Ice cream. It's one of the greatest culinary transformations known to man: Milk, cream, egg yolks and sugar freezing together into something pure, cold and luxuriously creamy.
There are so many ways to go about it, but we like to start with a fatty, not-too-sweet French custard base, tempering egg yolks into milk and cooking the mixture until it thickens.
It's a simple technique and it fills the kitchen with the sweet, nostalgic smell of warm dairy (not a sensation you get from store-bought). Once you add cream, which delivers more butterfat and body, you've got a base with endless possibilities (see the recipe).
We like to play with fruit, spice and chocolate, but never underestimate the power of vanilla. A single bean, cut down the middle and scraped, soaked in the milk while it warms, adds perfume.
Now churn and wait. After a few hours in the freezer, your gorgeous, supple, super creamy ice cream is ready to scoop. Here's what you'll need to feel the churn:
Don't underestimate plain vanilla
We like a ratio of six egg yolks to three cups of dairy—use fresh, organic eggs for the best taste and texture.
A whisk will help temper those yolks with warm milk and thoroughly mix the custard with cream. No lumps!
High-quality vanilla paste made from real beans has tons of flavor and perfume, which blooms beautifully in ice cream, either in combination with a whole vanilla bean or on its own.
This home ice cream machine doesn't have a compressor, which makes it more affordable. Be sure to stick the gel-insert bowl in the freezer the night before to get it nice and cold.
Use full-fat milk and cream. You need their butterfat content to achieve textural perfection.
Thanks to your trusty wooden spoon, you'll know when the custard is ready. Use it to keep the milk and egg moving so things don't get too hot, too fast. When the custard thickens and sticks to the spoon, it's ready.
A pinch of salt makes everything taste more like itself. Don't forget it.
Now you've got everything you need. Here are some tips:
You must chill
Transfer your warm custard to a plastic food bag, seal it tightly, and submerge the whole thing in ice water. This will cool it down almost immediately so it's ready to churn in 20 minutes. Everything should be cold before it hits the machine—you want it to go from liquid to soft-serve texture as fast as possible to avoid ice crystals.
Pop a clean quart container in the freezer so it's chilled and ready to go the second your churned base is ready to transfer, otherwise the ice cream will start melting right away. And never, ever leave your ice cream in the machine's bowl, because it'll freeze solid to the gel-insert sides.
ABT (Always Be Tasting)
Want to add a mix in? Here's a rule: Taste it. Make sure the add-on is so delicious, you want to eat it with a spoon. Otherwise, it's not going to improve on what you've got going on.