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Classic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

The best vanilla ice cream is made with vanilla beans that have been steeped in custard to release their maximum flavor. If vanilla beans are unavailable, simply omit the steeping and add 2 tsp. vanilla extract to the chilled custard before freezing.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 egg yolks

Directions:

Pour the half-and-half into a heavy saucepan. Place the vanilla bean on a work surface. Using a small, sharp knife, cut the bean in half lengthwise. Using the knife tip, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean, then add the seeds and bean halves to the half-and-half. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 30 minutes.

Return the saucepan to the stovetop over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a heatproof bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until blended. Form a kitchen towel into a ring and place the bowl on top to prevent it from moving. Gradually pour the hot half-and-half mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the same saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and leaves a clear trail when a finger is drawn through it, about 5 minutes. Do not allow the custard to boil.

Pour the custard through a medium-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container, cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days, before serving. Makes about 5 cups; serves 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Ice Creams & Sorbets, by Sarah Tenaglia (Time-Life Books, 1996).