Make the ultimate homemade frozen treat by mastering how to make a custard ice cream base. Plus, my favorite vanilla frozen custard recipe, and a recovery hack for if the base curdles!
Let’s be honest from the beginning: making custard ice cream is time consuming. The results, however, are proof of the difficult work. You get a creamy, dreamy, luxuriously smooth ice cream that begs to be eaten. It calls to you in your dreams, whisks you away to pleasant places during the day, and more than anything, tempts you to make poor choices about portion size.
What Is The Difference Between Frozen Custard and Ice Cream?
Custard and ice cream are made of the same three basic ingredients: milk, sugar, and cream. The difference between the two is that custard also has cooked egg yolks in it that provides a silkier texture. Depending on the recipe you are following, standard ice cream may not be churned in an ice cream maker while custard always is.
Custard gives you the classic texture reminiscent of old fashioned ice cream; super smooth, thick, and decadent. Whether you’re making something fancy, or a classic vanilla ice cream recipe, a custard base gives you the best result! Plus, as an added bonus, custard ice creams don’t get freezer burnt as easily because the water particles are fewer and smaller and the eggs work as an emulsifier to contain the water.
When To Use Frozen Custard
I would say that more than anything, it comes down to what kind of ice cream you’re making. The more luxurious and indulgent, the more likely to use custard. Think of elegant or regal flavors that the custard will help bring out; like, vanilla bean, dark chocolate, dulce de leche, salted caramel, or white chocolate. It’s also nice to use a custard base when you’re adding in flavors that have a high amount of water, like peach, mango, or lemon.
How To Recover Curdled Custard
Temperature control is key when preparing custard. There is a fine line between silky custard and scrambled eggs, so make sure to have a well-calibrated thermometer in the pot at all times.
As soon as the temperature hits 180°F, shut off the heat and move the pot away from the burner. If you let your custard base rest over the burner, the residual heat can take your base over that fine line.
If the unexpected happens and the eggs end up scrambled, all hope is not lost. I have a recovery hack that works excellently every single time.
To recover a curdled custard ice cream base: cool the custard to room temperature, place it in a blender and blend on medium-high for 15-30 seconds or until it is once again smooth.
Blending your curdled ice cream base breaks down the egg into teeny-tiny pieces so it won’t impact the texture. The flavor of your ice cream may be a bit more “eggy” than if they hadn’t curdled, but 9 times out of 10, no one will notice.
The Best Vanilla Custard Ice Cream Recipe
This is absolutely my favorite way to make custard ice cream. A lot of the recipes tell you to cook the base directly in the pot, but that doesn’t provide fine-tuned temperature control.
Using a double boiler gives you more temperature regulation since the base isn’t directly touching a heat source. It also gives you more ice cream at the end because you don’t lose as much to it sticking to the pot.
If you would like to heat it up in a pot instead of the double boiler, no problem. I do still recommend adding the chilled heavy cream at the end to stop the cooking to make sure your residual heat doesn’t overcook your base.
Use this printable grocery list for homemade vanilla frozen custard to make shopping simpler. All ingredients are listed in standard grocery store amounts. If no size is specified, even the smallest package will provide more than enough.
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Happy Cooking! 🙂
Homemade Custard Ice Cream
- 6 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, (optional)
- Combine the egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Whip the mixture until it becomes thick and the color turns a light yellow.
- Scald the milk in a pot, then gradually beat it into the egg mixture. If you add in too much too soon in will scramble your eggs. Take your time.
- Place the bowl over a water bath or double boiler*. Continue to heat, sitrring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. (Or 160°F.)
- Immediately stir in the cold cream to stop the cooking. Add the vanilla if using.
- Chill the mixture for at least 12 hours, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.
- Place the ice cream in the freezer and freeze for 4 hours for a consistency similar to soft serve, or 12 hours for old-fashioned.
- If you are using a container of heavy cream that has previously been opened, make sure to scald and cool it prior to use. This will help reduce the risk of food-borne illness.
- To make a double boiler, you need a pot that can hold a bowl on top that is large enough to hold your custard base. Fill the pot with a couple inches of water, but not enough to touch the bottom of the bowl. Bring the water to a simmer and let the steam cook the contents of the bowl.
- If you add the cold cream and vanilla at the same time, the heat from the custard base will cook out some of the impact of the vanilla. For the biggest flavor impact, add the vanilla at the end.