Thursday, February 22, 2007
Ice-Cream Sunday 9: Vanilla
This is the basic ice-cream recipe. Cream, egg yolks, sugar and vanilla - combined and then cooked slowly over a low heat until thick and velvety and gorgeous. Unlike the plain American Ben & Jerry's ice-creams bases, which are very suitable for delightfully garish flavour and textural additions, the cooked-custard base is best when flavoured quite simply. I wouldn't say that one is better than the other; they are simply different. There is always room in my heart (and stomach) for more than one ice-cream.
Excuse me while I rant about vanilla. Vanilla's flavour and fragrance are completely irresistible, both warm and seductive. Using real vanilla beans in your cooking will give you a flavour that is so much better than anything you could get out of a bottle. You can use vanilla beans in baking, although I think they work best in custards and ice-creams. Simply use a sharp knife to open the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into your cream, drop the whole bean in there too, and warm the cream gently on the stove. You are now in flavour country.
I used Nigella's recipe for vanilla ice-cream, which is printed in both How to Eat and Forever Summer. It is just a matter of warming and flavouring the cream, as explained above, pouring it over egg yolks beaten with sugar, and then stirring the whole mixture over a low heat for about 10 minutes until thick and smooth. You must let it cool completely before churning it, or else it will not freeze correctly. However, vanilla ice-cream is actually one of the easiest ice-cream flavours to freeze - there is no fruit or water in it (which would make it icy and hard), or any other additions which would affect the freezing process. You just need to make sure that the mixture is cold before you churn it, it is churned for long enough (about 10-15 minutes), and, once frozen, you let it sit out of the freezer for another 10 minutes before scooping it. This will give you smooth, wonderfully scoop-able ice-cream.
I suppose the versatility of this ice-cream means that you could eat it ice-cream with any addition you like - hot fudge sauce, fruit compote, a hot apple pie and so on. But vanilla ice-cream, real vanilla ice-cream, is a wonderful flavour in its own right, and stands perfectly well as it is.
One scoop, one bowl, one spoon. Bliss.