Frozen custard differs from ice cream because of the inclusion of egg yolks in the base. In fact, if an ice cream base contains cream or milk and egg yolks, it is technically a frozen custard and not an ice cream. Commercial frozen custard also includes less air whipped into the finished product; however, when you make it from a recipe at home, you still use an ice cream freezer and can't control the amount of air in the finished product.
Basic Vanilla Frozen Custard
This thick and creamy vanilla custard is as basic flavorwise as it comes, but it's rich and delicious. Continuous stirring, low heat, and tempering the egg yolks are a must in this recipe to keep the egg yolks from scrambling and the cream from scorching, so don't try to speed up the process with higher heat. It makes about 2 cups.
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 4 egg yolks, beaten
- Pinch of sea salt
- Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using the tip of a paring knife, scrape the seeds out of the center of the halves of the vanilla bean. Put them in a medium-sized pot with the heavy cream, whole milk, and sugar.
- On medium-low heat, bring the cream mixture to a simmer, whisking constantly.
- Put the egg yolks in a small bowl and whisk them. Working a tablespoon at a time, whisk the hot cream liquid into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, until you've incorporated about 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) of the hot cream into the egg yolks. This tempers the egg yolks and keeps them from scrambling when you add them to the hot liquid. Pouring in a thin stream, whisk the egg yolk mixture back into the remaining hot liquid on the stove, whisking constantly.
- Continue cooking, stirring constantly with a spoon, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. You can tell it's done if you draw a fingertip across the custard on the back of the spoon and the line from your fingertip stays. This takes about two minutes after the custard starts to simmer around the edges. Remove from heat and stir in the salt.
- Remove the custard from the heat and strain through a mesh sieve while it is hot. Put in a bowl, cover with plastic film directly on the surface of the custard, and refrigerate overnight.
- After it is cooled completely, chill in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
This recipe will keep in the freezer for up to three months. Store in a tightly sealed container.
You can use this basic recipe and vary flavors in the following ways:
- Chocolate: Add 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder to the custard when you add the sugar, milk, vanilla, and cream in step 1.
- Strawberry: Add 1/2 cup of crushed, fresh strawberries after straining the custard in step 5.
- Chai: In step 1 when you add the vanilla, add 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cardamom pods, slightly crushed, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root, and 2 cloves. You'll strain these out in step 5.
- Blackberry thyme: Add 1 sprig of fresh thyme in step 1. You'll strain this out in step 5. Then, stir in 1 cup of crushed blackberries before refrigerating.
- Lemon basil: Using a vegetable peeler, peel two one-inch strips of lemon peel (making sure you don't get the pith, or white part, which imparts bitter flavors). Add it in step 1 along with 4 leaves of fresh basil that you've crushed slightly to release the aroma. Omit the vanilla bean. You'll strain the lemon and basil out in step 3. For additional lemon flavor, whisk in 1/4 teaspoon of lemon-flavored extract when you add the sea salt.
Homemade almost always tastes better than store bought, and this is certainly true of frozen custard. Whether you serve it alone or with homemade ice cream syrups, frozen custard is a rich, creamy delightful dessert.