Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Girl's First Ice Cream

What do you do when you’re bored on a Saturday? Some people go to work out, have a beer, grab coffee with girlfriends, or see a movie. I shop for kitchen appliances. This being Oslo and a few weeks ago still being winter, I made a trip downtown to Glas Magasinet’s basement where they sell their kitchen appliances, dishes, and all things food related. My boredom must have been severe because I bought 2 big things that I have been eyeing. I walked out of the store with a Le Creuset Dutch oven and an ice cream maker. Birthday came early for me this year.

After a week of admiring my new ice cream maker sitting on my counter, I decided to make my first ice cream ever. I settled on a very basic vanilla bean ice cream from David Lebovitz. The ingredients were simple and the steps seemed easy enough. The result was a very rich, buttery yellow vanilla ice cream speckled with the tiny seeds from a vanilla bean pod. This recipe and the machine were so easy to use that I was suddenly aflush with inspiration and flooded with new ideas for ice cream flavors. Move over Ben and Jerry, a little Chinese girl living in Oslo is about to bring you some competition!
I have always been intimidated by custards. All this talk of tempering eggs so the custard doesn’t turn into scrambled eggs when you cook the eggs and the cream over heat and getting the custard to the right level of thickness scares the bejesus out of me. That is why the custard for this ice cream was a little daunting at first but it’s not so scary after all! I will definitely remember the day I made my first custard and it did not turn into scrambled eggs. Instead, it turned into the rich base of a professional-tasting ice cream.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
1 cup whole milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for one hour.

Set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart (2l) bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Put the cream into the smaller bowl and set a strainer over the top of the bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Do this with about half of the warmed milk. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan, whisking constantly. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

Strain the custard into the heavy cream in the small bowl. Stir over the ice until cool, stir in the vanilla extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.

Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

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