A few years ago I took the time to actually read the ingredient list on the bucket of ice cream I was nonchalantly putting into my grocery cart. Surprised by the long list of things that meant little to me, all that came to mind was why? Isn’t ice cream just frozen cream and sugar? Does it have to be more than that? And so began my experiments. I bought a Cuisinart ice cream machine. I bought Ben & Jerry’s recipe book and dug out the little recipe book that came with the electric ice cream freezer my parents got for Christmas in 1970. I googled recipes, cooked custard bases. Then I found Alton Brown’s recipe calling for peach preserves, half and half, cream, sugar, and vanilla. The addition of stone fruit preserves was to lend some gelling action to the mix. This was my go-to recipe for a long time, till the time there were no preserves on the shelf to add to the mix already in the pan. Nobody noticed any difference. Eventually I eliminated the cream too, and reduced the sugar. Now we have a recipe that’s so easy to make, with ingredients that are readily available anywhere, we can make this every day.
Note that there is no need to heat the milk to 175ºF if you’re using pasteurized milk, although it seems to improve the texture. The chemical changes that require heating milk (destroying harmful bacteria and denaturing whey proteins that inhibit thickening) have already happened during the ultra-pasteurization most commercial dairy undergoes. You should heat it to 175ºF if you are using raw milk and/or cream. Otherwise it only needs to come to a simmer, enough to melt the sugar. Flavoring ingredients like mint or lemon verbena leaves, or vanilla beans, should be steeped in the milk as it’s heated and allowed to steep as the milk cools. Remove them before freezing.
The beauty of this ice cream is its simplicity. It’s delicious enough to eat by itself. This time I added 1/2 cup of toffee bits and 1/2 cup of toasted pecans because I have plans to make ice cream sandwiches with it and some maple snickerdoodles – that cookie recipe will be coming soon. But we’ve topped it with caramel, nuts, chocolate, sliced bananas, fruit sauce or fresh fruit, put it on warm apple crisp or pie, spooned on concentrated coffee or espresso for affogato, and even drop a generous spoonful into afternoon coffee. Stir in your favorite chopped cookies or candy. Mash fresh berries, let them sit for an hour, then add the berries and accumulated juice right at the end of the mixing time. Mint or lemon verbena leaves heated with the mixture and allowed to cool with it, then removed before freezing, will add a subtle flavor. If you’re lucky enough to have access to fresh, whole fat, unhomogenized milk, you can use that instead of commercial half and half. When we milked goats I used their fresh milk.
Homemade ice cream will freeze best in an airtight container that exposes a lot of surface. A rectangular loaf shape with a tight cover works well for these small batches. We keep ours in an upright freezer at 0°F. It still melts more quickly than commercially made ice cream and will not have its very smooth texture, but like I said, nobody is complaining.
– Joan, 15 June 2019
3 ingredient everyday ice cream
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 cups half and half
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Heat sugar with half and half over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, to simmering. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cover loosely and allow to cool. Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Pour refrigerated mix into an ice cream machine or bowl attached to a stand mixer and follow manufacturer’s directions to freeze. Mix for 20-25 minutes, then scrape it into a container and quickly stir in any additions. If you’re adding mashed fruit put it into the freezing ice cream a couple of minutes before the end of the mix. Cover tightly and store at 0°F for best results.