The Nigella Diaries – Vanilla Ice-cream

Vanilla ice-cream, proper vanilla ice-cream is one of life’s pleasures, and when it’s home-made? Even better.

The problem with making ice-cream is, of course, the think-aheadedness of it. You have to make the custard. You have to cool the custard. You have to churn it. You have to give it time in the freezer. It’s not a spur of the moment thing like, say, scones; although in these days of covid panic shopping, and shortages of basics such as flour (and toilet rolls), there really is no such thing as spur of the moment baking.

Frankly, if you’ve made a custard, you’ve made (bar the freezing) your ice-cream; this asks no more of you, just of your kitchen.

Nigella Lawson, How to Eat

Anyways, Nigella is right: there’s not a lot of additional effort to turn custard into ice-cream. There is, however, extra sugar; the colder that you eat something, the sweeter it needs to be. That rule goes for any flavour you use when making ice-cream or cold desserts – the flavours need to be intensified to stand out when served cold.

Nigella’s custard is simple: 500ml cream, 5 egg yolks, 1 vanilla pod, 40g sugar. When making it for ice-cream, however, that 40g sugar becomes 125g sugar.

To make it you bring the cream and a split vanilla pod (with the seeds scraped into the cream) to the heat (but don’t boil) and then leave to infuse (off the heat) for 20-30 minutes. I find it best to use a wide pan for this.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until thick and creamy and then pour the vanilla cream (after having fished out the pods) into the eggy mix and beat it well with a wooden spoon. Of course, you can strain the cream if you want but the vanilla specks don’t bother me.

One tip though: don’t add the sugar to the eggs until you’re ready to whisk them – the sugar will begin to “cook” the eggs. Not that it “cooks” it as such, but rather that it changes the structure of the protein and the yolks end up a tad on the clumpy side rather than the creamy result that you want.

Okay, back to the custard, wash the cream pan and dry it well and then pour the eggy creamy mix back into it. On a low to moderate heat stir for 8-10 minutes or until it’s thick enough to properly coat the back of your wooden spoon.

Pop the pan into the sink that you thought in advance to have cold water and ice in. I know that it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: making sure that you don’t get any water into the custard. Stir for another few minutes to cool it down before transferring the custard into a jug and popping it into the fridge to cool. Once it’s cool you can churn it in your ice-cream maker.

This makes a lovely creamy ice-cream, but if you want it even creamier and more luxurious, Nigella suggests adding another 100g sugar to the eggs – for a total of 225g – and stirring 300ml double cream into the cooled custard before you freeze it.

Nigella also suggests making like the Italians and infusing the cream with lemon or orange zest instead of vanilla. Of course, you would have to strain it before you added the cream to the eggs but, well, yum!

I’ve taken on the challenge to cook my way through Nigella Lawson’s How To Eat. You can find other episodes here.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

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