To my mind the best of all ice creams, when made properly. There is a purity about it that forbids tampering.
Split the vanilla pods longitudinally and using the point of a small knife scrape out the seeds on to a white saucer. Put these seeds into a mixing bowl with the egg yolks and sugar, then whisk just enough to amalgamate.
While you are doing this, scald the milk with the empty vanilla pod in a medium-sized trustworthy saucepan (i.e. one that will not scorch – enamelled ones are particularly bad for this. Scalding means heating the milk to just below boiling point). Pour the scalded milk and pods over the sugar and eggs and mix thoroughly then return to the milk pan. Put the mixture back on a medium heat and cook, stirring continuously, until it achieves 80°C/176°F or a coating consistency (when the mixture coats the back of a metal spoon). Do not overcook this, or it will be milky scrambled eggs. For ice creams this custard mix does not need cooking except for health reasons – heating to 80°C/176°F ensures the demise of nasty bacteria. As soon as the desired consistency or temperature is reached, pour in the double cream, remove from the heat and stir, then leave to cool. (Retrieve the vanilla pod, rinse, dry and use for making vanilla sugar.)
When cool, place in an ice-cream machine, and churn until done, or whatever the manufacturer recommends. If making without a machine, pour the finished mixture into a strong plastic bowl. The bowl should firstly fit your freezer and secondly be no more than half full. When nearly cold put in your freezer for 30 minutes. Remove and stir with a hand whisk until smooth. Return to the freezer and give a further 15 minutes, then whisk again. Repeat until the mixture becomes thick and difficult to whisk. From this point on you can simply leave it in the freezer, as all the previous whisking has probably prevented too many ice crystals forming. (A few crystals are no bad thing, they show your guests it is home-made!)
© 1996 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.