|A big batch of my homemade chocolate chip vanilla ice cream - yum, yum yum!|
I absolutely LOVE ice cream. Growing up, I had a big bowl after dinner most nights (something I happily inherited from my mother!). Unfortunately, once we started eating "real food," commercial ice cream posed a number of problems. Many commercial ice creams contain propylene glycol (translation - antifreeze), and apparently the manufacturers do not even have to include this as an ingredient on the label because it is an "industry standard" food additive. Sarah at the Healthy Home Economist has done an excellent article on it if you wish to do some extra reading here. Another issue is that all of them use pasteurized (and most likely not grass-fed) milk/cream and refined sugars (even the organic varieties or Breyers, which is one of the better grocery store choices). These are two things I strive to avoid. And if we expand our scope to the more popular commercial offerings in the grocery store other than the more natural brands, we'll find a plethora of unpronounceable chemical additives, thickening agents, dyes, etc...
Enter homemade ice cream to the rescue! Last summer, I picked up a 1.5 quart Cusinart ice cream maker at a garage sale for $5 (much like this one). We got more than our money's worth out of this little machine...sadly, one day, the freezer bowl piece "jumped" out of the garage freezer and cracked, and we sadly had to retire the little champ. I looked into buying a replacement bowl, but I was hesitant to invest the $30 they were asking when I had no clue how old the machine was and how long before the motor part might give out. Vowing to be FAR more careful about situating the freezer bowl on stable terrain in the freezer going forward, I upgraded to this very similar 2-quart model, knowing it would earn its keep and be worth every penny after our many successes with the garage sale model. I thought I would share our favorite recipe for a basic chocolate chip vanilla ice cream. You can take the base recipe and add different things to it for different flavors, but it's just so darn good I usually stick to plain old chocolate chip!
Homemade, Chocolate Chip Vanilla Ice Cream
Serves about 6
2 cups cream (preferably grass-fed and raw - I just pour the cream off our raw milk)
2 cups milk (preferably grass-fed and raw)
2 raw egg yolks (I would skip this step unless you can buy from a clean, organic, pastured source)
1/2 cup sweetener (my favorite choice is maple syrup - you could also use honey or rapadura)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract (use real vanilla extract if possible)
1/4 cup or so of chocolate chips (I found a wonderful organic, fair-trade, 72% dark chocolate bar at Trader Joe's which has NO SOY - I am in heaven! I chop part of this up and add it to our ice cream)
Directions: Combine the cream, milk, egg yolks, sweetener, and vanilla extract in a large bowl or pitcher. Whisk together with a fork. I use my immersion blender to ensure a very smooth texture. This also incorporates a lot of air into the mixture which will give your finished ice cream a much softer texture. Pour into your ice cream maker and run according to the machine's directions (about half an hour or so on the Cuisinart we use). You can add in the chocolate chips at any time, but most machines recommend adding towards the end. Once done, the ice cream will be a "soft-serve" consistency. It is delicious at this point, but if you desire, you can scoop into a shallow dish or into pint-sized jars in individual servings and freeze for an hour or so to get a firmer texture. I like to make a big batch, freeze in jars, and then we have ice cream on demand for a couple of days before we devour it all!
Here are a few more comments I have from lots of personal experience, trial and error...I don't advise putting the ice cream mixture into a blender for the pre-mixing step. I did this once, and it heated my ice cream mixture into an unpleasant custard texture. My immersion blender is great because it does not heat the mixture up - a whisk would do just fine, too, as I mentioned above. No matter what you do, homemade ice cream tends to have a more "icy" texture than commercial varieties. This is why you want to lightly scoop into individual jars or a shallow dish. Do NOT pack the ice cream down or you will eliminate the fluffiness that helps make for a smoother texture. Also - make sure your freezer bowl is VERY frozen. I usually have to leave our's in the freezer for at least 2 days for it to be fully frozen. We have a nice big freezer in the garage for storing our meats, and I make darn sure there is always enough room to keep our ice cream bowl in there so I can make ice cream whenever I want! You also want to be sure to run the machine long enough to get the ice cream as cold and frozen as possible. If your ice cream is very melty before you transfer to the freezer, it will still taste good, but it will have an icy sorbet texture to it which is edible but not desirable. I have read that adding a little vodka or rum to the ice cream also helps to make for a softer ice cream because it does not harden when it freezes. I think this really does work because I make our ice cream with my homemade vanilla extract, which is made by combining vodka and whole vanilla beans and allowing to sit for weeks, months, even years to draw out the vanilla flavoring. You are only adding 2 tablespoons for six servings - so it's not enough to cause any harm, and it has the added benefit of improving the texture of the ice cream! If your vanilla is not made with vodka or rum, you might consider adding a little to improve the texture.
As you can see, I am very enthusiastic about our homemade ice cream. When made with grass-fed raw cream/milk and such a small amount of natural sweetener like maple syrup or honey, I would honestly consider this a health food. I have justified eating it for breakfast on many occasions because I believe the raw milk, cream, and egg yolks are so nourishing! So go ahead and indulge!