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best ever homemade vanilla ice cream

July 25th, 2011 · 21 Comments

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This is the story of a marriage. Ever since I bought a KitchenAid ice cream attachment last year, I always have homemade vanilla ice cream in the freezer. At first I used David Lebovitz’s vanilla ice cream recipe, which is pretty darn good. When I saw that Cook’s Illustrated had taken the recipe one step closer to perfection, I knew I had to try their methods to see if the recipe produced significantly different results.

My husband I have a long standing joke in our house. When I’m making dinner and the kitchen is a disaster and there are timers going off everywhere and I can’t even take a break to give him a welcoming kiss, he always asks, “Is tonight’s dinner a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated?” He knows their recipes are famously complicated and involve using waaaaaay too many dishes for our own good (which he, as resident dish washer, does not appreciate). We both agree that sometimes the extra steps are necessary for perfection (as in our favorite broccoli beef stir fry) and other times they feel a little more like hocus pocus (like in our favorite Scottish Oats recipe). This ice cream recipe fell somewhere in the middle, so I pared down the steps that I didn’t feel were necessary. Here is a very reasonable – and delicious! – alternative. I’d like to call it a marriage between the two vanilla ice creams. Try it and I guarantee you’ll love it!

By the way, you may be like me and fear the corn syrup in this recipe. Cook’s Illustrated noted in their recipe that they tried several alternatives, but only corn syrup provided the creaminess that they were aiming for.

homemade vanilla ice cream
www.cooksillustrated.com

  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy cream (preferably organic)
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk (preferably organic)
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar (divided)
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Place an 8- or 9-inch-square metal baking pan in freezer. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape out the vanilla seeds. Combine the vanilla bean, seeds, cream, milk, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, corn syrup, and salt in medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is steaming steadily and registers 175 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from heat.

While cream mixture heats, whisk yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in bowl until smooth, about 30 seconds. Slowly whisk the heated cream mixture into egg yolk mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and registers 180 degrees, 7 to 14 minutes. Prepare a large bowl with a fine-mesh strainer placed on top. Pour the custard into the strainer. Discard remaining bits in the strainer. Add vanilla extract to the custard in the bowl. Let the custard in the bowl cool until no longer steaming, 10 to 20 minutes. Transfer the vanilla bean to the bowl and cover the bowl and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

Remove the custard from refrigerator and transfer to an ice-cream machine. Churn until the mixture resembles thick soft-serve ice cream and registers about 21 degrees, 15 to 25 minutes. Transfer the ice cream to the frozen baking pan and press plastic wrap on the surface. Return the ice cream to the freezer until firm around the edges, about 1 hour.

Transfer the ice cream to an airtight container, pressing firmly to remove any air pockets, and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

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Tags: dessert · ice cream

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Maureen // Jul 25, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    I thought my David Lebovitz vanilla ice cream was the best but I don’t have corn syrup in mine. I will definitely try this one next!

  • 2 natalie (the sweets life) // Jul 26, 2011 at 8:08 am

    I’ve made so many homemade ice creams this summer but no vanilla yet. I’ll have to try this–can’t go wrong with Cooks Illustrated!

  • 3 Nicole@HeatOvenTo350 // Jul 26, 2011 at 9:30 am

    I’ve been looking for a great vanilla ice cream recipe ever since I went in with my neighbors and bought a bunch of fabulous vanilla beans. They’re making my kitchen smell wonderful, but I’d like to see them in some ice cream. This looks like the recipe for me. Thanks!

  • 4 Maya // Aug 4, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Wooooooowwww this ice cream is AMAZINNNGGG! Just when I had thought I found -the best- vanilla ice cream recipe, I decided to try this one which totally blew my recipe out of the water. It’s so dreamy <3 Totally worth the effort :)
    I love the detailed steps as well (I've never had a recipe that included temperatures, talk about helpful!). Thanks so much for sharing this

  • 5 Paula // Aug 4, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Maya – I’m so glad that you tried it and liked it!!!! :)

  • 6 ksm // Jun 1, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Can you tell me how much ice cream this recipe makes?

  • 7 Paula // Jun 1, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    @KSM – about 1 quart!

