Custard-Style Vanilla Ice Cream

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 2 hr 50 min (plus 3 hr freezing)
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: about 1 quart of custard-style ice cream
Egg yolks are the key ingredient in a custard-based ice cream, which explains the yellowish color of a classic French vanilla. This style is ultra-rich, but it can be trickier to make than other types: Custards need constant attention.



  1. Combine the heavy cream, milk, vanilla bean and seeds, and vanilla extract in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture almost reaches a gentle simmer, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Meanwhile, set a fine-mesh sieve in a medium bowl (preferably metal), then set the bowl in a large bowl of ice water; set aside.
  2. Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a separate medium bowl. Ladle one-quarter of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture and whisk well. Whisk in another one-quarter of the cream mixture, then pour the cream-egg mixture into the saucepan with the remaining hot cream.
  3. Return the saucepan to medium heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon in a figure-eight, until slightly thickened (a thermometer should register 180˚ F), 6 to 8 minutes. If at any point the mixture starts to simmer, remove from the heat, continue stirring, reduce the heat to medium low, then return to the heat (you do not want the custard to thicken too quickly or the eggs to scramble).
  4. Immediately strain the custard through the sieve into the bowl set over the ice water. Return the vanilla bean to the custard and let the custard cool, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 1 hour or overnight.
  5. Remove the vanilla bean, then transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions until the consistency of soft serve. Transfer to a freezer-safe container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours.

Cook’s Note

Keep stirring! A custard could end up lumpy if left alone on the stove. Watch the heat — if the custard gets too hot, the eggs will start to scramble. Chill the custard completely before you put it in the ice cream maker; it should be nice and cold.