I resisted getting an ice cream machine for a long time, I'm not quite sure why. I think it always felt like one of those extraneous kitchen appliances that would gather dust after one or two uses, because it's so incredibly easy to buy ice cream (and if you're not picky, quite inexpensively), so who wants to bother with the mess of making your own at home? Well, time passed, technology got better, and now the 'mess' part is pretty minimal since they've come up with machines that don't require any ice or rock salt. Then my excuse was that my not-large freezer was jam-packed with things and I simply didn't have the will to clean it out, when the rest of my house was in shambles (have I mentioned what a crappy summer it's been?). My mom took that excuse away when she visited and cleaned my place from top to bottom, so I actually did have time to clean out my freezer (found a giant bag -- unopened -- of Trader Joe's frozen strawberries ... from 2004).
And since I have a food blog, and it was hot as Hades, I ran out of reasons for not getting an ice cream maker.
Now I'm going to state the obvious. IT'S AWESOME. I don't regret waiting to get one, but now that I have it, I'm so glad I do. It's easy to use, and making the ice cream itself is pretty cinchy also. Naturally for my first foray into ice-cream making I chose to turn to David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop. :D I wanted to make something simple and traditional, a flavor I enjoy immensely, but is often overlooked for something more flashy: vanilla. It's no coincidence that it's also the first recipe in the book. I also wanted to make vanilla because I've been saving this one vanilla bean for just the right recipe, and this was definitely the moment.
Because this recipe is made with egg yolks, thus making a custard, it may also be more commonly known as "French vanilla," which is, of course, richer than regular vanilla (and gives it a yellowish hue). Confession: I couldn't resist making things a little more interesting, so I turned it into stracciatella, which is a fancy Italian way of saying "chocolate chip ice cream." Although it's more like chocolate flakes than chips, really. It has a vanilla ice cream base, but at the last moment of churning you add a thin stream of bittersweet chocolate, which gets broken up into little flakes in the ice cream, and is so very much better than actual whole chocolate chips (in my humble opinion).
It took my ice cream maker 25 minutes to churn the ice cream to a consistency I liked (I like it thicker, almost hard, rather than soft serve/frozen yogurt-like). I packed it into a plastic container and let it freeze for a few hours to harden even more. I was a bit concerned that the ice cream would be icy or too hard to scoop, but it was absolutely perfect. Creamy, firm yet with a lot of give, it was the perfect texture, and of course the flavor was fantabulous.
Stracciatella (Chocolate Flake Ice Cream) adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
- 2 cups heavy cream, divided
- 1 cup whole milk
- 6 large egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 4.5 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
- In a medium saucepan, gently warm 1 cup of heavy cream, milk, sugar, and salt, until the sugar has dissolved. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the warmed mixture and stick the bean itself in there as well. Cover the saucepan, remove from heat, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pour the remaining cup of heavy cream into a large bowl and set a strainer on top. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl (one that can fit the bowl with the 1 cup of heavy cream in it) with ice and water.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.
- Slowly (especially at the beginning) pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Then carefully pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
- Set the saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Heat until the custard thickens. You'll know it's ready if it coats the back of the wooden spoon (it won't be super thick), and when you draw your finger across it, it should leave a definitive trail.
- Pour the custard through the strainer, into the heavy cream. Stir the cream and custard to incorporate. Take the bean from the strainer and add it to the final mixture. Add the vanilla extract.
- Put the bowl into the ice bath, and stir until the mixture has cooled.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill thoroughly in the refrigerator. (I let it sit overnight.)
- When you're ready to churn the ice cream, remove the vanilla bean and rinse it. Let it dry out, then use it for another purpose (such as sticking it in your sugar container to make vanilla sugar).
- Freeze the ice cream according to your ice cream machine's instructions.
- Melt the chocolate in the microwave or by a double-boiler method.
- About 5 minutes before the ice cream is done, pour the chocolate in a thin stream directly onto the ice cream (not the mixer arm).