Serious Vanilla ice cream recipe – French Custard version

Context (can be skipped)

For a few months, I’m working on making a very detailed french traditional ice cream recipe where I could cover everything I could think of. I’m happy to share it with you today.

As you may have guessed, this is not going to be one of those ‘easy’ ‘quick’ recipes. It’s been a few years since I’m doing some tests and this article is what I learned along the way.

Before we begin, we need to talk about equipment. It’s a bit unusual but as a French proverb says: “un bon ouvrier, bons outils” which means :

To (every) good workman comes a good set of tools.

▬▬ Equipment ▬▬

  • Freezer – A regular freezer is good. The colder the better. It should be at least −18 °C (0°F). Beware, inadequately maintained freezers are warmer and can be less food safe.
  • Something for storing ice cream, like a plastic Food storage/container. I like disposable paper soup bowls, hygienic and can be easily given to friends.
  • Ice cream maker – you want your ice cream maker to be powerful. To make ice crystals smaller and ice cream texture smoother, it must freeze quickly.
  • A big glass or plastic jar – this is for maturation. it is far better if you can close it. If you can’t, a plastic wrap will do the job.
  • An accurate thermometer is a great help. You can make a pass but it’s definitely harder without it, see further.
  • Precision Balance – readability 1 g is good. Sorry American friends but you have to forget about parts, cups,.. ‘not precise enough
  • Paper towels – to clean things up

Now let’s talk about :

▬▬ Ingredients ▬▬

What How much
Sucrose, plain classic sugar 130 gr
Whole milk 490 gr
Heavy cream 175 gr
egg yolks 28 gr
dehydrated glucose syrup DE40 50 gr
skimmed milk powder 40 gr
vanilla bean one pod
salt pinch
ice cubes 2 ice tray
stabilizer powder 3.5 gr

At this point, people usually ask questions,
let’s try to address the most common ones :

Can I replace XX with XX?

You can try but no guarantee. I bet some of you would want to reduce sugar or fat content, my feeling about that is simple: it’s far better to eat ice cream less often but have a truly great one. Great ice cream means fat and sugar.

For example, if you want to use skimmed milk, this recipe will be unbalanced. On top of that, processed milk tends to have less flavour. When I can, I use whole raw milk. Every cook will tell you this: quality ingredients are everything.

So, do what you must, but no guarantee from me 🙂

Why do you say ‘plain classic’ sugar?

Because some sugar contains extra stuff. Check the boxes

No egg white?

Egg whites have no purpose in ice cream. Some people try to use whipped egg whites to add some air inside ice cream mix, this technique does only make sense if you don’t have an ice-cream maker.

Can I use vanilla extract instead of beans?

Yes but try to stick to « natural vanilla extract ». Stay away from extracts with Vanillin or ethylvanillin as ingredients. Those compounds are inside natural vanilla beans but are not all of it. You’ll miss part of vanilla flavor palette.

What kind of heavy cream?

~35% fat. Check ingredient labels for weird stuff too

Really dehydrated glucose syrup? Why?

Yes. You need this kind of sugar. « DE40 » is here to help you find it. It means « Dextrose Equivalent ». You can search in some specialized shops, of course online, sometimes pharmacies.

Ice cream is all about texture, you need a certain % of sugar to help achieve this perfect texture, but you don’t want to use only regular sugar, it would be too sweet. That’s why you use this one.

Glucose powder is inside every French professional ice cream recipe. Italians use another type of sugar, but this will be for another time.

What’s “stabilizer”?

To make it simple: you disperse them in water (or milk in that case) and it helps to make the perfect ice cream texture. It’s a thickening and gelling agent. Some stabilizers mix contain emulsifiers too.

Most stabilizers used in ice cream making are of plant origin (seaweeds, locust beans, etc)..
Mine is called “Stab 2000”, and it contains several complementary stabilizers.

You can decide to use another brand or not to use it at all. In that case, just replace it with sucrose.

The main downside of NOT using stabilizers will be conservation and texture.

If you want to learn more about stabilizers. There are also called ‘hydrocolloids’. It’s not an easy read but you can try this pdf written by a team of volunteers. It gathers cooking information about them.

