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Ice Cream Recipe: Create Your Own

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by David Lebovitz

from Fine Cooking
Issue 99

Unlike a lot of other desserts, ice cream isn’t one of the fussy ones. You start by making a basic custard and then you can steer off in many delicious directions to flavor your ice cream any way you like it.

There are several ways to flavor your ice cream along the way. First, you might infuse flavor (tea, fresh ginger, coffee are a few options) into the custard. After that, you can make additions to the cooked custard, including chocolate, berries, and liqueur. Finally, after your ice cream is churned, you can mix in any variety of ingredients, from bite-size bits of candy to chunks of cake or brownies. Try using any of the suggestions, or be creative and make up your own flavors. Don’t laugh, but once I even put bacon in a batch—it was a surprise hit!

Yields about 1 quart

Warm and (maybe) infuse the cream

In a medium saucepan, mix 1 cup heavy cream with 1 cup whole milk, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and a pinch of table salt. Warm the cream mixture over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan, 3 to 4 minutes.

To infuse a flavor (optional), stir in your infusion ingredient (see choices below). Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 1 hour. Taste and let sit longer if you want a stronger flavor. If not infusing, proceed with the next step.

Choose one or two infusion ingredients (optional)

  • vanilla bean
    Vanilla: 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out (use both the bean and seeds)
  • lemon zest
    Lemon: Finely grated zest of 4 medium lemons
  • tea leaves
    Tea: 1/4 cup loose black tea leaves, such as jasmine, Earl Grey, or English breakfast
  • orange zest
    Orange: Finely grated zest of 4 medium oranges
  • lavender
    Lavender: 2 Tbs. dried
  • coffee
    Coffee: 1-1/2 cups coarsely crushed medium-roast coffee beans (seal the beans in a large zip-top bag and crush with a rolling pin or mallet)
  • basil
    Fresh herbs (basil, mint): 1 cup tightly packed, coarsely torn leaves
  • chopped nuts
    Toasted nuts (hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, peanuts, etc.): 1-1/2 cups coarsely crushed
  • fresh ginger
    Ginger: 1/2 cup peeled, thinly sliced fresh ginger
  • black pepper
    Pepper: 1 Tbs. black peppercorns, very coarsely ground
  • cinnamon
    Cinnamon: Two 3- to 4-inch sticks (broken into large pieces)
Make the custard

Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with several inches of ice water. Set a smaller metal bowl (one that holds at least 1-1/2 quarts) in the ice water. Pour another 1 cup heavy cream into the inner bowl (this helps the custard cool quicker when you pour it in later). Set a fine strainer on top. Whisk 5 large egg yolks in a medium bowl.

If you have infused the cream mixture, re-warm it over medium-high heat until tiny bubbles begin to form around the edge of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes. In a steady stream, pour half of the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling.

Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heatproof cooking spoon or rubber spatula until the custard thickens slightly (it should be thick enough to coat the utensil and hold a line drawn through it with a finger), 4 to 8 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should read 175° to 180°F at this point. Don’t let the sauce overheat or boil, or it will curdle.

Strain and flavor the custard

Immediately strain the custard into the cold cream in the ice bath. If using an infusion ingredient, press firmly in the strainer with the spoon or spatula to extract as much flavor as possible. If you want to add melted chocolate and cocoa (see below), do so now.

Cool the custard to below 70°F by stirring it over the ice bath. To add a flavor other than chocolate (see options below), stir it into the cooled custard.

Choose one or two custard flavorings (optional)

  • peaches
    Peaches: 1-1/2 lb. fresh (or 1 lb. frozen), peeled, pitted, cooked to soften, and puréed
  • mascarpone
    Mascarpone: 1 cup
  • raspberries
    Raspberry: 12 oz. fresh or frozen, puréed, strained, and mixed with 1/3 cup sugar
  • vanilla extract
    Vanilla: 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • olive oil
    Olive oil: 1/4 cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
  • chocolate
    Chocolate: 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate (at least 60% cacao), chopped and melted, plus 1/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa (Add to custard immediately after straining)
  • lemons
    Lemon: 1/4 cup strained fresh lemon juice
  • oranges
    Orange: 3/4 cup strained fresh orange juice
  • grand marnier
    Liqueur/liquor: 3 to 4 Tbs. Grand Marnier, Cognac, Baileys, Frangelico, Kahlúa, amaretto, Armagnac, whiskey, rum, etc.
  • strawberries
    Strawberry: 1 lb. fresh or frozen, puréed, strained, and mixed with 1/2 cup sugar
  • passionfruit
    Passionfruit: 1/4 cup passionfruit concentrate
Chill and freeze the custard

Refrigerate the custard until completely chilled, at least 4 hours. Then freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If using mix-ins (see options below), fold them into the just-churned ice cream. Transfer the ice cream to an air-tight container and freeze solid for at least 4 hours before serving.

Choose up to three mix-ins for a total of up to 1 cup (optional)

  • marshmallows
    Mini marshmallows
  • fluff
    Marshmallow Fluff
  • chocolate-covered coffee beans
    Chocolate-covered coffee beans
  • raisins
    Dried fruit (raisins, prunes, etc.), soaked in warm liqueur, liquor, or water until plumped
  • candy bars
    Crushed candy bars
  • marmalade
    Jam or marmalade
  • vanilla wafers
    Crushed cookies
  • crystallized ginger
    Chopped crystallized ginger (max 1/2 cup)
  • chocolate
    Chopped chocolate (max 6 Tbs.)
  • nutella
    Nutella
  • brownies
    Chunks of gingerbread, pound cake, brownies, or quick breads
  • peppermint candy
    Crushed peppermint candy or peppermint patties
  • chopped nuts
    Toasted nuts, chopped if large
Ice Cream Tips

Double down
Some flavors can be both infused and added. To double the flavor of citrus ice cream, for example, start by infusing the cream mixture with zest and add fresh juice to the custard. And for a stronger hit of vanilla, add extract to custard already infused with vanilla bean.

How to swirl
To swirl an ingredient like jam or Nutella into ice cream, let the swirling ingredient come to room temperature first. With a spoon, drop it in small dollops between layers of just-churned ice cream as you remove it from the machine. Gently drag a spatula to swirl the ingredient as best you can; to keep the swirls distinct, avoid vigorous stirring.

Fresh fruit rule
Resist the temptation to mix whole fresh berries or other fresh fruit chunks into your ice cream. Because they have a high water content, they’re likely to freeze into hard, icy chunks.

How long to freeze
You can store ice cream in the freezer for up to two weeks; however, because homemade ice cream doesn’t have any stabilizers, it’s best eaten within a couple of days of making it.

No machine, no problem
If you don’t have an ice cream maker, you can freeze the custard in a bowl in the freezer. Check after about an hour; once it starts freezing, blitz through it with a hand-held electric mixer and then return it to the freezer. Repeat every so often as the mixture is freezing, until the ice cream is completely whipped and frozen.


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