This homemade French vanilla ice cream is rich, sweet, and creamy. Far from being boring, everyone has a soft spot for vanilla ice cream! It’s just as good used as a base for delicious sundaes and milkshakes, as eaten as is, piling scoops on a cone (or eating directly from the container with a spoon, we’ve all been there).
WITH VANILLA EXTRACT
Don’t be deterred by the term homemade French vanilla ice cream. There is nothing fancy or complicated about this recipe. The custard is infused with vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans, keeping the cost of the homemade ice cream pretty low. You probably already have all the ingredients needed! You’re definitely not cheaping out, this ice cream is still deliciously creamy and sweet. It’s just the thing to top off fruity pies or warm crisps! Vanilla beans are expensive so if I know the ice cream won’t be the piece de resistance for dessert, I really don’t feel the need to splurge. The flavors won’t shine through anyway if served with steaming fruits and buttery crust.
Nowadays I use this recipe as my base for most of the ice cream I make. It’s really reliable and easy to change things up by infusing the milk with a different extract or by using fruit peels or juices.
WITH VANILLA BEAN
If you do want to splurge and make this homemade French vanilla ice cream extra special with a vanilla bean, here is how. Using a paring knife cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds. Place the seeds in the saucepan alongside the sugar, skim milk powder, milk and cream. Whisk until smooth and the skim milk powder is wholly dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Then take the saucepan off the heat, cover with a lid and let infuse for 30 min. After half an hour has passed bring to a boil again over medium heat and continue step 1 as if it was the first time you heat up the milk mixture.
USING SKIM MILK POWDER AS AN EMULSIFIER
After years of reading that milk powder acts as a great emulsifier in ice cream, I finally tried it I’m now a convert! The dehydrated milk absorbs excess water (present in milk and cream) and bonds with the liquid and the fat in the custard. Milk powder thus prevents the formation of ice crystals when the ice cream freezes. Ice crystals make for icy and grainy ice creams, which we want nothing with! Without using an emulsifier the consistency of my homemade ice creams only remain at its best for 24h. But when adding the powder to the milk mixture I find that homemade French vanilla ice cream remains creamy and scoopable for days.
I also find that using skim milk powder in this way is much more effective than adding alcohol (usually 1 tbsp of flavorless vodka) to the ice cream base just before churning. At least when it comes to custard-based ice creams. I haven’t tried this technique with sorbets, which contain a higher percentage of water due to the fruits. I’m quite happy to land on milk powder in my quest for a solution for creamy smooth ice cream. Especially since it’s so readily available and lasts for ages if you store it in a dark cupboard.
WHAT MAKES FRENCH VANILLA ICE CREAM DIFFERENT
Contrary to American/Philadelphia-style ice cream, French ice cream is made with egg-based custard. The presence of egg yolks is what gives homemade French vanilla ice cream its yellow color. Philadelphia-style vanilla ice cream is white. Making a custard takes longer than simply whisking sugar, milk and cream. You can’t simply add raw egg yolks, you have to gently cook them until they slightly thicken the custard. By cooking (pasteurizing) the custard until it reaches 80°C (175°F) you kill as many microorganisms as possible, making the ice cream safe to eat. It’s an extra step but I find custard-based ice creams to be silkier, thicker and less prone to have ice crystals.
HOW TO MAKE THE ICE CREAM BASE
👉 When making egg-based custard, the raw yolks need to be tempered. Meaning they need to be heated gradually so as not to form clumps. To prevent this from happening the warm liquid needs to be incorporated slowly into the eggs.
- Put the sugar, skim milk powder, milk and cream in a heavy-based saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir until the powder is dissolved. Remove from the heat just before the mixture starts boiling.
- Whisk the egg yolks in a mixing bowl until they thicken and lighten slightly, about 2 min.
- Slowly drizzle a third of the warm milk mixture over the yolks while whisking constantly.
- Pour the rest of the milk into the mixing bowl and whisk until well incorporated. It’s important not to pour all of the milk at once so the yolks don’t get too hot too quickly.
HOW TO COOK THE ICE CREAM CUSTARD
👉 When you make a custard you definitely need to stay near your stovetop. But only for just a few minutes! The custard should cook gently to prevent the yolks from forming clumps and you should stir it continuously to prevent scorching.
