MoM June ‘08 Food & Wine: Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Last week, I shared one of Jeni Britton’s frozen yogurts that was featured in the June 2008 Food & Wine Magazine. The article contains recipes of two ice creams, two frozen yogurts, and two sorbets – and these are actually basic recipes you can change to accommodate many other flavors. The Lemon-Blueberry Frozen Yogurt was so delicious that I absolutely had to try one of her ice creams, so this weekend I stepped back into the kitchen for her Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

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Photo courtesy of Food & Wine

Unlike most ice creams, this one is exceptionally creamy, as it does not call for egg yolks. Britton doesn’t like the way the taste of yolks interfere with cream. I wasn’t really sure what she meant, as I had always made ice cream with egg yolks, and this dessert opened my eyes. It’s rich and delicious, and unlike any other ice cream I’ve made before.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened (3 tablespoons)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Fill a large bowl with ice water. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In another large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.

In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup and vanilla bean and seeds.

For some reason I was nervous about the vanilla beans, and I don’t know why. I’ve split open a vanilla bean before, but it’s not something I’ve often done. In case you’re new at this or feeling a little awkward about it, a vanilla bean looks like a gnarled little twig. Take your knife and cut it in half, lengthwise. Then scrape out the insides with your knife point. I tried taking pictures, but my camera isn’t so great for close-ups. Instead, I had to search around to see if I could get some decent pictures.

This photograph was borrowed from Carobe’s flikr page.

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The photostream actually reflects them making a Guinness Ice Cream – it’s a little hard to see inside of the vanilla bean, but once you get it split open, you’ll see some dark fuzzy stuff. That’s the vanilla bean part to scrape out. In the photo above, the inside is actually goopy because that person keeps their vanilla beans in vanilla extract. I don’t know why anyone would want to do that, and I don’t want to give anyone the misconception that they should be squeezing out some goo, so below is one of my blurry photos where I’m scraping out the inside of a vanilla bean with the tip of my knife.

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You can see on the tip of my knife where I have gathered a clump of slightly moist vanilla beans. Add that to your pot of milk.

Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves and the vanilla flavors the milk, about 4 minutes. Off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.

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Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Now, I hadn’t whisked my cream cheese beforehand, so I had to do some extra whisking in order to get the lumps out. Next time I will whisk to avoid the extra work.

Whisk in the salt. Set the bowl in the ice water bath and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes.

Strain the ice cream base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Pack the ice cream into a plastic container. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid. Freeze the vanilla ice cream until firm, about 4 hours.

Pig out.

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