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In the July/August 2011 Cook’s Illustrated, they published their recipe for premium vanilla ice cream.watch Minions 2015 film now

When describing their process for determining the best of the best they discussed different ways to achieve that dense smooth consistency.  Among the ingredients they tried, was cornstarch, one of my personal favorites for making quick and easy ice cream.  However, they rejected the cornstarch as an ingredient because their tasters considered the taste “gummy”.  Gummy?  I had never associated that adjective with the ice cream I made with cornstarch.  However, I began to wonder if I didn’t know any better.

Time for battle vanilla ice cream!!!

I made two ice vanilla ice creams.  They were identical except that one was thickened with 6 egg yolks (Cook’s Illustrated recommended) and the other was thickened with 1/4 cup of cornstarch (my favorite easy method).

The Cook’s Illustrated article did bring up a couple of interesting tweaks to my standard ice cream method that I thought were worth trying.  The philosophy is that the quicker you freeze your ice cream, the smaller the ice crystals and, therefore, the creamier the ice cream.  Most ice cream machines will take your ice cream to a “soft serve” consistency then you freeze it further in a standard freezer.  However, I have noticed that even when you work quickly, there is some melting in the process of transferring the ice cream to the freezer.  In particular, the center of the ice cream in the new container is the last to firm up in the freezer.

Cook’s Illustrated tackles this problem in two ways.  One, they freeze part of the custard before it is churned to make the initial ice cream as cold as possible before it even enters the ice cream maker.  Two, after churning, they recommend spreading the “soft serve” consistency ice cream immediately in a thin layer on a frozen baking dish and placing that in the freezer.  This reduces initial melting and allows the ice cream to firm up more quickly in the freezer.

A little fussy perhaps, but I’ll do anything for better ice cream, so I decided to try this method in both of my vanillas.

Both of the finished ice creams were put through rigorous scientific taste tests (aka I fed them to group of my friends and local children and asked for evaluations).  There was a clear winner, so stay tuned…

Vanilla Ice Cream — Egg Yolk Method
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Best Vanilla Ice Cream

  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

Vanilla Ice Cream — Corn Starch Method

  • 3 cups half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla

EGG YOLK METHOD

Place a metal baking pan in the freezer.  Combine the half-and-half, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, corn syrup and salt in a medium saucepan.  Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is steaming steadily and registers 175 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes.

While the cream mixture heats, in a separate bowl, whisk yolks and remaining 1/4 cup sugar until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Slowly whisk 1 cup of the heated cream mixture into the egg yolk mixture.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and registers 180 degrees, 7 to 14 minutes.  Immediately pour custard into a large bowl or pyrex and cool in an ice bath.  Rest in the bath, stirring occasionally until the custard is at room temperature.  Stir in 1 tablespoon vanilla.

Transfer 1 cup custard to a small bowl.  Cover both containers with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the custard and put the small bowl in the freezer and the larger container in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

NOTE:  In all of the photos, the egg yolk custard is on the left and the corn starch custard is on the right.  You can see a definite color difference.  The egg yolk custard is more yellow.

When ready to churn, remove the custards from the refrigerator and freezer.  Scrape the frozen custard from the small bowl into the large bowl of custard.  Stir until the frozen custard is fully dissolved.  Now your custard is REALLY cold, but not frozen.

Churn the new ultra cool custard until it resembles soft-serve ice cream (Cook’s Illustrated says it will be about 21 degrees), about 15-20 minutes.

Transfer ice cream to the frozen baking pan lined with plastic wrap and press more plastic wrap on the surface.

Return to the freezer until firm around the edges, about 1 hour.

Transfer ice cream to an airtight container, pressing firmly to remove any air pockets and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours.  Serve.

CORN STARCH METHOD

This is a much simpler method which is why I like it.

Mix the half-and-half, sugar, corn syrup, salt and cornstarch in medium saucepan.  Heat stirring constantly over medium-high heat until it boils, then turn down the heat and simmer for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and transfer to an ice bath.  Stir occasionally until it reaches room temperature.  Stir in 1 tablespoon vanilla.

Transfer 1 cup custard to a small bowl.  Cover both containers with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the custard and put the small bowl in the freezer and the larger container in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

When ready to churn, remove the custards from the refrigerator and freezer.  Scrape the frozen custard from the small bowl into the large bowl of custard.  Stir until the frozen custard is fully dissolved.  Churn the new ultra cool custard until it resembles soft-serve ice cream (Cook’s Illustrated says it will be about 21 degrees), about 15-20 minutes.  Transfer ice cream to the frozen baking pan lined with plastic wrap and press more plastic wrap on the surface.  Return to the freezer until firm around the edges, about 1 hour.

Transfer ice cream to an airtight container, pressing firmly to remove any air pockets and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours.  Serve.

So….what was the verdict?

With one exception, everyone preferred the ice cream made with the egg yolks.  People liked the corn starch ice cream, but when compared directly, they preferred the vanilla made with the egg yolk custard.  Well, I guess that settles it.  Corn starch method tastes good, egg yolk custard tastes better.

WINNER:  Egg Yolk Method

Except…as if that weren’t enough experimentation, but after all that I read an article about Jeni’s Ice Cream of Ohio and learned that she puts a dollop of cream cheese in her ice cream base and I made another batch using the corn starch method, but also with cream cheese.  I didn’t have any other ice cream to directly compare it too at that point, but it was pretty darn tasty.  Something else to consider….More research is clearly needed.

 

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