- Pour the ice cream base into the saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook while whisking continuously until it reaches 80°C (175°F). If you don’t have a thermometer, aim for the consistency of single cream. It shouldn’t be as thick as pastry cream or curd.
- Stir the custard with a tablespoon and immediately trace a line across the back of the spoon with a finger. It should leave a clear trace as the line should remain visible. It means your custard is thick enough and ready.
- Pour the custard through a mesh strainer into a clean medium-sized mixing bowl or plastic container. Whisk in the extract.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the custard and let stand until the bowl reaches room temperature. Then refrigerate until fridge-cold before churning your homemade French vanilla ice cream.
Looking for other ice cream recipes? Here are some of my favorites:Print
This homemade French vanilla ice cream is rich, sweet, and creamy. It’s just as good used as a base for delicious sundaes and milkshakes, or as eaten as is, piling scoops on a cone or into a bowl!
- 150g granulated sugar (¾ cup)
- 35g skim milk powder (¼ cup)
- 300ml whole milk (1 ¼ cups)
- 360ml heavy cream (1 ½ cups)
- 5 egg yolks
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Prepare the custard. In a medium-heavy based saucepan, combine the sugar, skim milk powder, milk and cream. Whisk until smooth and the skim milk powder is wholly dissolved. Place the saucepan over medium heat. Bring to just below a boil, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Then remove the saucepan from the heat. In a mixing bowl whisk the egg yolks for 2 min until they lighten. While whisking constantly slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the mixing bowl. Mix well until completely combined.
- Cook the custard. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and place over medium heat. Stir constantly with the whisk, making sure to scrape the bottom of the saucepan as you stir. Cook and stir until the custard reaches 80°C (175°F), about 5 to 10 min. For a more accurate read, I prefer to check the temperature with the pan off the heat, after having whisked the custard well. Check the temperature in several places in case your saucepan has hot spots. Be really careful about the temperature and don’t leave the custard unattended. If it gets too hot, the egg yolks will form clumps or the custard might curdle. The custard should coat the back of a spoon but it shouldn’t be as thick as pastry cream or curd. Aim for the consistency of single cream. Stir the custard with a tablespoon and immediately trace a line across the back of the spoon with a finger. It should leave a clear trace as the line should remain visible. It means your custard is thick enough and ready.
- Let the custard cool down. Pour the custard through a mesh strainer into a clean medium-sized mixing bowl or plastic container. Whisk in the extract. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the custard and let stand until the bowl reaches room temperature. This can take up to 1h.
- Chill and churn. Refrigerate the custard until fridge-cold, about 4 hours (or you can leave it overnight). Transfer the cooled custard to an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a container that has a tight-fitting lid and cover the container with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the ice cream. Close the lid and freeze the ice cream until firm, about 4 to 8 hours according to your freezer.
Make sure to let the container sit at room temperature for 5 min before scooping, and directly put the ice cream back in the freezer once served.
Homemade ice cream can be stored for up to 2 months in the freezer but it will taste better eaten within 2 weeks.
- Serving Size: 2 big scoops
- Calories: 607
Keywords: classic summer desserts, custard based ice cream, traditional ice cream
ICE BATH METHOD
To cool down the custard faster before sticking it in the fridge you can use the ice bath method. Grab a bowl or a basin that is larger than the container into which you will scrape the custard through. Alternatively, you can use your kitchen sink. Fill your chosen bowl/basin/sink a third of the way with cold water and add a big handful of ice cubes. Slowly lower the container with the custard into the ice bath. Let cool down to room temperature, stirring occasionally (be careful that no water from the ice bath flows or splashes into the custard while doing so). It will take about 15 min for the custard to cool down so it’s perfect if you are running out of time or feel like it’s safer to rapidly cool down the custard.
Honestly, I can’t be bothered with ice baths. I don’t have a bowl/container that is quite the right size, and I always end up making a mess. Plus all of my ice cube trays are half broken so I also make a mess when I refill them. I would rather wait and let my custard stand at room temperature even if it takes 1h or so to cool down.