This recipe will use the science behind ice cream making to show you how to make extremely smooth and creamy homemade vanilla ice cream. It will produce extremely smooth, dense, and creamy ice cream with an intense vanilla flavour extracted from grade A vanilla pods. It will be split into three sections: SECTION 1: The Science of Ice Cream Making and Preparation Tips; SECTION 2: Full Recipe; and SECTION 3: Quick-Read Recipe.
Please click here to read SECTION 1: The Science of Ice Cream Making and Preparation Tips. I strongly recommend starting with this section.
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SECTION 2: FULL RECIPE
About 15 minutes
About 35 minutes
Full-fat, semi-skimmed, or skimmed milk
Skimmed milk powder
2 large grade A vanilla pods
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Produces just under 900 ml (0.95 quarts) of ice cream mix
1. THE IMPORTANCE OF MILK FAT
Milk fat contributes significantly to the rich, full, and creamy flavour and to the smooth texture of ice cream (Goff & Hartel, 2013). Not enough milk fat is likely to produce ice cream that is coarse or sandy, whereas too much will likely result in a heavy buttery texture. Above is the spreadsheet I use to calculate my mixes and I’ve included it for you guys to accurately calculate the quantities of milk and cream that you’ll need. It’s based on the mix formulation calculations in Ice Cream (7th ed) (2013) by Goff & Hartel, which I highly recommend reading.
It’s important that you check the fat content percentage of the milk and cream that you’ll be using. Here in the U.K, our double cream and skimmed milk contain between 47.5% and 50.5% and less than 0.5% of milk fat respectively. You can use full-fat, semi-skimmed, or skimmed milk.
To start, enter the fat percentage of your cream in the yellow Cream Fat % cell located on the top left of the spreadsheet. Do the same for the milk fat percentage in the yellow Milk Fat (%) cell. PRESS ENTER, OR CLICK ON A DIFFERENT CELL, FOR THE SPREADSHEET TO UPDATE. The spreadsheet will then display the quantities of milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, and skimmed milk powder needed (in grams) in the cells in blue.
2. PREPARING THE VANILLA PODS
The vanilla flavour is contained in two different parts of the pod: the sticky material that contains the beans, and the pod wall. The first can be easily scraped out of the pod and dispersed in the ice cream mix, while the pod itself must be soaked in the mix to extract its flavour. It’s important to use good quality grade A pods for the best flavour. Moisture content is one of the most important aspects of high-grade vanilla with grade A vanilla pods being extremely moist. The length of the pod is also a good indicator of quality with Grade A pods usually measuring over 15 cm in length.
Before you split your pods, weigh them both and record their weight. We’ll use this weight, together with the weight of the mix and pan, to check whether we’ve achieved a 13% reduction after 25 minutes of heating at 72°C (162°F). Take the two pods and place them on a cutting board. Run a sharp knife down each of the pods to separate the wall. Using the back of your knife, scrape out the sticky material containing the small beans. Transfer this sticky material and the pods to a small bowl or plate and set aside ready for later.
Belitz et al. (2009) describe flavour as the interaction of taste, odour, and textural feeling which results from compounds divided into two broad classes: those responsible for taste, and those responsible for odours.
3.1. TASTE COMPOUNDS
Taste compounds are generally nonvolatile at room temperature, meaning that they interact only with the taste receptors on the tongue (Belitz et al., 2009). The four important basic taste perceptions are provided by sour, sweet, bitter, and salty compounds.
3.2. AROMA COMPOUNDS
Aroma compounds, on the other hand, are volatile, meaning that they evaporate at room temperature and are perceived by the odour receptor sites of the nose. They reach these receptors in two ways: 1. through the nose; and 2. via the throat after being released by chewing (Belitz et al., 2009).
Myhrvold et al. (2011) argue that it is the aroma that gives a food most of its characteristic sensor signature and that what we smell in our nose is as important or more so than what the mouth tastes. Similarly, McGee (2004) argues that most of what we experience as flavour is odour. Alcohol, being volatile, releases aroma compounds relatively quickly, giving a sharp burst of vanilla aroma. We’ll therefore be using vanilla extract to give a quick and sharp burst of vanilla aroma.
