may have been to one of the liquid nitrogen ice cream shops: Liquid nitrogen freezes the mixture so quickly that ice crystals have no time to form, resulting in a smooth, creamy product. Now, most of us are not going to go out and buy a dewar of LOX, but we can get our base chilled by moving it to the freezer for a while. Leave the mix there, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until is just starts to freeze. Mix it again, and pour into your ice cream maker, churning the ice cream as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

There, easy! Let’s have some fun, adding some character and putting together a desert that will blow your friends and family away. Hopefully not too far away or you’ll end up eating this entire creation on your own!

Coconut Ice Cream

We’ll sub coconut cream for the half-and-half, add a swirl of cherry, and take it completely over the top with a sauce made from cacao nibs. Note the ratios here and how similar the basic concept is to our vanilla base.

Base Ingredients

  • 3 cups pure coconut cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp good quality bourbon

Make the ice cream base using the same technique as for the vanilla ice cream. While the base is chilling, make the cherry swirl.

Cherry Swirl Ingredients

  • 4 oz. plus 2 tbsp cherries, chopped and pitted
  • 1 tbsp of sugar, or more as needed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp good quality bourbon

Place 4oz of cherries in the blender, add the sugar, salt, and bourbon, and blend until smooth, adding water, one tablespoon at a time just until the mixture blends cleanly. Pour into a bowl.

When base is fully chilled, transfer to your ice cream maker and churn. When it is as cold as the ice cream maker can make it, fold in the cherry mixture and chopped cherries so they form ribbons in the ice cream. Don’t over mix–you want the cherry to remain as distinct as possible from the coconut. But don’t stress out–this should be fun.

Place in freezer until the ice cream is set. We find that it is much better the day after it is made. Serve a generous scoop of it, topped with the cacao nib creme, below.

Cacao Nib Creme Ingredients

  • 1 cup of half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of cacao nibs
  • 1 tbsp of good quality cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Blend all ingredients together until smooth. This may take a bit of time. We do this in a powerful tabletop blender. The mix will never get perfectly smooth, but that’s part of the fun of making your own chocolate.

Transfer to a small pot and heat on medium heat, whisking gently, until the mix comes to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk for an additional minute to cool. Place in sealable container and cool in fridge. We serve this slightly cool so that it doesn’t melt the ice cream, but if you don’t mind that, it is also incredibly delicious warm.



Classic Vanilla Ice Cream by Noam Ben Ami

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


Note: for every cup of half and half, we use 2 egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar. This is a basic ice cream ratio and can be scaled up or down.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons good quality bourbon

Directions

  1. Pour the half and half into a pot and add the sugar, salt, and egg yolks.
  2. Whisk until the egg yolks are fully incorporated into the liquid. Heat the mixture on low heat, whisking gently but consistently at all times–you don’t want the egg yolks to curdle. Once the mixture starts letting off a bit of steam, you’re close–you will see it thicken soon. Once this happens, take the mixture off the heat and keep whisking it for another minute or so, then place in the refrigerator.
  3. Leave in your refrigerator for an hour, or until fully chilled, then whisk in the vanilla and bourbon. Since these ingredients are volatile and their flavors delicate, there is no point in heating them.
  4. Immediately place the mixture in the freezer, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until it just starts to freeze. Mix it again and pour into your ice cream maker, churning the ice cream as per the manufacturer’s instructions.


Coconut Cherry Ice Cream by Noam Ben Ami

  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print


Note: for every cup of pure coconut cream, we use 2 egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar. This is a basic ice cream ratio and can be scaled up or down.

Ingredients

    For ice cream base:
  • 3 cups pure coconut cream
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons good quality bourbon

Ingredients

    For cherry swirl:
  • 4 oz. plus 2 tbsp cherries, chopped and pitted
  • 1 tbsp of sugar, or more as needed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp good quality bourbon

Directions

  1. Pour the coconut cream into a pot and add the sugar, salt, and egg yolks.
  2. Whisk until the egg yolks are fully incorporated into the liquid. Heat the mixture on low heat, whisking gently but consistently at all times–you don’t want the egg yolks to curdle. Once the mixture starts letting off a bit of steam, you will see it thicken soon. Once this happens, take the mixture off the heat and keep whisking it for another minute or so, then place in the refrigerator.
  3. Leave in your refrigerator for an hour, or until fully chilled, then whisk in the bourbon.
  4. While the base is chilling, prepare the cherry swirl by placing cherries in the blender, adding the sugar, salt, and bourbon, and blending until smooth, adding water, one tablespoon at a time just until the mixture blends cleanly. Pour into a bowl.
  5. When base is fully chilled, place the mixture (without cherry swirl) in the freezer, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until it just starts to freeze. Mix it again and pour into your ice cream maker, churning the ice cream as per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  6. When the base is as cold as possible, fold in the cherry mixture and chopped cherries so they form ribbons in the ice cream. Don’t over mix–you want the cherry to remain as distinct as possible from the coconut.
  7. Place in freezer until the ice cream is set. Best served the day after it is made, topped with the cacao nib creme.


Cacao Nib Creme by Noam Ben Ami

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of cacao nibs
  • 1 tbsp of good quality cocoa powder, such as Valrhona
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients together until as smooth as possible in a powerful tabletop blender. The mix will never get perfectly smooth.
  2. Transfer to a small pot and heat on medium heat, whisking gently, until the mix comes to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk for an additional minute to cool. Place in sealable container and cool in fridge.
  3. Serve slightly cool so that it doesn’t melt the ice cream, or warm for an incredibly delicious hot/cold contrast.

Tried it? Let us know how it went!

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