Now that we are done with that, let’s get to it!

▬▬ Recipe ▬▬

Put your maturation jar in the freezer, for later use

Mix Sucrose, Glucose, milk powder, stabilizer powder and a pinch of salt. This will help solubility and prevents lumps. You don’t need to blend.

Give your milk bottle a shake before opening it. Whole milk is sometimes non-homogenised.

In a pot, add milk & cream and turn on the hob

Cut your vanilla pod in half lengthwise, and scrape vanilla beans with the back of the knife into the pot. Put the used pods into the pot too. It will infuse all along the way.

If you don’t know how to do it, please see this 20s video

When the temperature is about 110°F (45°C), add dry ingredients and egg yolks

Let the temperature go up and whip it constantly

Whipping is very important because it
prevents milk from sticking to the pan.
make sure everything is intimately mixed.
ensures a homogeneous temperature.

With the temperature going up, fat is melting and fat droplets will be evenly distributed into the mix. (Which is good).

We will cook this custard, exactly like a Crème Anglaise.

We will gently go up to 179°F (82°C) still whipping.
You don’t want to go above 179°F because this could ‘cook the eggs’ and make a weird sugary omelette and it cannot be undone.
The higher you get, the more important it is to whip.

A little above 160°C (71°C) you should feel a texture change, egg yolks start to bind water & fat to make something more sticky, and heavier.
At that time of the process, your hand should be a bit tired, you should feel pretty easily that it’s now a bit harder to whip.

We go up to 179°F, just to be sure this binding is properly done and to make full pasteurization.

Hold on a couple of minutes and then spill everything into your jar (from the freezer)
It could be useful to use a chinois to remove impurities.

Keep the used vanilla pod inside a glass jar, close it, and give it a gentle shake to make sure the pod is immersed.

Into a big mixing bowl, place gently our glass jar.
In this bowl add some ice cubes, water and a handful of salt. This will chill your jar and the mix quickly.

The less time the food is inside the Danger zone the better.

When the jar is close to fridge temperature, move it to the fridge for maturation.

You will let it there for like 10 hours. You can push it to 24h but more doesn’t help.
This maturation phase allows emulsifiers to make their job and increase flavour.

Some express doubts about ageing, It would be useless. Let me tell you two things :

  • Industrial ice cream producers age their mix. If they could make a pass, and save money, they would.
  • Once I’ve heard of a Spanish chef that didn’t use ice cream maturation, I dig things up a little. it turns out that the guy used at least three times the amount of vanilla I’m using.
    You’d better buy a premium quality vanilla pod and use it right.

▬ the day after ▬

Put your empty ice cream container into the freezer. You don’t want your container to warm your ice cream when it will get out of the ice cream maker.

Make sure your ice cream maker is very clean. You don’t want to add an extra ‘taste’ to your ice cream. I like to use white vinegar, it kills germs and it’s 100% natural but you have to wait a long time to be fully evaporated.

Turn on your ice cream maker. It has to be very cold before pouring your ice cream mix into it. It can take up to 20 minutes. it depends on your room temperature.

Beware, your ice cream mix has already been pasteurized, now is not the time to add some germs. Clean your hands and use clean tools.

Open your jar and one last time, whip your mix, to make sure everything is homogeneous.

My favourite technique is to plunge the whip into the jar, and rotate it between my hands like I was a caveman trying to create fire by friction.
In 30 seconds you’ll have something smooth, ready to use.

Pour your mix into your ice cream maker tank without the pods.

Depending on your ice cream maker’s power, the freezing process will take between 15 min and 40 min

▬ when it’s frozen ▬

For this part, timing is everything,

Your ice cream is now frozen but not completely hardened. You’ll have to put it inside your container (from the freezer) quickly. I like to use a spoon-shaped silicone scraper.

Use paper towels to avoid drips, close your container and put it in the freezer.

A few hours later, ice cream will harden enough to be consumed.

Remember, this is French ice cream, this is supposed to be a bit harder than for example Italian ice cream. You are supposed to be able to scoop it.

You can serve it with a warm chocolate sauce, caramel sauce or any kind of nuts

If you have any questions, feel free to ask

this is it. I hope you enjoyed this!


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