This post is both thoroughly practical and deeply personal. It’s about making vanilla ice cream from scratch and reminiscing about my childhood. For most people, memories of their younger years and ice cream are closely intertwined. For me this is especially true. I can recall cones of ice cream after a day at the beach building sandcastles, jelly and ice cream in little plastic bowls eaten on the grass at friend’s birthday parties and nibbling the crunchy chocolate off choc ices that I was allowed to stow in the freezer during school holidays. The ice cream I remember the most though towered high above me in an elongated, scalloped edge, sundae glass. I needed to kneel on my chair and use the long handled spoon to delve into the layers of strawberry and vanilla ice cream, raspberry jelly, fruit and whipped cream that was topped with chopped nuts, hundreds and thousands, sticky, sweet bright red strawberry sauce, wafers and a cherry. A Knickerbocker Glory. A favourite treat on a family outing that I always savoured with complete delight. But to understand why I’m telling you about childhood memories of ice cream, I must first start with my new year’s resolutions for 2015.
At the start of this year, feeling like an entirely different person with nearly a month’s worth of sleeping through the night, thanks to Thea’s new and improved sleeping pattern, I decided that it was time to focus on some goals. Really make 2015 a great year and accomplish some long aspired to ambitions. So I went to the dentist. Saw an optician. Set up a new filing system. Started squad swimming. Joined surfing mums. Embarked on a training plan for the Sydney marathon. And, I went to see a kinesiologist. As well as sorting things on a physical level, I wanted to make sure that emotionally, everything was in alignment and that no negative subconscious thoughts were holding me back from being my best self. One thing that transpired during my session was that at the age of 12 something had affected the little girl that I was and she had ‘left’. I was told to do something nice for that 12 year old child to welcome her into my life again. Thinking back to those times, I can remember some painful events and whether you believe in spiritual healing or not, to me doing something for my younger self seemed like rather a lovely idea. It’s so easy to get lost in the world of adulthood and responsibility and ignore our more immature inclinations. So when I got home, I decided to make myself a Knickerbocker Glory, the treat that I remember so fondly from my childhood.
But if I was recreating the sundae of my childhood, I was going to do it properly and that meant making the vanilla ice cream. This is an easy task. I promise. And there are two pieces of equipment that make it really easy. A stand mixer and a digital thermometer. The stand mixer allows you to get on with other tasks while it does the job of doubling the yolks and sugar in size. Like chasing after your toddler as she empties the contents of the kitchen cupboards. Hand held beaters work equally as well, but don’t let you multitask and mixing the yolks and sugar takes about 10 minutes. The digital thermometer I find vital in securing a smooth as silk vanilla ice cream. Without one I have overcooked the eggs in the custard many times, which results in a slightly grainy ice cream. Another thing I have found that is really important when making ice cream is to cool the custard completely before you churn it. Otherwise, it’s a straightforward task with stunning results.
Filling my little sundae glass with jelly, strawberries and homemade vanilla ice cream made me feel like a little kid. My husband laughed at me as I got hundreds and thousands all over the kitchen bench and I had to laugh at myself too. But what fun. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I melted chocolate to shamelessly drizzle over my strawberries. Oh and did I mention the layer of pineapple in between the jelly and ice cream and the whipped cream I piped on top. I revelled in every mouthful of my sundae with juevenile delight, even going back for more hundreds and thousands, just because I could. Eating the ice cream brought back memories of plastic buckets with castle like turrets, spades with strong wooden handles so that I could dig really deep holes, multicoloured foil windmills whirring in the breeze, determined dam building in the sand, donkeys with their soft as velvet ears and the joy of being a child at the beach. Whether or not my recreation of a Knickerbocker Glory pleased my 12 year old self of not I’ll never know, it sure as hell delighted the 36 year old me.
Vanilla ice cream
Adapted from Ice creams, Sorbets and Gelati
- 300ml milk
- 1 vanilla bean
- 90g panella (or any unrefined sugar, I just think panela gives the ice cream wonderful depth of flavour)
- 5 egg yolks (you can freeze the whites for meringue)
- 250 ml cream
First of all, fill your sink with some cold water. Just a few inches.
Now, start by pouring the milk into a pot. Split the vanilla bean lengthways in half and scrape the seeds into the milk. I also add the seed pods once I have scraped them to extract every last bit of flavour. Set the milk over a low heat and slowly bring to the boil. When the milk boils, turn the heat off.
While the milk is infusing, whisk the sugar and yolks until thick, pale in colour and doubled in size.
Now remove the vanilla seed pod from the milk. You can wash it and leave it to dry and then keep it with your sugar to give it a gorgeous aroma. Bring the milk back to the boil and then transfer to a jug so that you can pour it in a steady steam into the yolk mixture. Do this whilst whisking at the same time.
Pour the resulting custard back into the pot and place over a gentle heat. With one hand hold a digital thermometer in the custard and with the other constantly stir your ice cream base. When the temperature reaches 85C, remove the pot from the heat and plunge the base into the cold water in the sink. This will stop the custard cooking and is very useful if you do accidentally over heat your custard.
Pour the cooked custard into a jug and put in the fridge to chill. When the custard has completely cooled you can add the cream and churn. The most wonderful part of making your own ice cream is that as soon as it’s frozen, you can dip a spoon into the chilled vanilla mixture and enjoy. The best.