My Mother always used to say “Self praise is no praise at all“. I’ve tried to live by that, but I must say this is the best French Vanilla Ice Cream I have ever had. It’s a recipe from Food Network, which I tweaked out of necessity as I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand. Vanilla is my favorite flavor of ice cream, and I wouldn’t be alone. Many Americans rank Vanilla as their #1 favorite flavor and Chocolate a close second.
Here it is served over Apple Pie, a classic known as Apple Pie a la Mode, which in French literally means “in the fashion of“. I don’t quite get the connection, but the combination of these two desserts is fabulous.
And here are some cured pods with the Vanilla Orchid Blossom…
Mexico is the birthplace of Vanilla. It comes from the Vanilla Orchid and for centuries was the exclusive secret of the native Totonac Indians, later conquered by the Aztecs. When the Aztec empire fell, the pods were brought to Spain and the rest of the world. Cultivating the Vanilla Orchid in Spain never took off, and now it is grown only in 5 regions: Mexico, Madagascar, Tahiti, Indonesia, and Uganda. Vanilla is the most popular and widely used flavor in the world.
Green pods still on the orchid.
What Puts The “FRENCH” IN French Vanilla Ice Cream?
The French use eggs (and lots of them) in their vanilla ice cream, whereas regular vanilla ice cream usually does not, or at least not this many. It is the eggy custard that makes this French Vanilla. I was shopping at Costco a couple weeks ago and picked up some eggs. I thought I picked up 2 dozen, but instead came home with 5 dozen eggs. So, I’ve been making a lot of eggy dishes lately. This recipe for French Vanilla Ice Cream calls for 8 egg yolks so I thought it was a perfect time to make it.
Making ice cream is really pretty simple and only includes a few steps.
#1. Make the custard.
#2. Chill the custard.
#3. Churn the ice cream.
To make the custard you will whisk together all 8 of those beautiful egg yolks with 1/2 of the sugar. I decided to use my Vanilla Sugar, which I always keep on hand in my pantry.
Just stick a bunch of vanilla beans into a jar of sugar, cover and soon the sugar takes on a lovely vanilla bean flavor.
These are vanilla beans from Madagascar, which have a very creamy vanilla flavor. Flavors of vanilla vary by region depending on soil and climate, just like grapes for wine making.
Combine the milk, cream, heavy cream or half and half (whichever you are using) and add the split vanilla bean, pods and all, the remaining sugar, and pinch of salt. Heat the cream mixture over medium-high heat until it just comes to a boil.
Gradually pour the hot liquid into the egg mixture being very careful not to ‘cook’ the eggs. Start by pouring just a small amount of cream into the egg/sugar mixture to temper the eggs. This helps keep them from cooking. Once all the cream liquid is added return to the heat and stir constantly until the custard thickens.
Most recipes call for stirring custard with a wooden spoon over medium-low heat until the back of the spoon is coated with custard. I don’t like that method for two reasons: wooden spoons absorb the flavors of what they are stirring; and, I would much rather test the temperature of the custard (should be 165 to 170 degrees) as it is a much more accurate measure. This takes about 10 minutes, but still better to take its temp.
When it is thickened, and to the right temperature, pour in the reserved milk to prevent the custard from cooking further.
Strain into a bowl. This step is important as no matter how careful you are, little bits of custard will have begun forming. You don’t want any lumps in this ice cream.
At this point, if you are going to churn right away, drop the strained custard into a larger bowl of ice water to cool down quickly.
I prefer to cover the hot custard with a piece of plastic wrap to avoid the custard from forming a skin. Place into the refrigerator for several hours or overnight. One of the tricks to churning perfectly smooth, creamy ice cream is to not over churn. If you churn a very cold custard you are more likely to achieve this texture. Otherwise, the ice cream may become grainy.
With either method, churn as per manufacturers instructions. Generally with my 1 quart Cuisinart, it takes 20-25 minutes to churn.
Built-in ice cream machine licker.
Once churned, place the ice cream in the freezer and freeze for about an hour before serving. Once it is hard, take out of the freezer for 10 minutes before scooping and serving.
Rich, decadent, and delicious. Try this recipe. I think you will love it as much as we did!
French Vanilla Ice Cream
Creamy, rich and delicious with a very eggy custard flavor.
- 8 Large Egg yolks
- 3/4 Cup Sugar, I used Vanilla Sugar
- 2 Cups Heavy Cream Original recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups heavy cream.
- 2 Cups Half and Half, or light cream Original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups cold milk.
- Pinch Salt
- 2 Vanilla beans Original recipe calls for 1 vanilla bean.
- 2 tsp. Cognac, optional I did not use it.
In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together 8 egg yolks and half off the sugar.
In a non-reactive saucepan combine the creams (or milk), the remaining sugar and the salt.
Split the vanilla bean(s) in half lengthwise, to expose the tar-like seeds inside the pod. Scrape the seeds loose with the back of a knife; add the beans and the seeds to the cream mixture.
Heat the cream over medium-high heat until just at a boil. Remove from the heat. Gradually pour the hot liquid into the yolks, while whisking constantly. Return the cream-egg mixture to the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until just thickened, about 20 minutes. If you are using a wooden spoon the custard should coat the back of the spoon. Run your finger through the custard on the spoon and if it leave a track, it is cooked. OR, I prefer to measure the temperature, which should be between 165 and 170 degrees.
When thickened, and at the correct temperature, pour in the reserved milk to prevent further cooking. Strain into a medium bowl and add liquor if you are using.
If you are churning right away, fill a larger bowl with ice and water and drop the custard into the ice water to chill for 10-15 minutes. Churn per manufacturers instructions.
If you are using my method, place a piece of plastic wrap over the hot custard and put in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Next day, churn per manufacturers instructions. Be careful not to over churn. The ice cream in the ice cream maker will still be quite soft, but it firms up in the freezer as you will let it set for about an hour before serving.