This post is contributed by Christina Bailey, author of the food & beverage blog Edible Times.

A few days ago a family member offered me generic, grocery store brand chocolate ice cream.  I had my doubts and immediately reached for the ingredient list.   No cream, no chocolate, but one suspicious ingredient appeared not once, not twice, but FOUR times. Yes, I screamed. Not so much for the ice cream, but in its direction. Because high-fructose corn syrup is apparently all that’s needed to mass produce chocolate ice cream. This atrocity of what I’ve now dubbed “chocolate-flavored frozen corn syrup” reminded me of the good ol’ days when we churned homemade ice cream in the big wooden barrel with the funny rock salt.

Nowadays  it’s easy to craft your own, real ingredient ice cream without the funny salt (or worse yet the endless hand cranking).  Plenty of companies sell moderately priced, easy to use electric ice cream makers.   What’s most awesome is you can make a base for ice cream with just four ingredients and then the sky’s the limit.

Ice Cream Custard Base Recipe

Makes 1 quart of custard base for any flavor ice cream

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar

Method:

  1. Combine milk, cream and sugar in a small sauce pot and bring just to a boil.
  2. Stir egg yolks with a wooden spoon until smooth in a medium, heatproof bowl. Once liquid simmers, slowly stir hot mixture into egg yolks. Return entire mixture to pot.
  3. Stirring constantly, cook custard over medium heat just until it begins to thicken, another minute or two at the most. Scrape the bottom and corners of the pot to prevent scorching and clumping. Do not let the custard simmer or boil! The custard is done when it coats the back of spoon.
  4. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate overnight.
  5. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions. Universally, ice cream is ready for removal when it is slightly thicker than soft serve. Freeze for an hour or two prior to serving.

For Easy Chocolate Ice Cream:

In step one of the recipe method above, whisk in 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder to the milk, cream and sugar before bringing to a boil. Continue as directed.

For Vanilla Bean Ice Cream:

After step one of the method, add a split vanilla bean to the hot milk mixture and allow it to steep for 15 minutes. Remove the bean, scrape out the seeds with the back of a small knife and add them to the liquid. Return liquid to a boil and proceed as directed.  I personally love Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste for ease of use. Simply add it to the ice cream base prior to churning as you would with vanilla extract.

Flavor Variation Guidelines: Once you prepare the ice cream base and chill it overnight, you can customize the flavor any way you like.  As for amounts, it is a matter of personal taste and preference. For this recipe, a good starting point is 2 tablespoons of any extract or liqueur and/or 1/2 cup of fruit purée.  Then follow these few rules for best results:

  • Add extracts and any smooth consistency flavorings such as fruit purée prior to churning.
  • If using an alcoholic flavoring, add it in the last minute of churning, as it could prevent the ice cream from fully freezing.
  • If adding chocolate chips, nuts, pieces of fruit or crushed candy bar, add them once the ice cream is soft-serve consistency, and simply churn a few moments more to incorporate the toppings evenly.
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