3.3. EXTRACTING FLAVOUR
Most of the aroma compounds in vanilla are non-polar and so dissolve more in fat, oil, or alcohol, than in water. We’ll be steeping our vanilla pods in our ice cream mix overnight to dissolve most of the aroma compounds in the milk fat. The milk fat in ice cream hangs on to aroma compounds during eating meaning that their flavour appears more gradually and lasts longer (McGee, 2004).
4. PREPARING AN ICE BATH
Before you start preparing your mix, take a large bowl and fill it with enough ice to make an ice bath. Have a large zip-lock freezer bag ready next to the bowl, along with some table salt. We’ll be using the zip lock bag and ice bath to ensure that the mix is cooled as quickly as possible after heating. This minimises the time the mix spends in the ‘danger zone’, between 5°C (41°F) and 65°C (149°F), where bacteria likes to multiply. The longer your mix spends in this temperature range, the more bacteria is likely to multiply and impart an undesirable taste and smell.
5. HEATING THE MIX
Weigh your pan and record its weight. We’ll use this weight to check whether we’ve achieved the desired 13% reduction after 25 minutes of heating.
Once you’ve prepared the ice bath and weighed your pan, add the sugar and skimmed milk powder followed by the egg yolks. Mix the yolks, sugar and skimmed milk powder to help prevent the yolks from curdling during heating.
Add the cream and milk and spend a good minute or so mixing all the ingredients before you switch on the heat.
Over a medium heat, heat the mixture until the temperature reaches 71°C (160°F), making sure that you’re constantly stirring. You’ll risk burning the milk proteins and curdling the egg yolks if you do not constantly stir the mix. It takes me 10 minutes to get my mix up to 71°C (160°F).
Once the temperature reaches 71°C (160°F), turn the heat down to low, move your pan slightly off the heat, and continue heating and stirring until the temperature reaches 72°C (162°F). Use a food thermometer to keep your mix at 72°C (162°F) for 15 minutes, adjusting the position of your pan to help regulate the temperature. Don’t worry if you go slightly over 72°C (162°F); just try and keep the temperature as close to 72°C (162°F) as you can.
After 15 minutes at 72°C (162°F), add the vanilla pods and sticky material containing the beans and continue heating for another 10 minutes at 72°C (162°F) to pasteurise the pods.
6. COOLING THE MIX
After 25 minutes of heating at 72°C (162°F), take the pan off the heat and weigh it. If the weight is greater than 1044g plus the weight of the pods and the pan, place it back on the heat and continue heating for another 2-3 minutes or until you get the weight down to 1044g plus the weight of the pods and pan.
Carefully pour the mix into the zip-lock bag and seal. Place the sealed bag in the ice bath and pour about a tablespoon of salt onto the ice to lower the temperature and cool the mix faster.
Once the mix has cooled to below 5°C (41°F), place the zip-lock bag in the fridge and leave overnight to age and to extract the vanilla flavour compounds.
7. CHURNING THE MIX
Once you’ve aged your mix overnight, use a pair of tongs to remove the vanilla pods, scraping off any excess mix that sticks to the pods. Pour the mix into your machine followed by 2 tsp of vanilla extract.
TIP#1 – FREEZER BOWL WALL TEMPERATURE
If you’re using an ice cream machine with an in-built compressor, with the bowl in the machine, switch on the compressor and leave it running for 15 minutes before adding the mix. This will ensure that the freezer bowl is as cold as possible when the mix is added, which increases the rate of nucleation and reduces residence time.
TIP#2 – EFFICIENT HEAT TRANSFER
If you’re using the Cuisinart ICE 30BC, use your thumb to push the dasher against the side of the bowl as soon as you pour in the mix. This will ensure that the dasher scrapes off the layer of ice that freezes to the side of the bowl. Any ice that is frozen to the side of the bowl will act as an insulator, slowing the release of heat from the ice cream to the bowl and increasing the residence time. Goff & Hartel (2013) note that even a very thin layer of ice remaining on the bowl wall can cause a dramatic reduction in heat transfer.
Use a spoon to push along any static lumps of ice cream and ensure that the mix is constantly moving whilst in the machine. Static lumps will likely take longer to freeze, resulting in greater ice crystal growth.
8. DRAW TEMPERATURE
Your ice cream will be ready when it develops a nice dry, stiff texture, and starts forming ribbon-like swirls. It should have a draw temperature (the temperature at which the partially frozen ice cream is removed from the machine) of between -9°C and -12°C (15.8°F and 10.4°F) with a lower draw temperature usually resulting in smaller ice crystals (Arbuckle, 1986).
