The homemade vanilla custard ice cream base is made with lots of egg yolks (for creaminess), cream, and milk. This is the best simple machine ice cream recipe to make at home no matter the occasion because you can customize it with mix-ins or topping of your choice!
I know there are other people out there who are as obsessed with ice cream as I am! If you're an ice cream lover, you have to try this classic vanilla custard ice cream base recipe.
It's one of the best basic recipes, especially for beginners, because you can add in whatever mix-ins or toppings your heart desires!
This recipe can be made using an ice cream machine from any of the major brands such as Breville, Cuisinart, KitchenAid, Pampered Chef, or Whynter.
Don't forget to check out my other favorite 30+ ice cream maker recipes.
What You'll Learn In This Recipe
By making this old school vanilla ice cream recipe, you'll learn:
- What makes a custard base ice cream?
- How to change up this recipe to create new & unique flavor combinations.
- The secret to preventing ice cream from becoming icy.
- How to properly temper eggs and cook an ice cream base.
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Ingredients You Need
Many people think making ice cream at home requires a lot of ingredients. Really, there are only a few things you'll need. Here are some of the ingredients and the science behind them.
Whole Milk: Make sure that you get whole milk (not 2% or skim). We need the fat in the milk to achieve the creamy texture of the ice cream. Milk also helps to add water to the ice cream which is necessary for the mixture to properly freeze in an ice cream machine.
Heavy Cream: Both milk and cream are considered butterfat. Most of the butterfat in the ice cream comes from cream. Since the cream is a lot higher in fat, we have to make sure it's balanced out by the milk. If there's too much butterfat in a recipe, you'll get a greasy mouthfeel taste (we definitely don't want that).
Egg Yolks: French-style custard base ice cream is known for its high percentage of egg yolks and cream. The eggs help give a rich and silky smooth texture in the ice cream. Since custard recipes have eggs, the base needs to be heated to kill any potentially harmful bacteria. Check out this video to learn how to properly temper the eggs.
Granulated Sugar: Obviously we need to add in sugar to get some sweetness in the ice cream. But, sugar also helps lower the freezing point of the water, which keeps the entire ice cream mixture from completely freezing up.
Mix-Ins: These are completely optional, but can be a fun way to change up the flavor of your ice cream. All you need to do is add the mix-ins during the last few minutes of the ice cream churning process. Just make sure to roughly chop the mix-ins to make them bite-sized. Here are some of my favorite ice cream mix-ins:
- Oreo cookies
- Cookie dough
- Chocolate chips
How To Make This Recipe
Let's walk through how to make this delicious custard base ice cream recipe. I'll show you some of my favorite tips along the way to ensure your ice cream turns out perfectly the first time.
1. First, cook the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla in a heavy bottom saucepan. Slowly heat the mixture up over medium heat just until you see small bubbles forming around the edges and the mixture is steaming. This usually takes around 8 minutes, but be sure not to let the mixture boil.
2. While the cream and milk are cooking, it's time to mix the egg yolks and granulated sugar. Egg yolks are an important ingredient in French-style custard ice creams, and they help with the rich flavor and creamy texture.
3. Once the cream and milk mixture is steaming, grab a ladle and stream in a scoop of hot mixture over the eggs. This technique is referred to as tempering. It's the process of combining two ingredients at different temperatures. Combining the ingredients slowly allows the temperature to gradually increase. This ensures you don't get scrambled eggs when the egg yolks are added to the hot cream.
4. Once you add in the hot cream and milk, quickly whisk the ingredients together.
5. Once the temperature of the eggs has increased from tempering, it's time to add the egg mixture back into the saucepan. Whisk everything until it's thoroughly combined into one homogenized mixture.
6. Then, keep cooking the entire mixture, while continuing to whisk, until the ice cream base reaches 180°F on an instant-read thermometer. This process of heating the eggs is done to kill any potentially harmful bacteria.
7. Place a bowl with a fine mesh strainer into an ice bath. Strain the ice cream base. This helps catch any large chunks of eggs that may have gotten scrambled during the tempering process.
8. Keep the base in the ice bath until it stops steaming. Then, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 - 8 hours, or up to overnight. The temperature should reach 40 - 42°F during this time in the refrigerator. It's really important that the base is properly cooled or the final texture will not be correct.
9. Now it's time to finish everything up! Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine (I use a Whynter machine with a built-in compressor). Don't forget to pre-freeze your ice cream machine bowl 24 hours ahead of churning if you don't have a compressor freezer. Make sure you don't completely fill the bowl of the ice cream machine. Once air is incorporated into the ice cream from the machine, the ice cream will expand in volume. This is called overrun in the ice cream world.
10. Churn the ice cream according to the manufacturer's directions. My machine usually takes about 20 - 25 minutes. The ice cream should be the consistency of soft serve after it's done churning.
- Always use an ice bath. It helps to quickly cool down the ice cream base. The base needs to cool (and stop steaming) before you cover and refrigerate it. The ice bath speeds up this process.
- Allow the ice cream to completely cool before churning. If you want your ice cream to properly freeze in the ice cream maker, it has to be super cold (around 40-42°F). Don't try churning the ice cream while it's still hot. You'll just end up with a soupy mess.
- Don't forget to place the ice cream machine bowl in the freezer 24 hours before churning.
- To prevent the ice cream from feeling icy and grainy, make sure to properly store the ice cream after it has been churned. Every time you increase the temperature of your ice cream and then re-freeze it, there is more of a chance of the ice cream becoming icy. To keep the temperature regulated, store your ice cream in a long, plastic Tupperware. It will help the ice cream freeze quicker after churning it. Also, store the ice cream in the back of the freezer (not the door) to keep it at a stable temperature. Of course, don't keep the ice cream out of the freezer for too long.
The 4 main ingredients in ice cream include heavy cream, whole milk, granulated sugar, and egg yolks. These are the ingredients for a classic French custard base ice cream.
If there aren't too many bits, yes. You should be able to save this. Just make sure you strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and discard all the bits. It takes some time to learn how to properly temper eggs. If you need help, check out this video.
According to the U.S. guidelines, products labeled as 'ice cream' are required to contain at least 10% milkfat and 20% milk solids. There are two main styles of ice cream - custard and Philadelphia style.
Custard-style ice cream is known for its high percentage of egg yolks and cream, while Philadelphia style is made without eggs.
Yes, you can make the ice cream base ahead of time and store the mixture tightly covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for 24 - 48 hours ahead of churning.
More Ice Cream Recipes
Don't forget to check out my Pinterest board for more popular ice cream recipe inspiration.
Vanilla Custard Ice Cream Base
- Fill a large bowl with ice to use later as an ice bath. Place an empty bowl on top of the ice. Set aside.
- In a heavy bottom saucepan combine heavy cream, milk, and vanilla. Cook over medium heat until mixture is steaming and small bubbles start to form around the edge of the pot, around 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks and sugar together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Once the milk and cream mixture is steaming, stream a ladle full of the hot mixture over the eggs while quickly whisking.
- Add the egg mixture back into the saucepan with milk and cream. Whisk to combine. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the ice cream base reaches 180°F on an instant-read thermometer.
- Place a fine mesh strainer over the empty bowl on top of the ice bath. Strain ice cream base. Chill ice cream base until it has stopped steaming. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 - 8 hours, or up to overnight. The temperature should reach 40 - 42°F during this time in the refrigerator.
- Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process for about 20-25 minutes, or according to the manufacturer's directions.
- The ice cream will be on the soft side but can be eaten right away or put into the freezer to "cure" or harden up for a couple of hours. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 - 3 weeks.