Sunday, June 3, 2012

Homemade Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

Although we made this ice cream on a different day than the apricot-cherry crisp post, we used it for another crisp a couple of weeks later. This recipe is based on an article I found in the San Francisco Chronicle many years ago with a custard recipe and has always worked flawlessly. In this case I used vanilla seeds from a bean for the flavoring and Strauss milk and cream for the base. Not a cheap recipe but worth the cost for special occasions.

Vanilla bean scraped of the seeds

First cook of the cream, sugar, and vanilla

Mix of the remaining sugar and egg yolks

Milk added to the egg yolk-sugar mix

Final cook of the custard

Looking for the right consistency of the cooked custard

Custard ready for overnight cooling

This thing gets a fair amount of use during the summer.

Watching the ice river flow

Ready for the big freeze

1 vanilla bean
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup sugar
pinch salt
2 cups whole milk
3 egg yolks


Here are some possible gotchas:
1. This should be done over a couple of days to properly cool the ingredients as necessary.
2. Once all of the ingredients are combined, you'll need to constantly stir the custard anywhere from 5-15 minutes.
3. The recipe presumes that you have use of a reliable ice cream maker.

With a sharp paring knife slice the vanilla bean lengthwise to split it open and put the two halves on a piece of parchment paper. With the back of the knife, pull down each opened side to scrape out the beans. Put aside for a moment.
In a medium pot, add the cream, half (1/2 cup) of the sugar, and the salt and mix over a medium heat until combined. Curl the parchment paper and drop the scraped seeds and pods into the pot stirring to mix. Bring to a low boil then remove from heat to steep for 20 minutes.
In a large bowl add the 3 egg yolks then the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar. Whisk the sugar and eggs to combine then add the milk and mix completely. 
When the steeping time for the cream-sugar-vanilla mix in the pot is done, add the egg-sugar-milk mix to the pot and heat it up on medium low, stirring with a wooden spoon the whole time to complete the custard, about 5-15 minutes. Keep stirring as the custard thickens. After about 5 minutes you'll want to start checking the consistency of the custard. This is how to tell: pick up the wooden spoon from the pot and look at the custard left on the back of it. If you rub your finger across the back and it leaves a space that doesn't quickly fill in, then the custard is done. If it fills in, continue stirring until you check again in a minute or so. 
Once the custard is done, remove the pot from the heat and pour the contents into a bowl or pyrex container to cool to room temperature, removing the pods and optionally straining the mixture to remove the vanilla seeds. I remove the pods but don't strain the seeds at all as I prefer keeping them in the finished ice cream.  I use a 4 cup pyrex measuring container as the custard will just fill it to the top. Once it cools, cover and put it in the frig to completely cool overnight.
The next day remove the custard from the frig and pour it into a prepared ice cream maker following the manufacturer's directions to complete the freeze. I find that even once the ice cream has come together I need to put it into the freezer for another couple of hours to completely freeze for serving.

Apricot and Cherry Crisp with Almond Topping

Some good friends had a reunion of sorts for those of us who used to work with them. The main feast was Korean BBQ but we were more than welcome to bring along sides and desserts. Although this isn't necessarily what one would expect to find at a Korean BBQ, the seasonality of the fruits just naturally lent itself as a nice dessert. Apricots and cherries only show themselves for a few weeks in May and June at the farmers markets so we make every effort to incorporate them as much as possible into meals while they're available. (I'll be posting soon about a great duck with cherry sauce soon)

Like so many other meals I've posted here, I found this one in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone. I'd never tried but it seemed simple and, like I mentioned, completely appropriate for the season as well as a rather light dessert. We paired it with the ice cream recipe here. With the warmth of the crisp and the freshness of the ice cream, it made for a very nice dessert indeed.

Cherries and apricots combined with the sugar, almond extract, and tapioca

Flour, brown sugar, chopped almonds and seasonings

Cold butter cut into small manageable pieces

Crumbly dry ingredients

Putting it altogether

Ready for the oven
The finished dish

2 1/2 pounds fresh ripe apricots
1 pound fresh ripe cherries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons tapioca
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Crisp topping:
6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped almonds
pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 375F. Lightly butter a 2 1/2 quart gratin or casserole dish.
To prepare the crisp topping, combine all of the crisp ingredients, except the butter, in a large bowl and mix completely. Add the butter a couple of chunks at a time and work them completely into the dry ingredients with your fingers. Once you have worked all of the butter into the mix you should find it to have a fairly crumbly consistency. Put aside.

Pit the apricots and cut into quarters. Pit the cherries and slice in half. Toss both fruits with the sugar, tapioca, and almond extract.

Spread the mixed fruits into the gratin or casserole dish then cover with the crisp topping.  Set the dish on a baking pan to catch any juices and bake until the top is browned and the juices have bubbled and thickened around the edges. I found this to take about 15-20 minutes. Great to serve this quite warm from the oven with vanilla or honey ice cream.