Enhance The Flavor Of Homemade Ice Cream With One Ingredient Swap

A tub of luxury store-bought ice cream has nothing on the flavor of a homemade batch. Churned to the perfect soft-set consistency with the aid of an ice cream machine, you can switch up the flavors, experiment with add-ins, and make as much or as little as your heart desires. However, few fancy flavors match the pared-back elegance of a homemade ice cream that features a simple comforting hit of fragrant vanilla. To enhance your next homespun version of this classic dessert, switch the vanilla extract for vanilla bean paste. This single move will lend your ice cream a deeper flavor, more inviting aroma, and attractive speckled finish.

Unlike vanilla extract, which is a liquid tincture made by soaking vanilla beans in water and alcohol, vanilla bean paste includes the seeds inside the pod. It has a richer texture because it contains natural thickeners, such as gum tragacanth, and, sometimes, sugar. Vanilla bean paste has an intense flavor because the vanilla beans suspended in the mixture impart their potent aroma and taste into the heady amalgamation. These pretty flecks also give finished ice cream a tempting appearance while indicating its flavor to diners. Using vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract in your ice cream is a breezy swap because you won't need to change the quantity your recipe calls for — simply use a teaspoon of paste for every teaspoon of extract, or if you usually scrape out vanilla beans yourself, use one tablespoon for every whole vanilla bean.

How to add vanilla bean paste to ice cream

The thick texture of vanilla bean paste means it won't affect the consistency of your custard base, like other liquid flavorings. (If you've made ice cream using alcohol, such as rum, you'll know it has a low freezing temperature and so makes the ice cream unable to set properly, hampering its ability to develop that essential scoopable quality). It's also much easier and cheaper to use a good quality vanilla bean paste than scraping the seeds out of a fresh vanilla pod every time you want to make ice cream. Better yet, the paste has a long shelf life of up to three years and can be kept safely in the pantry without refrigeration. You can add it to your ice cream on its own so the vanilla takes top billing or combine it with complimentary flavors, like the brown butter and pecans in this homemade ice cream recipe. 

Vanilla bean paste is also perfect for flavoring other custard-based desserts, such as crème brûlée and flan, or confections that have a classically thick texture, like cheesecake or banana milkshakes, too. Keep a bottle of the good stuff in your kitchen cupboard to create the ultimate vanilla-scented desserts in an instant.