Is it really December? It sure doesn't feel like December. I have yet to venture outdoors without a jacket, and I still require two, thick quilts at night to keep my toesies warm.
So, my questions are:
1) Is summer really here?
2) Should I retrieve my long-sleeved pyjama tops from the back of the closet?
3) Is it too early to crank out quart after quart of homemade ice cream as a pre-emptive measure against the January heatwaves?
Not sure about 1) and 2), but 3) I can answer with ease: definitely not! Especially since an iced dessert aficionado like myself enjoys eating ice cream so much that cold weather rarely factors into the equation.
Usually, when the craving for something sweet, creamy and chilled strikes, I promptly drag my greedy behind to the nearest gelato/ice cream store and order the richest-looking flavours on offer (with an internal pledge to eat healthy for the next few days). It's usually a scoop of some permutation of chocolate, paired with a dessert-based one like tiramisu, boysenberry cheesecake, or cookies 'n' cream. Or, if I happen to be within the vicinity of Passionflower, or a similar store carrying Asian flavours, I'd invariably pick the black sesame. Vanilla - boring, old, artificial-tasting vanilla - is usually dismissed without a second thought.
I don't know what compelled me to choose vanilla ice cream when I decided to test out the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker that my friends gifted me for my 21st birthday (I also got a food processor! My friends know me too well xD). Maybe it was the fact that I had a few vanilla beans to use up. Or because my siblings happen to like vanilla ice cream. Or perhaps some part of me instinctively knew that the fact that I would be using only the freshest and highest quality ingredients I could get my hands on would make this vanilla ice cream anything but boring, old, and artificial-tasting.
One lesson learned: always trust your instincts! This vanilla bean ice cream was amazing. I mean, just looking at that picture below...it would look right at home on a Blue Ribbon ad, wouldn't you agree? ;D I love the visible specks of the vanilla bean seeds. And did I mention how creamy and smooth this was? Totally worth the money- and calorie-splurge on Pura Double Thick Cream, with a minimum milk fat content of 48%. No wonder it tasted like spoonfuls of paradise.
Recipe for Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes 1 litre (1 quart)
1 cup (250ml) full cream milk
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup (150g) white granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 cups (500ml) double cream (I recommend minimum 48% milk fat), chilled in fridge until needed.
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used Queen's Natural Vanilla Extract)
1. Heat the milk, salt and sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a low flame. Do not boil the milk; the aim is to dissolve the sugar in the liquid.
2. Split the vanilla bean pod length-ways and scrape the seeds into the milk. Give the milk a gentle whisk to disperse the vanilla seeds. Add the bean pod to the milk. Cover the saucepan, remove from heat, and allow to infuse for one hour.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. After an hour of infusing the milk with the vanilla bean, remove the bean pods. Rewarm the infused milk over a low flame. Pour a third of the milk into the egg yolks gradually, whisking constantly. This is to stop the egg yolks from cooking from the added heat. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan containing the remaining two-thirds of the milk.
4. Cook the egg yolk and milk mixture over low heat, stirring constantly. Use a heat-resistant spatula, as this will allow you to scrape the bottom of the saucepan. Do not stop stirring and scraping, as the mixture at the bottom of the pan will scramble like that! if unattended (talking from experience here).
5. Once the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of the spatula, remove from heat. Taking it off the heat at the right time is a science in itself, and takes a bit of experience, guesswork and luck. Haha, practice makes perfect :D Allow to cool slightly.
6. Take the double cream out of the fridge and pour/scrape into yet another bowl. Set a strainer over the top of the bowl containing the cream. Strain the cooked eggs and milk (now known as a "custard) into the cream. Stir together until completely incorporated. Then strain the entire mixture for guaranteed smoothness.
7. Stir in the teaspoon of vanilla extract. Pour the mixture into an air-tight container, and refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours. I left mine in the fridge for 12 hours.
8. Once mixture has chilled sufficiently, pour it into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.