Ice Cream Four Ways

While I love homemade ice cream, I can never force myself to make a recipe that calls for 6 egg yolks, as so many of them do. It just seems extreme to me. We often have homemade ice cream at family celebrations and it is nearly always accompanying something else, so it doesn't make sense to have the ice cream alone be extra rich.

What follows is my go-to ice cream recipe for non-fruity applications. I found it on Chowhound years ago and someone said that it was the Quilted Giraffe cinnamon ice cream recipe. That means nothing to me, but it might ring a bell for someone else.

It's been so long since I copied the recipe from CH that I don't know if I messed with the cinnamon version much or not. I'm suspecting I did because the "heat the half and half to 175 degrees" has Cook's Illustrated written all over it.

I use the basic concept (custard, simple syrup, whipped cream) as the foundation for several different flavors: vanilla/toffee vanilla, coconut, coffee and, of course, cinnamon. While there is only one egg yolk in the recipe, I still find it luxurious in the mouth and not too icy. We rarely have leftovers, so the texture is at its peak when we eat it. But even a leftovers are amazingly silky. Two or three days after churning, I detect miniscule ice crystals, and yet I am still totally satisfied with the smoothness of this ice cream. I think this must be because of whipping the cream before churning. This strikes me as genius--you start out churning ahead of the game. I wonder if you might end up with chunks of butter in your ice cream if you over-whip the cream, so be sure not to do more than soft peaks.

I decided to see what would happen if I used coconut sugar (also called palm sugar) instead of my usual evaporated cane juice. Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar and we've got a family member who is being careful about such things right now. "Blonde" coconut sugar looks much like light brown sugar and I thought that the combination with vanilla bean would be nice, as the plan is to use the ice cream alongside nectarine cobbler. I used the same amount of coconut sugar as I would evaporated cane juice. This turned out to be exactly right. The custard looks and tastes like toffee, as did the finished ice cream. Two days later it had even taken on some coffee notes, though I don't know why. The vanilla flavor is very subtle so you might wish to add some vanilla extract, as well.

I am considering some streamlining of the recipe (for example, why is the simple syrup necessary? Wouldn't the sugar dissolve in the half and half?). In 2019 I did just this and also reduced the quantities slightly because it was just overwhelming my 1.5 qt ice cream maker, especially if I wanted to do any mix-ins. In 2020, while watching my eldest make my chocolate pudding recipe, I thought “why am I using a double-boiler at all?” So as we were making the mint chocolate chip variation for the third time this summer (with 2 egg yolks), we dumped the dairy and sugar directly in the saucepan. No issues at all! I will never go back and am no longer showing the original method, just the original quantities in case others have larger ice cream makers.

 INGREDIENTS (for any version)
3/4 c. sugar
2 c. half and half (or try whole milk mixed with some cream or by itself)
1-3 egg yolks (we had 3 leftover from making macarons so I used them all and it was fine)
1 c. heavy cream

Cinnamon--1  cinnamon stick or 1 tsp ground cinnamon; 3/4 tsp vanilla
Coffee--3/4 c. whole coffee beans
Coconut--1 to 1 1/2 c. shredded unsweetened coconut (ideally the big flakes), 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice (optional)
Vanilla/Toffee vanilla--1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and seeds scraped out and added; for toffee vanilla, use coconut sugar or half white sugar (evap cane juice) half light brown sugar instead of all evaporated cane juice, 3/4 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
Stracciatella—melt 3 oz chocolate and add 1/2 TBSP neutral oil
Mint chocolate chip—add 3/4 tsp mint extract to the strained mixture when it’s cooling then follow the instructions for stracciatella

  1. If you’re going to flavor the dairy, place it in a medium sauce pan and heat until its steaming, around 175 degrees F. Then add the cinnamon stick, coconut flakes or coffee beans and let steep for 20 minutes or so with the saucepan at low heat. After the time is up, strain the dairy and discard the solid bits. If necessary, top up the dairy to be 1.5 or 2 c. depending on which size of recipe you’re using (the coconut flakes, in particular, absorb a lot of liquid). If not steeping the dairy, skip to step 2
  2. Return the dairy (or simply add the dairy) to the saucepan and add the sugar. Heat (again) until steaming, around 175 degrees F and make sure the sugar is dissolved
  3. Beat the egg yolk(s) well in a small bowl. Beat in some of the hot half and half mixture, then add that to the rest of the half and half in the saucepan. Cook until the mixture coats the back of a spoon, 4-5 minutes. Don’t go higher than 185 degrees F
  4. Strain custard through a fine mesh sieve over a bowl in an ice bath (we nest 2 stainless steel bowls). Stir every few minutes to help it cool evenly, when it’s pretty cool (less than room temperature) stir in vanilla extract or lime juice, if using
  5. While mixture is cooling, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Fold into cooled custard
  6. Chill mixture well (overnight is okay) and then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the instruction
  7. If making stracciattella/mint chocolate chip, melt the chocolate when the ice cream is nearly done churning and stir in the coconut oil until melted. Drizzle the chocolate slowing into the churning ice cream, where it will harden on contact and break into lovely shards. We also made a version where we did this then added some chopped Luxardo cherries and then swirled in some leftover cherry syrup into the finished ice cream in the container
ORIGINAL QUANTITIES (for any version)
1 c. sugar
2 c. half and half (we do 1/2 c heavy cream mixed with 1 1/2 c milk) 
1-2 egg yolks
1 1/2 c. heavy cream