  • 8 Daniel // Jun 24, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    would it be safe to replace the whole milk with half & half instead?

  • 9 Paula // Jun 24, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Daniel – I can’t see why not? It would definitely have a few more calories and calories are what make ice cream delicious, right?! :) I’d say try it! :)

  • 10 Madalene // Jul 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Just made this today for July 4th, It was delicious, but the yield was very small. We doubled the recipe and it was gone in no time short. Great made into root beer floats! We put it into the freezer for a few hours before putting it into the root beer. YUMMY!

  • 11 Sidney // Sep 6, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    This ice cream sounds AMAZING!! I cannot wait to make it and try it.
    I am very new to the ice cream making world and Am not too sure of myself with changing recipes up. For some crazy reason, my daughter doesn’t like vanilla bean- she thinks they are little bugs! Anyways, is there anyway to make this without using vanilla bean or compromising the flavor?

    Thank you!!!
    Sidney

    PS- I am working to help her understand that a vanilla bean is not a bug :)

  • 12 Paula // Sep 7, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Sidney,

    Go ahead and omit the vanilla bean the first time. If you want, you can sneak in a few vanilla bean specks and then add more and more each time. :)

  • 13 Sidney // Sep 7, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Perfect and that’s a great idea for the vanilla bean! Thank you so much for your quick response— now it’s time to make this yummy ice cream!!

  • 14 farah // Oct 11, 2012 at 4:24 am

    i am searching the best vanilla icecream recipe from many days,yours recipe sounds good. The best part is your quick response. I will definately try this and tell you.

  • 15 farah // Oct 11, 2012 at 4:42 am

    please tell me the reason of using corn syrup.

  • 16 Paula // Oct 11, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Farah – You know, Cook’s Illustrated talked about it in their write up on the recipe and it had to do with the creaminess that you get from the corn syrup that you don’t get from just sugar. I don’t remember the details of why, but they tried all kinds of recipes and the corn syrup one won!

    Sorry I can’t be more helpful than that! :(

    -Paula

  • 17 Mario // Dec 17, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Corn syrup usually is used with sugar to cut down on crystal formation. The fructose in corn syrup is chemically different enough that it interferes with the sucrose in table sugar in forming crystals of sugar.

    I am not sure if that is an issue in ice cream, but it probably doesn’t hurt. Usually you are trying to cut down on water crystals in the freezing process to keep the ice crystals from creating a grainy texture.

  • 18 Liz // Mar 22, 2013 at 3:55 am

    Sounds great. I am always trying new recipes for the best vanilla bean. Would honey have a similar effect as corn syrup?
    I also read that adding a little vodka helps keep it from going really hard in the freezer. No taste change but alcohol doesn’t freeze so the ice cream stays easy to serve.

  • 19 Paula // Mar 22, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Liz,

    There’s something about the actual way that corn syrup interacts with the other ingredients that allows for no other substitutions. I can’t remember the details now, but I know they tried a host of other sweeteners and this is the one they landed on. :)

    Re: vodka, you could certainly try that, although I think a more fool-proof strategy is to just eat all the ice cream within a day or two. Not necessarily healthy, but pretty fool proof. :)

    -Paula

  • 20 Katie G // Apr 28, 2013 at 8:53 am

    This is incredible ice cream! My husband and I compared it to our favorite premium commercial brand and agreed that it made our previous favorite taste bland and icy. I’m going to need to get a large number of vanilla beans this summer!

  • 21 Sonya // Sep 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    I’ve been making vanilla ice cream for years, flitting between the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, Ben & Jerry’s (using eggbeaters), and Mixer Bible recipes, so when I saw this Cook’s Illustrated recipe on their website, I just had to try it. For some reason, my husband and I didn’t like it as much, it seemed like it tasted slightly artificial? Who knows… Anyway, it prompted me to do a taste test of the other 3 recipes and we found our favorite, so that was cool. From posts I’ve read at Serious Eats, I think that the exact best ice cream recipe is down to personal taste, from the fat % to the number of yolks to the steeping time for the vanilla bean. I was just curious if anyone else had found the recipe a little odd, hence this google search… but I’m glad that you loved it, and obviously all the taste testers at CI found it superior to their old recipe!

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