Below are the residence times and draw temperatures for the domestic machines I’ve tried:
- Lello Musso Pola 5030 Dessert Maker: 900 ml (0.95 quarts) mix – 13 minutes, -11°C (12.2°F).
- Lello 4080 Musso Lussino 1.5-Quart Ice Cream Maker: 600 ml (0.63 quarts) – 16 minutes, -11°C (12.2°F).
- Cuisinart ICE-100 Ice Cream and Gelato Maker: 900 ml (0.95 quarts) mix – 35 minutes, -10°C (14°F).
- Breville BCI600XL Smart Scoop Ice Cream Maker: 700 ml (0.74 quarts) – 34 minutes, -9°C (15.8°F).
- Whynter ICM-200LS: 900 ml (0.95 quarts) mix – 28 minutes, -10°C (14°F).
- Cuisinart ICE 30-BC: 900 ml (0.95 quarts) mix – 34 minutes, -11°C (12.2°F).
9. EXTRACTION TIME
The extraction time (the time it takes to get your partially frozen ice cream out of your machine and into the freezer) has a considerable effect on ice crystal size. This is because as you extract your ice cream from the bowl and into a plastic container, it spends time at room temperature. At this relatively warm room temperature, some of the ice melts from the large ice crystals and the crystals that were initially small melt completely. When you then get your ice cream into your freezer for the static freezing stage, the melted ice re-freezes onto the large ice crystals that survived. The result is that the total number of ice crystals is reduced and their size increases, resulting in coarse or grainy texture.
TIP#3 – QUICK EXTRACTION
Just holding ice cream at a relatively warm room temperature as you extract it from your machine results in an increase in mean ice crystal size and a decrease in the number of ice crystals present. It’s therefore important that you extract the ice cream from the freezer bowl and get it into your freezer as quickly as possible.
10. THE STATIC FREEZING STAGE
At a draw temperature of between -9°C and -12°C (15.8°F and 10.4°F), your ice cream will have a consistency very similar to that of soft serve ice cream and will need to be placed in your freezer to harden. After about 4 hours, depending on your freezer, your ice cream will have a nice firm scoopable consistency, somewhere around -15°C (5°F), and be ready to serve.
11. SERVING YOUR ICE CREAM
Serve your ice cream at around -15°C (5°F). As the serving temperature is increased from -14.4 (6.1) to -7.8°C (18°F), flavour and sweetness become more pronounced.
If you do give the recipe a go, I’d love to hear your thoughts so please do get in touch. Please help other chefs by using the stars at the top of the page to rate the recipe and please spread the love on facebook with the buttons below. Ruben 🙂
SECTION 3: QUICK-READ RECIPE
- Run a sharp knife down the two vanilla pods to separate the pod wall. Scrape out the sticky material and small black beans. Set aside for later.
- Fill a large bowl with some ice. Place some table salt and a zip-lock bag next to the bowl ready for later.
- Combine the sugar, skimmed milk powder, egg yolks, cream, and milk in a large pan. Heat over a medium heat until the temperature reaches 71°C (160°F), making sure that you’re constantly stirring.
- When the mix reaches 71°C (160°F), quickly turn the heat down to low and position your pan slightly off the heat. Continue heating and stirring until the temperature reaches 72°C (162°F).
- Once the mix reaches 72°C (162°F), continue heating for 15 minutes whilst constantly stirring. Keep the temperature as close to 72°C (162°F) as you can throughout this heating period.
- After 15 minutes, add the long vanilla pods, the sticky material, and small black beans and continue heating and stirring for 10 minutes at 72°C (162°F) to pasteurise the pods.
- After 25 minutes of heating, carefully pour the mix and pods into the zip lock bag and seal. Place the zip-lock bag in the bowl and pour about a tablespoon of salt over the ice.
- Once the mix has cooled to below 5°C (41°F), place in the fridge and leave overnight.
- The next day, use some tongs to remove the large pods from the mix.
- Pour the mix into your ice cream machine, followed by 2 tsp of vanilla extract.
- After about 30 minutes of churning, depending on your machine, quickly empty the ice cream into a plastic container and place in the freezer for about 4 hours to harden.
- After about 4 hours, your ice cream will have a nice firm consistency and will be ready to serve.
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