From America's Test Kitchen Season 12: Cool and Creamy Desserts
Homemade vanilla ice cream is never as creamy, smooth, or dense as the impossibly smooth “super-premium” ice cream found at gourmet markets or high-end ice cream shops. Instead of thick, dense, and velvety, ice cream made at home invariably turns out crumbly, fluffy, and icy. We wanted an incredibly creamy, dense custard-based vanilla ice cream that would rival any pricey artisanal batch. Creating smooth ice cream means reducing the size of the ice crystals; the smaller they are, the less perceptible they are. Our first move was to replace some of the sugar in our custard base with corn syrup, which interferes with crystal formation, making for a super-smooth texture. To speed up the freezing process, thereby ensuring small ice crystals, we froze a portion of the custard prior to churning, then mixed it with the remaining refrigerated custard. Finally, instead of freezing the churned ice cream in a tall container, we spread it into a thin layer in a cold metal baking pan and chilled it, which allowed the ice cream to firm up more quickly and delivered the smooth texture we were after.
Makes about 1 Quart
Two teaspoons of vanilla extract can be substituted for the vanilla bean; stir the extract into the cold custard in step 3. An instant-read thermometer is critical for the best results. Using a prechilled metal baking pan and working quickly in step 4 will help prevent melting and refreezing of the ice cream and will speed the hardening process. If using a canister-style ice-cream machine, be sure to freeze the empty canister at least 24 hours and preferably 48 hours before churning. For self-refrigerating ice-cream machines, prechill the canister by running the machine for 5 to 10 minutes before pouring in the custard.